Democratic voters in Tuesday’s primary election in Virginia chose wisely in nominating the mainstream option for governor over the self-described more progressive candidate. Current lieutenant governor Ralph Northam carried the staunch support of all the state’s major Democratic electeds, including all who’ve won statewide elections in recent years, the current governor Terry McAuliffe, two U.S. senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and attorney general Mark Herring.
Northam had to campaign aggressively to win because of the entry into the race of a young, one-term former U.S. congressman Tom Perriello, who came in with some heavy funding and wound up being a lightning rod for support from Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and a phalanx of enthusiastic younger activists in the party. His campaign stressed the need for shaking up the party establishment after the results of last November’s election put Donald Trump into the White House.
Most of the “mainstream” Democrats said that if Perriello won, they’d have no problem supporting him because of the overriding need of their party to show a united front to hold the governor’s seat and to take advantage of an enormous potential to pick up a large number of seats in the state legislature this November.
Winning the race for governor is a particularly important challenge for the Democrats in Virginia, because with a rabidly right-wing legislature, the only thing that has salvaged the state from spiralling down the road of a Kansas or North Carolina has been its Democratic governor McAuliffe who the last few years has vetoed over 100 highly toxic bills that came to his desk highly prejudiced against women, LGBT persons, immigrants and for guns.
With Virginia now the only state in the union that still forbids a governor from holding more than one term, this election was to find an able successor to McAuliffe who would share his values and, equally important, of course, be able to win the general election in November. As the current lieutenant governor, and with a lengthy record of serving in the state legislature before that, Northam was the self-evident choice to meet those qualifications.
But then Perriello entered the primary race, and sought to sweep up the momentum of the Sanders wing of the party.
Now, there were a number of problems with this, mostly variations on the old rule, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The narrative I think is the most misguided coming out of last November’s disastrous election result is to fix the blame for the loss on Democrats, including but not limited to Hillary Clinton.
I don’t need to remind you that Clinton won the popular vote by over three million votes. That is pretty phenomenal when the headwinds against her are taken into account, the fact that she was running to become the nation’s first woman president, that she was identified with a Clinton “dynasty,” that Republicans were relentless in exploiting misogynist sentiments, making every small misstep she may have taken as evidence of the ostensible disadvantages of her gender and turning them all into causes celebre, and not even to mention the fact that the Russians were going all out to provide covert aid to her opponent (in ways we will be learning about as the investigations underway now will reveal and no doubt shock us all).
Those who would sow division within the ranks of their enemies must be taking great delight in all the jibber jabber going around about how corrupt and inept the current leadership of the Democratic Party is.
The same goes for those who sought to disrupt the LGBT Pride events this month by trying to block the parade and lambast the event organizers for taking money from Wells Fargo and other big corporate interests.
The burgeoning LGBT movement is a very potent force in society now, and its sassy and intelligent ranks provide great hopes for the future of our country because they necessarily stand outside the mainstream.
Don’t worry that they may appear to be less than political in the usual sense. They are necessarily political by the very nature of who they are. Whose interests are served by trying to weaken their impact?
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected].