Friday, February 22, 2013

Virginia Dems—A Permanent Minority?

“Bad news on the door step.”

No, I am not singing American Pie. Nor am I criticizing the quality of Richmond’s great metropolitan daily, which occupies my door step every morning. What I am talking about is the news that the metropolitan daily has been reporting in the nearly two months that Virginia’s General Assembly has been in session. And while I am talking about bad news, I can think back to similar stories that the Richmond Times-Dispatch brought to my house during the General Assembly session last year at time.

Let’s face it, reader; the Virginia General Assembly is not a hot-bed of progressive thought or action. In fact, I would consider it rather reactionary. Some people might even doubt that members of our legislature are acting rationally. (Establishing a commission to study whether Virginia should issue its own money, in violation of the United States Constitution, is not exactly clear thinking).

Every time our beloved law makers vote for another 18th Century piece of legislation I assure my Facebook friends (yes, I partake of that universal depository of worthless information) that we can fix this at the polls next November. When the Senate or House of Delegates passes a piece of anti-women legislation, I urge all my friends to remember this in November. When the legislation is destructive of public education, I urge all my friends to remember in November. When the Republicans refuse to extend Medicaid coverage, I urge my friends to remember in November. And, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

But now comes the worse news: It is unlikely that any thing will change in November. Virginia has elections every year. This year we will elect a new governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In addition, all hundred seats in our House of Delegates will be on the ballot. Now I certainly agree that the Commonwealth will be a lot better off if we manage to elect Democrats to the three state-wide offices. But in order to end the continuous deposit of bad news on my door step, we need to elect a significant number of Democrats to that bastion of Neanderthal thinking, the House of Delegates.

And there lies the rub. If my finger counting is accurate, there are currently 32 Democrats in the House of Delegates. That means that there are 67 Republicans (one delegate runs as an Independent). In order for Democrats to control the House of Delegates, they would have to pick up 19 seats in this November’s election. To even scare Republicans into being somewhat reasonable in the next session of the General Assembly, Democrats would need to pick up maybe 10 seats this November.

We need to look at one more fact. In 2011, the most recent election year for the House of Delegates, the Democratic Party of Virginia only contested 55 of the seats. Let me put it another way: In 2011 there were 45 House of Delegate races in which no Democrat appeared on the ballot. Now, this maven is not super bright, but it seems to me that for the Republicans to have gained a majority in the 2011 elections they only needed to win 6 of the 55 races in which Democrats actually ran. So, there was really no chance for the Democrats to become the majority.

So to all my Facebook friends who I lured into thinking that November would somehow change things in the House of Delegates I offer my sincere apology for deceiving you. Unless something very drastic changes between now and June 11, the date by which a candidate must file (earlier if there are party primaries), there will be a Republican controlled House of Delegates in 2014-15 and I will have to spend another two years with bad news on the doorstep.

So what is the problem here, loyal reader? Isn’t there a Democratic party in Virginia? Well, actually there is. It is called the Democratic Party of Virginia and it has offices here in Richmond, a staff, a website, a telephone number, a Party Plan and even a Platform. The Platform begins with a Statement of Common Purpose, which reads:

The Democratic Party of Virginia is united in its efforts to elect Democratic leaders of character, integrity, ability, vision, and commitment to delivering results for Virginians.”

As best as I can see, there appears no asterisk to this Statement of Common Purpose indicating that the party is only united in its efforts to elect Democratic leaders in 55 of the House of Delegate districts. I ask the question, dear reader, how can a political party hope to become the majority party in a state when it ignores 45% of the seats in one of the state’s legislative chambers? Borrowing from the Bard, something is rotten in the Old Dominion.

For those of you who followed the maven in his more productive years, you know that I talked about the Virginia Dems over six years ago: Let’s Talk about the Democratic Party of VirginiaIn that post, I began by stating: I have to admit that I have no idea what the Democratic Party of Virginia does. In that post, I stated my view that the Democratic Party of Virginia plays little role in the election of candidates. Looking at the then most recent elections, I stated that Jim Webb was not elected to the Senate and Tim Kaine to the governorship by the party. Rather, it was the individual campaign committees set up by those candidates that got them elected. Then, I ended with: Does anybody know what the Democratic Party of Virginia does?

Well, a lot has happened since I wrote that piece. I myself became a candidate and now I am a member of the Richmond City Democratic Committee. I still spend a good part of my time discussing politics, but mostly on Facebook, not on this blog. However, I am still of the opinion that despite its Platform, the Democratic Party of Virginia does not get candidates elected. Yes, since I wrote that piece, two Democratic candidates for President and two Democratic candidates for the United States Senate have carried Virginia. However, in my opinion, it was the individual campaign organizations of those candidates that won those elections, not the party. Also since I wrote that piece, the other party has elected the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. It has also captured effective control of the state Senate and expanded its majority in the House of Delegates.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not criticizing the staff and volunteers who work for the Democratic Party of Virginia. I know that they work their collective butts off every election cycle, which means every year. But working hard does not necessarily mean working smart.

 More to follow--

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