On primaries.

I hate primaries. I hate conventions. I hate contests that pit Democrats against Democrats, or even Republicans against Republicans.

I hate them like I hate green beans, squash, and those nasty vitamins that Amber makes me take. I know they’re good for me, but that won’t make me like them.

As a blogger, I find them paralyzing, divisive, awkward, and unpleasant. They turn rational people into extremists. They create an us and a them, and never the twain shall meet.

I’m glad that the 5th District primary is over. I’ve known Bern Ewert for years, and I’ve known Al Weed for many more years. I like both men, and I felt ill-equipped to select between the two, or even to assist others in making that decision. I told both men that I’d focus my attention on Rep. Virgil Goode and stay out of their contest, and I’m awfully glad I did.

The Senate primary grinds onward towards its June conclusion. I dare not write about it, lest the hordes descend upon me and pick the metaphorical flesh from my bones. No longer content to let the candidates do battle, each man’s supporters have taken up arms against their one-time allies, unnecessarily personalizing the political and damaging what may be (or may have been) lifelong relationships.

So screw it. It’s not worth it. I don’t care enough. Friendship is more important to me. Life’s too short for this. There’s going to be a primary, I’m going to vote however I vote, I’ll probably say nice things about the nominee and maybe hand out some literature or something. Maybe at some point I’ll make some sort of endorsement, but I can’t see why anybody ought to care about for whom I intend to vote. What the hell do I know?

Damn, I miss the trail.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

32 replies on “On primaries.”

  1. I’ll second everything you said about primaries. I just can’t stand how emotional people get about ‘their canidate’. Maybe I haven’t been involved in many, but this one seems especially bruttal.

    Just wish we could all hold hands and sing camp songs and let an arm wrestling match decide who gets the nomination or something :)

  2. I continue to remind people that the most important day in a primary is the day AFTER it’s over. We HAVE to come back together. That has to be our continuing message.

  3. This primary has just gotten ridiculous and it seems to get uglier every day. I was sent an email the other day that called Miller “one of the worst Americans in history.”

    Va Dems attacking Va Dems. Sucks.

  4. …and it goes a little somethin’ like this:

    NewsTool: Good Day Waldo. Lets begin. Do you stand by your statement relating to election cycles?

    Waldo: Good Afternoon Toolio. You know this is a question relating to an ongoing election cycle, and you have my response relating to ongoing election cycles. And I don’t think you should read anything into it other than we’re going to continue not to comment on it while it’s ongoing.

    NewsTool: So your votin’ for Bern?

    Waldo: If you will recall, I said, as part of helping the election cycle move forward, I’m not going to get into commenting on it. That was something I stated near that time as well.

    NewsTool: It’s Weed then?

    Waldo: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.

    NewsTool: Waldo, this is ridiculous. The notion that you’re going to stand before us, after having commented previously with a much higher level of detail, and tell people reading this that somehow you’ve decided not to talk. You’ve got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that keyboard or not?

    Just having fun Waldo.

    I agree with you….enjoy the day, eat a sandwich, pet your dog, give the dog some sandwich…and let those so inclined devour each other.


  5. ummmm, I actually kind of liked the convention . . . yes, the run up to it got really hot, but all the controversy has generated a lot of press coverage . . . it seems like way more than I have ever seen before!

    The press coverage its self even seems to be tilting to that this thing might be a real race!

    A contested fight like this has definitely resulted in an extra burst of energy being added to the campaign.

    And the Weed people are super pumped after winning such a hard fought fight.

    High morale amongst the campaign staff can only be a good thing, right?

    Hope the same thing happens with who ever wins the primary. Though, I have to say things seem to be getting extra nasty . . . are we seeing the dark-side of the VA blogisphere?

    Oh well, back to the convention:

    I have to say, Miller did himself good at the convention, stayed and answered questions all afternoon long: I think that he won over a lot of people who might otherwise be inclined to vote for Webb. Even made me feel bad for having my Webb sticker on my shirt.

    Anyway, this congressional race has got some momentum on it, lets make sure it doesn’t lose it.

