Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Last Saturday, Your Man in Arlington abandoned his regular venue and made the trek to Richmond for Virginia Democrats’ annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner.

He was very much at home, since much of Arlington’s Democratic Party leadership was in Richmond, too.

The attraction, other than the regular rush of meeting with fellow Democrats from all over the state, was to see and experience the new Democratic star, Senator Barak Obama, who was the keynote speaker at the dinner.

Obama had recently announced his candidacy for president and this was Virginia Democrats first chance to see the media phenomena in person. Nobody was disappointed, even those who ultimately will not support his bid for the Democratic nomination.

Some 4,000 Virginia Democrats crammed themselves into the Richmond Convention Center for the dinner; almost 2,000 more than had ever attended a Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner. Your Man in Arlington was in his element as he circulated among old friends from all over the state and met many new friends who will be critical in the upcoming presidential election.

And all of the stars turned out. Current Richmond Mayor and former Governor Douglas Wilder attended his first J-J dinner since his governorship almost two decades ago. Former Governor Mark Warner and current Governor Tim Kaine were very prominent, as was Virginia’s congressional delegation, in particular our own congressman Jim Moran. And, of course, Virginia’s newest Democratic star, Senator Jim Webb, was very much in evidence.

Much of the enthusiasm was because of the remarkable ascendancy of the Democratic Party in Virginia during the past two years, and the enticing possibility that this year’s General Assembly election and next year’s presidential race may return Virginia after more than a generation firmly into blue state status.

Politically, the day started before many of us arrived in Richmond with the remarkable endorsement of Obama by Governor Tim Kaine on the steps of the governor’s mansion. Kaine’s very early endorsement set a positive tone for the rest of the evening. In a pre-dinner reception for the General Assembly and the governor’s cabinet (and a few interloper guests such as Your Man in Arlington), Kaine, Warner, and Wilder set the tone for the enthusiastic reception of Obama.

At the dinner, Obama was preceded by excellent (and largely short) speeches by our own Congressman Jim Moran, Congressman Bobby Scott, former Governors Doug Wilder and Mark Warner, Senator Jim Webb, and with a notably passionate speech by Governor Kaine. While all were received enthusiastically, the real star was Barak Obama.

He laid out a very visionary view of the future of America, presumably under his leadership that differed greatly from our current leadership under George Bush. While he has been criticized by some pundits as being too general, that mattered not a whit to his Richmond audience. They were looking for inspiration, and they got it in Obama’s excellent speech.

Obama picked up many supporters for his nomination Saturday night, but there were many supporters of other candidates in evidence, particularly Hillary Clinton and, to a somewhat lesser extent, John Edwards. The next year will be very interesting as the Democratic presidential drama unfolds in Virginia.