Mario Cuomo: His death reminds us of what we have lost…

Mario Cuomo died on 1.1.2015.  Upon hearing this, I posted to FB:

First sad news of 2015-Mario Cuomo has passed. Eloquent, passionate, yet never quite ready to take the leap and run for President. A man of substance, expression, and passion. He was perhaps the only person in the 1980’s political arena who could hold his own against Ronald Reagan at the lectern. As a young man he had enough baseball skills to get signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and smart enough to know he did not have what it took to make The Show and used his signing bonus to buy an engagement ring for his fiancé. Requiscat in Pacem, Mario. May Angels Wings lift you to your reward.

And…I thought that was that.

It seems I missed the mark.  Since then the running commentary on so many blogs has been what a “liberal” he was, and how his son (current NY Governor Andrew Cuomo) is just as bad, etc.

These responses to Cuomo’s passing are mostly disrespectful of a man who spent years in politics, was never tarred by scandal, and was consistent in his viewpoint from Day one.  You might not agree with the man, but you always knew exactly where he stood and why.

Sadly these comments point out two things that have been lost in the political arena since my youth.

The first is comity.  It seems no longer possible to be friendly or even polite to people on the other side of the aisle.  It is a world where words like “conservative” and “liberal” are delivered with the same intent to hurt and demean that words like “selfish”, “venal”, and “evil” were once used. It is another example of how the farther we get from the political leadership of the Greatest Generation the more nasty and uncollegial politics has become.

At the same time as we have diminished comity, we have also lost-and in some ways willingly jettisoned-any idea that our political leaders should be able to give us a complete view of governance.  You may not like Mario Cuomo, but Cuomo could tell you not only what he believed in but offer an intellectual and moral justification for it.  Too often candidates for office not only speak only in glittering generalities of what they are going to do if elected, but are completely unable to offer a comprehensive view of why they are going to do it.

Thirty years ago there were articulate spokesmen for both parties who could bring a house down arguing and promoting not just policies but also principle.  They could argue forcefully and eloquently, and not suggest that those in opposition to their points of view were evil.

We don’t really have that today.  If we did the GOP and the Democratic Party would bring more to the political discussion than “It’s the Right Thing to Do”.

That’s why Mario Cuomo’s death is more than a moment of sadness for a public servant.  It’s a moment to reflect on what we have lost, and how much we need to get it back.


Dirty Tricks in Braddock?

Just got a robo call urging me to vote today for John Cook.  Not a reminder about tomorrow, but to vote today.

I called Cook HQ.  I was told they are aware of the scam, it is an outside group doing what he labeled a “Democratic dirty trick”.

Only one more day of silliness…


Va 37 Spec Elec Reflects Va Dem Problem

As noted in this round up the GOP in Virginia Senate 37 have three candidates (Marianne Horinko, Steve Hunt, Will Nance) who were primed at the bell to run in a special election, fired up websites and fired out mailings w/in a week of the November General election, and are out combing the landscape for votes.

On the other side of the aisle the Democrats are apparently doing polling to see who could run the strongest race in the district. Names that apparently are on the poll are Delegate Dave Marsden (narrowly reelected to the HOD earlier this month), Janet “Hoot” Oleszek, who lost to SenKen by ~100 votes in 2007, and former HOD member Chuck Caputo. Of the three, only Oleszek lives in the district. Both Marsden and Caputo represented precincts in the 37th in the HOD, but would have to parachute in and run as the carpetbagger candidate. [NOTE: After posting, I received an IM that the Dem polling was for five candidates…but I still have no idea who the other two names are…]

While rigorous to vicious post mortems are being offered by Democratic officials/volunteers/bloggers, etc., about why Creigh Deeds got whomped on election day, I suggest there is a fundamental problem the Virginia Democrats have that is stands out in this race. The problem? They care more about winning than about standing for something.  This candidate selection by polling is perhaps the inevitable result of the Democrats long standing attempt to gain “Power on the Cheap”.

Yes, I understand that one of the goals of a political party is to win elections. Ideological purity can mean an extended stay in the wilderness.  But I have long noted that for the last eight years the Democrats have chosen to rely on GOP infighting to give them political power instead of advancing policy issues that-even if defeated in the General Assembly-could serve as campaign planks in a general election.  Instead, over eight years of Democrats in the governor’s mansion and two years of absolute control of the Virginia Senate (plus many more years of coalition cooperation with John Chichester and Russ Potts) there were no issues advanced in Virginia by the Democrats that they fought for, bled for, and could say to the populace “THIS is what we stand for”.

Instead, they have relied on GOP infighting, errors, and retirements.  It is a practice that places power above policy, and seeks to buy that power with the cheap currency of what the opponent did wrong instead of being able to use what the Dems did right.

Consider the NoVA Dem delegates that were defeated in 2009:

1)   David Poisson won his seat in 2005 (Kaine win, beginning of the Bush Backlash in the wake of bad news from Iraq and mishandling Katrina relief) from Dick Black, who had become a single issue culture warrior unconcerned with state governance;
2) Chuck Caputo won his seat in 2005 after a bruising GOP primary ousted GOP incumbent Gary Reese [corrected] and sent very conservative Chris Craddock into battle;
3) Paul Nichols won his seat in 2007 when incumbent delegate Michelle McQuigg stepped down to run for Clerk of the Court in PWCo. A bitter GOP convention sent up a weak GOP candidate;
4) Marge Vanderhye won her seat in 2007 after the retirement of Vince Callahan and defeated a reasonable but not strong GOP candidate in a district with less a GOP organization than a Callahan organization.

All these pickups were against weak incumbents or open seats with a weak candidate and where the local party structure relied less on the party than on the network of the individual candidate. These were wins against weakened candidates running an increasingly GOP toxic atmosphere.

Even David Marsden’s win in 2005 (for the seat of retiring moderate GOP delegate Jim Dillard) points up this devotion to power over policy. Marsden was Dillard’s long time legislative aide. Marsden was a GOP political appointee under Jim Gilmore-and was partisan enough that he was removed from his position after Mark Warner was elected. Marsden went door to door for the Cooch in 2003. But in 2005 he switched parties because he thought it was his best chance to go to the HOD. Cathy Belter, who had lost to Cooch in the 2003 general election, wanted to run for the Delegate seat but was by many accounts bullied out of running. Marsden was embraced by his new party over those who had labored in the vineyards because the party elders thought he was their best shot at winning.

The same thing is happening now. The Democrats are shopping various candidates based solely on electability, and two of them would have to change legal residence to run. By all accounts Hoot wants another shot, and it is a reasonable assertion that her result in 2007 should give her first shot at a special election nomination. Obviously, her case is undercut by her flaws as a campaigner. Still, one would think the organic choice and not the artificial choice would be the natural choice.

One would be wrong in thinking so…

More to the point she is a longtime Democratic activist who should have better name ID across the district from her time as a candidate and as an elected member of the school board…and she is potentially being pushed aside by Team Carpetbagger.

The candidate search in Va 37, its artificiality, its focus on best chance to win as opposed to fealty to party and loyalty to policy is indicative of a real problem in the Virginia Democracy. Va Dems have by the course of time or their own bad strategy have lost their high cards. They can no longer rely on being able to bash the bogeymen Bush and Gilmore, They cannot rely on internal strife to undermine GOP candidates. Their attempt to gain “power on the cheap” via GOP strife means they party has no state program or record of achievement to take to voters in this special election.

You would think that after eight years controlling the governor’s mansion, at least four years in almost complete control of Fairfax politics the Va Dems would have built up a stronger bench…but when you go for power on the cheap and refuse to grow your own troops and your own issues, maybe this candidacy by polling is the inevitable result.

Meanwhile-In a strange development the Janet Oleszek website which only ten days ago was populated and up and running (albeit not updated since fall 2008) is now shown as being “parked”. A Whois search shows it is owned by Oleszek for Senate through Feb 13, 2010.  I have to wonder if it is being retrofitted for a special election?

Blue Virginia, NLS Excoriates Deeds Campaign

Lowell Feld’s after action review is up.  It is a thorough excoriation of the Deeds campaign.  Clearly this document has been ready to go for some time. The same for Ben Tribbett, who posted his analysis just after the polls opened

The fact that these pieces are in place so quickly after the election indicates one of the horrible aspects of the Deeds campaign-that it was so bad for so long that the authors could begin drafting in good conscience long before election day without being accused of undermining the gubernatorial candidate.