  6. Bad day, bad week, bad month, bad primary…

    Good weather, good weekend, good cookouts, good family, good friends.

    I think the choice is clear.

  7. Like Jon, I was feeling more positive about Miller after the 5th District Convention than I had been.

    That lasted until this evening, when I came home to find a Miller campaign robo-call on my answering machine. One of the especially obnoxious variety that pretends to be from a real person (“Sue” in this case) just calling her neighbor to let him know how awful that Jim Webb fellow is.

    The Webb sign I snagged in Buckingham is going up by this weekend.

  8. I dislike primaries because of the divisiveness you mentioned, and in particular in the idea that supporters of campaigns that do not succeed in a primary sometimes have a hard time accepting and supporting the victor. And just after a primary is when it is particularly important they do so.

    But they’re good in allowing the winner to test strategies and get tested themselves, which is all good practice in facing their final opponents. Furthermore, it proves as a valuable learning experience for those who do not secure the nomination.

    And finally, because I love all the intricacies of campaigns and politics, I tend to enjoy any race.

    Both Jim Webb and Harris Miller have criticized their primary opponent. We know these same criticisms will come back in the general, so if these guys are smart, and I suspect they are, they’ll be ready to react next time this stuff comes around.

  9. Primaries can be like going to the dentist : horrible but healthy.

    I think that within the party, the momentum towards reconciliation is irresistible.

    You know, because one of the reasons people get so excited about “their guy”, is because the guy in the other party sucks so bad.

    I think we all can agree on that!

  10. I can truly say that it was wonderful at the convention to meet Jon-Phillip, David, and Jim Webb. And others as well, such as JC.

    And of course, I am jazzed that we can move on now with the Congressional race in this district. That said, there is an air of particular nastiness going around on blogs that is unsettling. We need to keep our eyes on the prizes this year. Al Weed in the 5th, and Jim Webb or Harris Miller for Senate.

    We need Democrats to win this year. I wish some would remember that and stop participating in the age old tradition of the circular firing sqaud. We need each other to make this all work, and we can’t do that while tearing each other down.

    Just my $.02. Your mileage may vary.

  11. Campaigns need to be about the competition of ideas. What is a distraction are the personal attacks. In the run for the 5thCD nomination, it got off track at times with both the campaigns and the supporters. It is good that it is behind us and that we are all pulling for Al.

    However in the run up to the primary we need to look at the candidate’s core principles. While it is nice that Harris took the time to go to lunch with the delegates and I will agree that Jim should have done the same, it is the campaign ideas that we should be really looking at. We also need to look at the potential for a candidate to “connect” with voters…do those ideas ring a bell with Democrats and voters generally?

    I think Harris Miller is a nice guy and is a life long Democrat and should be shown the respect that he deserves. Jim Webb’s core campaign is about things that are closer to what I think we need to focus on. I think he has the potential for energizing more Democrats. This is no slam against Miller.

    Harris’s background and approach is to take the corporate view. This is not always bad. However, when it comes to job outsourcing I think it is. Harris has a view that outsourcing jobs is OK as long as we retrain the workers and workers are salary “flexible”. I am an IT guy. I am already well trained. I don’t want to see my job going to Bombay. It is that simple. Jim Webb will work to create corporate disincentives for core middle class jobs being shipped overseas.

    Right now it is hard to get corporate investment in the Southside. It is more cost effective for corporations to invest in India and Pakistan. We need to have a corporate tax structure that promotes the Southside, not Bombay…I’m not slamming Harris here, I’m talking about core Democratic Party concerns.

    We need to have a full airing of both campaigns’ core ideas. We need to do it respectfully. So lets do away with the vitriol but hold on to our passion for core Democratic values.

  12. But primaries and conventions are just so much FUN. There’s no sport that I love half so much as walking into a convention with a candidate and a battle plan. It’s even fun when you lose. And there’s no bigger rush than walking out of that room with the big prize.

    Primaries are a whole different kind of rush. A convention is a battle but a primary is a war. It’s like wargaming writ large. With actual money and foot soldiers and the big game is played out over a period of weeks or months. I’ve always been partial to war games. I was completely addicted to ‘The Ancient Art of War’ on my PC as a kid. Devising and executing campaigns and strategies for primaries and conventions is just a natural extension of that.

