We’ve made no secret of our utter befuddlement when it comes to Virginia’s completely complacent state Democratic party. Although the commonwealth has become increasingly competitive at the presidential and (last year notwithstanding) congressional level, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Democratic member of the General Assembly who seemed passionate (or even mildly optimistic) about the party’s future statewide prospects.
Sure, the Dems still command a bare majority in the state Senate, and Majority Leader Dick Saslaw can always be counted on for an upbeat quote touting his party’s electoral outlook. But actions speak louder than words, as they say, and the recent history of the Old Dominion’s donkeys is anything but reassuring.
The party’s most immediate obstacles are twofold. The first is the ongoing statewide redistricting process, which seems all but certain to help Republicans add to their already sizable numbers in the House of Delegates. (They currently outnumber Democrats 59-39, and also have the votes of the chamber’s two independents.) In fact, the House redistricting was so harsh, Democratic Minority Leader Ward Armstrong actually has to move several miles and run in a new district simply to keep his job.
On the other side of the Assembly, the compromise Senate plan was, in theory, supposed to help Democrats increase their majority, but many experts are voicing skepticism. Saslaw is pinning his hopes on well-
known Lynchburg exterminator Bert Dodson to capture the newly created 22nd district, and is also hoping for a Dem upset in the rejiggered 13th. But both of these districts—while freshly drawn, and thus technically open seats—lean Republican, and are by no means easy pick-ups for team blue.
Which leads us to problem number two: enthusiasm, or the complete lack thereof. If there’s one thing that plagues Virginia’s Dems at the local level, it’s a palpable passion deficit. While Republican recruitment for both House and Senate vacancies is going like gangbusters (with three to five candidates competing for many open seats), Democratic candidates seem to be arriving late to the party, if they arrive at all.
Now call us crazy, but as we watch this process unfold, we can’t help but think that it might help if the Assembly’s Democrats stood up and actually started acting like Democrats. That would mean, among other things, not voting to make the federal health care insurance mandate illegal in Virginia (yes, senate Democrats did that), and maybe even speaking up for tolerance and inclusiveness when one of your colleagues makes a particularly asinine remark.
And look, here’s a perfect opportunity! Seems like oft-deranged Delegate Bob Marshall has got his panties in a bunch because the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank is currently flying a rainbow flag directly beneath Old Glory to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. In a typically over-the-top missive to bank president Jeff Lacker, Marshall demanded that the bank immediately remove the “homosexual flag,” because gay activity “undermines the American economy,” among many other terrible things.
Well, we’re sure that one of Marshall’s Democratic colleagues immediately sent a strongly-worded letter of support to Lacker, decrying the homophobic house member’s retrograde ideas and thuggish, inappropriate demands.
Anyone? Anyone? Saslaw? Bueller?
Sigh. Oh well—good luck in November, guys.