The Democrats have had such success of late in Virginia few of you have watched them react to a loss.  Those who remember the RK discussion on the Judy Feder losses in 2006 and 2008 and the vitriol that flowed remember how ugly things got in losing a congressional election.  Be warned-these discussions will not be for the faint of heart…

Some Contrarian Thoughts on the Election

Lots of reasons are  being offered for the state of the Deeds campaign.  Noises are being made about a GOP blowout this Tuesday.  An amazing number of smart people are taking the easy way out and blaming Creight Deeds and his campaign…and there are a number of places where the Deeds campaign obviously was lacking.

However, there are reasons that folks are not fully addressing…perhaps because it is uncomfortable to their world view.  Maybe it is just easier to blame Creigh, but it doesn’t get them ready for 2010.

First, Election Day has not happened.  The assumption is that Dem turnout  will be depressed by the disenchantment with Deeds, and that low turnout could make for a huge HOD run.

If this happens, then the blame is all on the demo leadership.  I can understand Dem voters being unhappy with the statewide ticket, but there does not seem to be the systemic unhappiness with the Democratic Party or one or more of its reps such as we have had in recent years in the GOP with Bush (national) or Gilmore (Va).  The party leadership knew back in the spring there would be turnout issues because either because the bloom was off the Obama energy OR the bad guys could not easily be run against. 

But the Dems had the votes to elect these folks to the HOD prior to the Obama phenomena, and if they cannot turn out those same folks now it means that perhaps the Democratic party is not as strong as some make it out to be…if the Demcratic HOD candidates get swept up because the local leaders could not turn out identified Democrat voters (as opposed to obama voters) to come out and support HOD candidates they have supported in the past, then that fault is more a matter of organization and less of Deeds.

Some have asked why Deeds is not running on the Warner/Kaine admin record…and the answer is that there isn’t anything there to run on.  The “best run state” awards are there in no small part because the GOP HOD has generally staved off tax increases coming out of the state Senate.  Kaine has gone on record blaming the GOP for not going along with tax increases.  It is good government forced on the Democrats.  So much for a platform.

Ultimately, the democrats have emerged from eight years in the Governor’s mansion without anything they can hold up as an achievement.  If that achievement existed, they would be talking about it.  That lack of achievement is not Creigh Deeds fault, but of the administrations he hopes to succeed.  The Democrats in Richmond have not put forth legislation or ideas to define themselves, instead hoping to gain power on the cheap through GOP division or public antipathy toward GOP policies…w/o offering an alternative.

Then there is a matter of the nominee.  Creigh Deeds did not suddenly spring forth from the forehead of Jove as the nominee  like some mythological character.  He won a primary.  He was the choice of the party faithful.  Teh victory of such a flawed candidate points to a weak Democratic Bench, especially in the General Assembly.  Perhaps it is no accident that of the most recent Demo statewide winners (Warner, Kaine, Webb) none has their political roots in the General Assembly, which is typically a prime breeding ground for statewide candidates.  The Virginia Democracy has not bred vibrant candidates, instead trying to win just as they have governed-on the cheap.

Creigh Deeds is not an electoral bubonic plague…there are systemic elements at play here that are not being talked about.  I suggest that if the Virginia Democracy continues to point fingers instead of looking in the mirror, election day 2009 will be bad…and election day 2010 might not be so happy, either.

Chap! Labels Cooch Supporters “Freak Show”

Chap Petersen attended the Vienna Halloween parade last night.  Apparently he was not happy about the enthused Cuccinelli supporters riding unicycles and waving “Don’t Tread on Me” signs.  He calls it the “most bizarre” sight of the evening and labeled the exercise a “Freak Show”, and his comments were noted at NLS and at BlueVa.

Of course, being called a “freak show” within a Halloween parade is typically considered a good thing…but Chap! seems miffed.  Of course, it will be one of the things people will remember about the parade, as opposed to the sight of the average politico strolling down the street shaking hands.

Whatever happened to the good natured Chap! we are all used to?  Bad polling numbers must be scrubbing away his affability.

h/t to NLS!

UPDATE-After drafting this, I trawled back over to NLS where Chap! posted that he had dropped the “Freak Show” reference. Apparently even some dems thought it inappropriate to refer to political supporters that way.