    I like to win. And nomination processes are one more opportunity to win something. Therefore I like them.

  13. I like primaries that I’m involved in. If I’m working with the candidate, it’s a blast. But I have to recognize that I’m part of the problem then, as a member of us, but it’s a necessary part and a necessary problem.

  14. ATA:

    Not only is that not in the spirit of this whole thread, but it is also piling on where there is no need. We all know you hate Al Weed for some reason, but he is the candidate.

    Harping on performance from two years ago is not only not helpful, but makes you sound like a one-note songbird. Constructive criticism I can see; continuing to put your two cents in that is devalued now to less than nothing is a waste of everyone’s time, especially yours.

    But maybe you like it that way. I prefer to not post anonymously, and I can stand behind my statements that way. You? You could be Virgil’s cousin for all we know, or George Allen’s driver.

    We’ve all heard your lament, please give it a rest.

  15. I prefer to not post anonymously, and I can stand behind my statements that way.

    With all due respect, I’m not sure that posting as “Mark” really counts as any better identification than “ATA”.

    Further, I’ve seen no evidence that ATA “hates” Al Weed. He simply doubts his ability to beat Virgil Weed. Fair enough. I don’t think there’s a single unbiased political analyst who would disagree with that assessment.

    That said, sure, we can be optimistic. Upsets happen. If the candidate works hard, assembles a top-notch staff and diligent volunteers, that’ll help. If Virgil Goode sinks deeper into the MZM scandal, that’ll help more.

    Maybe some smart researcher will find links between Virgil and the Tom DeLay/Jack Abramoff efforts to support sweatshop textile manufacturing in the Marianas at $3.05 hourly wages. Wouldn’t that be something? Textile jobs disappearing in Southside and appearing in the Marianas, thanks to payoffs made to corrupt Republican officials and their cronies.

  16. Harry,

    You seem to be a nice guy, and I have always respect the intelligence of your responses. But if you remember, I have always, personally, registered my annoyance at ATA’s bomb throwing and his insistence on being anonymous.

    I generally think that it is pretty lame, I think you would have to agree. Mark’s also seems to be a great guy–I met him at the convention– and he provides a link to his very own blog.

    If ATA is a loyal Democrat he should ether help out or sit out, because the majority of the Democrats in this district (record attendance at the convention and caucuses) have decided that this is a fight worth fighting.

    ATA has also stated in the past that he thinks that we should focus on the Senate race . . . have you all seen what the political handicappers are saying about our chances the unset Allen!? It might be just as much of a long shot as unsetting Goode!

    We are underdogs in both races, so suck it up and get to work. Lets show them, win or lose, that the Virginian Democratic Party is alive and well and spoiling for a fight.

    I would also like to second Greg’s post about the Senate primary. I came away from the convention, really liking Miller, but still supporting Webb.

    I hope Miller runs again, despite all the crap about him giving money to Hastert, and being a lobbyist, he seems like a genuine and loyal Democrat. He just isn’t the perfect storm that we need right now.

  17. Points taken, Harry.

    I admit I am a relative latecomer to this blog having only come here a few years ago; it being ten years old (Congrats Waldo!). However, my name is attached to my blog, where it clearly states where I live. I wouldn’t exactly call that anonimity. I am not ashamed of my last name, so from now on here, I will post my full name.

    In the interest of disclosure (unlike ATA), I am also the Chair of the Cumberland Democratic Committee.

    ATA is not ‘simply’ doing anything. For months now, all I have seen from (him?) is how the candidates suck, and that Al Weed’s 36% won’t get him anywhere. “A pox on both their houses” doesnt sound like mere disbelief. This morning’s one-off was the camel’s back-breaking straw.

    Sure I am optomistic. And yes, I am hoping that Virgil self-destructs even more. But I do not think it is out of the realm of possibility for Al Weed to win in November. Al Weed does have a top-notch staff and a rabid band of volunteers, growing every day. There is an overwhelming hunger to get rid of Virgil.

