I really don’t have time to write much, but I just want to toss an idea out there. It looks to me like the developing Democratic majority will give the party dominance over the legislature for the foreseeable future, but will hinder our ability to hold statewide seats.
What has enabled Democrats to take over the state senate is the demographic shift taking place upstate. As the burgeoning liberal population replaces Republican legislators with Democrats, both chambers of the General Assembly are moving to the left. This is obvious to those following Virginia politics, but what I want to make clear here is that these are victories that are taking place in individual districts because the Democratic candidates there are preferred to the Republican incumbents — the change is taking place in these districts, not statewide.
This is leading to an inevitable rural/urban split within Democrats in the General Assembly — northern Dems vs. southern Dems. (For the record, I can’t stand the abbreviation “NoVA,” and I’ll go to great lengths to avoid using it. But what I really despise is an acronym that I only recently encountered, “RoVA.” I see it as incredibly belittling to the great majority of the state.) Rural Democrats are upset at the developing leadership lineup in the senate, since it’s entirely urban.
In Charlottesville, Democrats are a supermajority of the population. The Republican Party couldn’t even muster a candidate for city council this year. So, as is perfectly natural, divisions long ago emerged among Democrats as they developed a healthy internal competition for dominance. This happens in all heavily Democratic areas. The sort of litmus tests that emerge in these environments, when applied to candidates running for broader offices, simply don’t work. Democrats who live in areas utterly dominated by Democrats are often unable to comprehend where the center really is. (The inverse applies to Republicans, of course.)
As wealthy, urban districts and their representatives gain influence, they’ll come to play a disproportionate role in the selection and election of our statewide candidates. We’ll witness this very battle take place between now and 2009, when Sen. Creigh Deeds and Del. Brian Moran face off for the Democratic nomination for governor. I believe that Sen. Deeds is eminently more electable, by virtue of his being much closer to the center than Del. Moran. But it’s that very trait that may prevent him from being nominated, if the center of Democratic power in Virginia lies as far north as I suspect that it does.
Democrats have learned to fake centrism since the dark days of 2001. Many can talk (uncomfortably) about the role of faith in politics, protecting the right to own firearms, the value of fiscal restraint and balanced budget, etc. But, as we cement our majority in the legislature, I think a lot of Democrats will drop that talk just as fast as Democratic legislators will drop talk of redistricting reform.
I can’t claim to be familiar enough with Del. Moran to say how he’d fare against a generic Republican in the far-off world of 2009. I do not mean to imply that he’s unelectable. But I do believe that the trap of a geographically-limited Democratic majority will be the habitual nomination of unelectable candidates. Here’s hoping that I underestimate the average Democratic voter.
Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte. *