The left-wing firing squad is back.
The geniuses at Democracy for America, the organization that grew out of Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, have un-endorsed (without ever having actually endorsed him in the first place) Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam over a recent flip-flop on sanctuary cities.
It’s the most appallingly self-righteous and idiotic thing that’s happened in American politics this year. And this has been a year filled with self-righteous and idiotic things.
Northam once cast a crucial vote against a bill banning sanctuary cities in Virginia. He did so because, he explained, there were no sanctuary cities in Virginia. Republican Ed Gillespie, once a country-club Yankee Republican now trying to reincarnate himself as Jeff Sessions, has been hammering him on it. So Northam flipped.
Though he has said he opposes sanctuary cities, this past week he conceded that he’d sign a bill banning them. It’s cowardly. It’s probably bad politics, too. It’s better politics to take your lumps and turn it into a character issue by proving that you have a backbone. People respect that even if they disagree with your position.
But we’re five days away from an election. A hugely important election, where there is an incredible amount at stake.
1. A Gillespie win would be a big victory for Donald Trump—and, given the kind of race-baiting and Confederate-statue worshipping and immigrant-bashing campaign Gillespie has run, for Trumpism and Bannonism.
2. It would be a huge defeat for a reeling Democratic Party, which really needs this win to put a little wind in its sails heading into next year.
3. A Gillespie win would give the GOP total political control in Virginia, assuming neither state house flips. That’s one more state capital with ne checks on a hyper-conservative agenda, which will include the redistricting process that comes after the next census, in the third year of the next governor’s term.
4. Oh, and this would make Virginia the 33rd state fully in GOP hands. You know how many states are needed to agree on a constitutional convention? Thirty-four. If you haven’t read much about Republicans’ ideas about what a constitutional convention would accomplish, you’d better.
That’s just the politics. There are major policy implications too, from Medicaid expansion, to reproductive rights, to immigration policy beyond sanctuary cities, to basic economic fairness.
All of these things should matter to DFA. But they’ve apparently been trumped by the fact that Northam changed his position on one issue. Which, by the way, is a totally theoretical issue since there still is not a single sanctuary city in the state! So it’s not as if Governor Northam would be driving around the state ripping down “Harrisonburg Is a Sanctuary City” signs. There are none! WTF is the matter with these people?
Here’s the executive director’s full statement. Read it. It’s clear there was bad blood before. Fine. Technically, what DFA is doing here is withdrawing any direct support to Northam’s campaign. If they want to do that, fine, let them. But this announcement is just a childish play for attention.
And they’re getting it. Virtually everybody I know is up in arms about this. Not least the man who started the organization. Here’s what Howard Dean tweeted Friday morning: “I Hope this is inaccurate because it is an incredibly stupid thing to say and deeply discredits the organization which I founded.” God bless ya, governor. Knock some common sense into these people. And go campaign with Northam this weekend, if he wants you to.
Northam has run a lame campaign. No doubt about that. His consultants have been awful. He’s running like one of those ’90s Bullworth Democrats who’s afraid he might offend two independent voters somewhere. Which is a shame because he’s a pretty progressive guy. He’s got strong positions on jobs, housing, the environment, women’s issues. He’s even good on immigration. He’s been against Trump’s Muslim ban and says he’d oppose all efforts to create similar laws in Virginia. This ain’t Vermont. That’s pretty good!
But no, it’s not good enough for the sanctimonious left. They have to make the whole thing turn on an issue that, as I said, is entirely theoretical anyway. Unbelievable.
We’ve seen this movie too many times. Don’t blame us if Northam loses, DFA will scream; blame his unprincipled campaign! When someone loses a campaign, people can always point to a dozen factors, and sure, Northam hasn’t run a strong race.
But all that is irrelevant to the question at hand. The question at hand is what “principle” DFA thinks it’s advancing by making this kind of showboat move less than a week before an election? I know what they’d say. Here on planet Earth, the only principle they’re advancing is the demand for impossible purity in a state where a man running an openly pro-Confederate campaign (Cory Stewart) came within 1.2 points of beating Gillespie in the GOP primary.
So let Gillespie win. Let him and the GOP state legislature slash the social-services budget, do away with environmental regulations, restrict abortion and birth control services, and—yes—crackdown on undocumented immigrants in ways a Governor Northam would have prevented. Let all those people suffer. That’ll teach Northam and future Democrats!
Left, this is why people hate you.