    I have looked into the MI textile situation, and I do know one thing that isn’t being discussed about it yet: that the goods that are manufactured in the MI are not shipped to the US via US shippers, as is required by the Jones Act of 1924. I do know of one researcher that has been researching Jack Abramhoff since 1999. I anticipate if anyone breaks that story, it will be him.

    I guess everyone here but me knows who ATA is. I am really tired of the constant “36%” refrain, as if that is a factor here. This is a new election. Even Abe Lincoln lost a lot before being elected.

  18. I admit I am a relative latecomer to this blog having only come here a few years ago; it being ten years old (Congrats Waldo!).

    Hey, hardly anybody read it until a few years ago. :) I was stuck at ~100 readers/day for a couple of years in the late 90s. I think I may have stopped reading it for a few years there. ;)

  19. Jon-Phillip & Mark,

    I do not hate Al Weed. I happen to think he’s a really great guy and would make a fantastic Congressman. I’m just also realistic about his prospects as a candidate. I’ll clap politely if you’re talking about momentum in a meeting, but I’ll always call BS here.

    As far as bomb-throwing goes, you’re forgetting that this is all ‘inside baseball.’ The people who read and write comments on Waldo’s blog are mostly the hard-core campaign junkies. We’re most of us either professionals or something close to it. This is a place where we should just be honest with each other in our political analysis. If I’m writing something in a forum that the teeming masses of Democrats will read, then I’m going to be far more cautious about what I say. If I’m making a speech in front of a room full of volunteers or donors at a JJ dinner then it’s going to be ‘rah! rah! beat Virgil!’

    There is a time and place for different degrees of bluntness in talking politics. I’d like to think that this is the place for just telling it like it is.

    Why do I post more or less anonymously under these initials? Because I’m saying things that will piss off all sorts of people in Virginia politics who I know in real life and have to get along with. I can be far more honest in my criticism this way. Again, I believe that blunt, unpleasant honesty has a real value sometimes and anonymity is a sound means of facilitating that.

    With regard to the Senate race vs. the VA 5th, yes, I have seen what the handicappers and analysts are saying and I’m truly heartened by most of it. Conventional wisdom on the race, nationally, is that James Webb has a real shot of beating George Allen and that Webb’s nomination would have the effect of opening up a big hole in the GOP ’08 WH primary field. Allen usually polls between 49% and 53% over the last 6 months. That’s in the textbook striking zone, especially when the last 2 statewide elections for conservative Virginia Democrats gave us victories with those same voters. Wheras every poll I’ve ever seen on the 5th gives Virgil over 60% approval and the last 3 times these same voters went to the ballot box the challenger got his ass handed to him. Perhaps you have some evidence, some nuance of fact with regard to the Senate race vs. the House race that suggests I am wrong? I would love to hear it.

    Now Kellam’s race down in Virginia Beach – that’s a real pickup opportunity and the only other race in Virginia this year that I would put real money into.

  20. ATA,

    I do not post anonymously and I am willing to say things that piss people off. Maybe I am stupid and you are smart, who knows?

    But the way I see it, posting this way makes sure that I am willing to take my dose of accountability if I cross the line . . .

    I would also posit that there is a quantifiable difference between blunt, honest analysis and your snide comments.
    Your, lets call it lastwordism, actually blurs your apprehension of the facts. Particularly in your reference to my comment regarding the momentum building in the Weed campaign.

    It is an objective fact that Weed is raising money at an impressive clip and that there has been a surge in grassroots support for his effort . . . now is it enough to topple Goode? The CW, says no, you say no, but there are certainly better ways we can debate these issues, than the ones you deploy.

    Its obvious that you are smart and know your stuff about politics . . . oh well.

    Also, these recent polls concering Virgil . . . where are they? I haven’t seen one or can find one.

    It doesnt really matter, we all know he is popular. But in the last couple of months he has been getting nothing but bad press, and has definitely seemed off of his game. I personally talked to him at an event in Henry County and he looked like he was about to bolt out of the room.

    His numbers have to be down, by how much who knows? There is no way his numbers are not down!

    As far as the Allen race . . . I would love to see Allen beat, and I agree with most of what you say, but it is just as big of a task!

    Come on, even if Allen is polling at 50, he ranks third in the Senate in the amount of campaign cash in the 2006 cycle, he has a killer band of operatives (practically the best in the nation), and he is an incumbent with house-hold name recognition, to boot!

    And remember, its all good for us to think that he is stupid, but this is a guy who ascended to the top of the leadership of his party in only one term, and is now on the sort list of presidential candidates . . . what kind of stupid is that?

    Miller and Webb are anywhere around 10-20 points bellow Allen’s 50, and both are untested candidates with zero name recognition, going against a guy who has been at this forever.

    Now you can say that Kaine started low, but you could also argue he was running as a quasi-incumbent with his better half having an 80% approval rating

    All that being said I still have a lot of hope for this race (because, well you know because Allen is stupid and the national generic numbers) but to say that it is all THAT much more realistic than taking Goode out is a stretch.

  21. Jon-Phillip,

    Allen only won his seat with 52%. This was back in 2000 when Republicans were coasting in Virginia, Jim Gilmore was Governor and life was sweet for Republicans everywhere. He hasn’t faced the voters since then. Asked yourself: has the electorate in Virginia moved 2.1 points towards the left since 2000? Every time the voters have gone to the polls in VA since then suggests that it has. Mark Warner won with 5%. Kaine won with 6%. Heck, even John Kerry won 2 points more in Virginia than Al Gore did. Democrats have also gained seats in both houses of the state government in every election since Allen last ran.

    So if the electorate has moved to the left (or more accurately, towards the center), then tell me what George Allen has done to expand his constituency? What great piece of legislation has he authored to earn the love of a few points worth of moderates or independants? Nada. Allen spent 6 years as a loyal foot soldier for Bush, tending occasionally to his Republican base back home. Except that the Republican base is clearly no longer quite enough to get the job done in Virginia. And Allen is out of time to recast himself as a centrist (which would also put him in an awkward situation with regard to his positioning for the ’08 WH nomination).

    Chuck Robb’s position was not much different than Allen’s really. He was a popular former goveror with a long history of winning in Virginia. When Robb decided to run for the seat in the first place, the Republican holding it at the time was so scared of him that he dropped out of the race. The Democrats were still more or less the dominant party in Virginia. Chuck Robb seemed hugely popular and was sitting as safely as an incumbant possibly could. Or so it appeared. Then there was a sea change in VA politics towards the right and George Allen rose up and grabbed the seat away from him in a race with a 2 point margin.

    So I say that this ‘popular former governor’ is every bit as secure in this race as the last ‘popular former goveror’ to hold the seat was. My opinion of this stems from watching the evolution of Virginia politics and studying the results of elections in Virginia. It is not a result of thinking that Allen is an idiot. Clearly he has political acumen.

    Any incumbancy that Kaine benefited from consisted of his ability to tie himself to Warner’s successes and popularity and his experience running a state-wide campaign. Because let’s look back at his name recognition 6 months out from the ’05 election and recall that most Virginians had no idea who he was. Within a few months following the results of a state election being in the news, most people could not name their Lt. Governor. In this sense, either Webb or Miller are no worse off than Kaine was (not that I really think that Miller could take Allen down).

    No, I haven’t seen any polls on Goode in the last year or so. I am looking back at polls conducted in the last 2 cycles and at election results. I would bet that Goode might lose as much as 5% over the MZM scandal. If he is indicted *then* he could be toast (which is why I think it’s a good idea to have a candidate in the race in case we get that handed to us). But the other Republican scandals and the national hatred of Bush will not touch Virgil Goode in the slightest. I’ve been studying Virgil and looking for chinks in his armor for the last 5 years and the guy is just bullet-proof in that sense. His constituents still see him as an independant and he does a brilliant job of cultivating that and generally keeping his head down when trouble is on the horizon. Virgil has won term after term after term for this seat. He is well intrenched and adept at playing the ‘I hate Washington’ game and has honed it in every campaign. George Allen is wrapping up his first term in DC. He hasn’t learned to play that game that has ensured Virgil ‘s survival. Allen has become the consumate Washington insider without taking note of the same warning signs that tell Virgil when to duck. This and more is why I think that Virgil Goode will probably be working this ‘shaking and smiling’ schtick (props to Al’s promising young speechwriter on that one) on the campaign trail long after George Allen hangs his shingle with a lobbying outfit or a law firm.

    The grassroots support for Al Weed is among Democrats. It’s not cutting into Virgil’s support. Don’t get me wrong – I think that this is great. Getting new volunteers involved and giving them some training and experience will build the party across the 5th and help us to win state House and Senate seats in districts with close races.

    Go ahead, post under your real name. I’m not telling you what to do; don’t you try to tell me what to do and we’ll get on just fine. If I start talking smack about someone’s mother, making up fake scandals or something like that then you can start talking to me about accountability and anonymity. But all I’m guilty of is laying out political analysis and commentary that you disagree with.

  22. I dunno, I’m having a good time during this primary.

    And I think the negativity is a bit overblown. Neither campaign has made personal attacks yet…it’s all over substance, although some of us would disagree whether the substance is legit…

  23. ATA,

    I completly agree with your anylasis of why there is a potential to take Allen out. But you very much sell short the steepness of the climb. Again: money, name recontion, organization, incumbency.

    Are you sugesting that it will be a cake walk, if so you are out of your mind. There is no way in hell you can spin this and say it is not an uphill battle. All the things you say could be true, but it doesn’t negate that when Allen took out Robb, he was running as a recent former Governor, with an experienced organization. Also, he was running against an incumbent who didn’t seem to want to stay in office.

    Incumbancy is not only having the institutional benefits of the office–he is SENATOR Allen, not just some shomo. Kaine, despite the fact that he was a relative unknown, was still LT. GOVERNOR Kaine. Thats official, and people had voted for him statewide office before. Plus Kilgore was also a relatively unknown.

    Compound this by the fact that it was also plausible for people to make a connection between, you know the Governor and the Lt. Governor.

    Also, our two new guys are basically creating organization from scatch, and at the very last minute, at that! So they will not be able to run as an affective campaing as Allen’s orgainzation.

    Kaine had been working on his orgaization, I would assume, since the first day he took office as Lt.G (he didn’t have anything else to do). So yes, in whole lot of those senses, they are worse off.

    Don’t get me wrong, I want this fight, and I plan to work my butt off to get rid of Allen.

    Also, is the 5th somehow immune to the trends you suggest are sweeping the rest of state?

    How exactly? I would think that they are actually acute in this district. Albemarle and Nelson is a huge matirix of liberal migration . Population is up and voter turn out is up. In my precet we resecnlty had almost as high turnout as the presidental, and our voter trends actually flipped in favor of dems, down the whole ticket.

    Nelson, Albemarle both have seen huge jumps in population and very healthy voter turn out. While in the area of Virgil’s biggest support, the population is contracting.

    Regarding Virgil’s “armor”, you state the obvious. Taking that armor off is the job of any effective campaign that anyone would run against him.

    The armor is weakening, you down play by how much it is weakening, but you concede 5 points. How many points does it drop everytime something negative about MZM comes out, or another scandal breaks? Doesn’t 5 point drop put him close to that “strike zone” you were talking about? what if the drop has been say, 7 points?

    Regardless, these things are cumulative . The stage is being set for people to be convinced that he is not what he pretends he is.

    Also, you state that we need a candidate in the wings if he is indicated. Ok, but how do we do that without running a strong campaign the whole time? If he was indicted, what would we do, rub a lamp, and shazam we have a campaign!?

    You also state that you think the campaign is great for building the party . . . hmmmm, ok, well then you agree with me, we need to fight extra hard on this campaign, build the party, be there if Virgil falls, and if we lose set the stage for the next election.

    As far as your anonymity, I wouldn’t have a problem with it if all you did was provide opinions I disagreed with. I love disagreeing with people, thats why I come here to write things. What I disagree with is using it as mask to hide and act like a smart ass, by your own admission, in ways you never would in polite company.

    But you know, to each his own.

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