The big news out of Virginia today is Virginia is experiencing “blue shift.” A state that was once reliably red has become increasingly competitive for the Democratic Party. Part of it is because the northern part (closest to D.C.) is becoming very blue, but part of it is because the GOP still rewards candidates who trip over each other in the contest to become the most bat-shit-crazy Tea Partier ever seen.
This race should have been in the bag for the GOP, but many factors beyond the control of the candidates made this a much closer race—the government shut down, the Affordable Care Act, and other national issues muddied the waters, but the biggest injuries were self inflicted.
Virginia Republicans still uses a system of Nominating Convention to select their candidates. They gather in a small convention center, pony up $25 per person (including children), and whoever shows up votes to determine the candidate. This system virtually assures the most extreme candidates will get the nod. People have to travel to the convention, pay for transportation, accommodations, and admission. This doesn’t make it too accessible to small business owners (who can’t afford to miss work), the poor or elderly (especially since conventions can go late into the night), or just about anyone else who isn’t a political fanatic. In the end, they chose a candidate for governor that chose to campaign with Senator Ted Cruz during the government shutdown. Since 1 in 3 Virginia families were directly affected by the shutdown that was brought on by Senator Cruz, nobody but a fool (or Tea Party Extremist) would even think to associate themselves with Cruz.
Here in Wisconsin, we have a primary system. It allows anybody in the state to participate without cost. It usually takes about 5 minutes to vote, and there are polling stations all over the state. Primaries generally produce fairly moderate candidates because they have to appeal to a larger swath of people, and they give candidates at least some experience on the campaign trail—including vetting their personal lives, debate skills, and ability to relate to voters.
It begs the questions—why would Wisconsin want to move away from this system of candidate selection. In Virginia, by the last ballot of their nominating convention, a little over 5,000 people cast ballots to determine their standard bearer. What we’re looking at in Wisconsin is a system where a handful of people want to pressure, cajole, and sabotage any candidate who would think of running for Governor, unless her name is Mary Burke. They wrap up their arguments in dollar bills—but my question is: If someone other than Mary Burke were to win the primary, would the leaders in the Democratic Party NOT support them? Would they not contribute money, and leave them out to dry? Is Scott Walker that much more preferable than not getting their way?
We need to get it into our thick little skulls that this election isn’t about “anyone but Walker.” I can’t imagine a worse scenario than electing a lack-luster Democrat that nobody likes to be our standard bearer, because then the only way to do better is the election AFTER a Republican ousts them. Most Democrats, liberals, and progressives are going to vote for whoever runs against Walker anyways—so how about finding the candidate we feel passionate about instead of the candidate we can stomach?
I’m not pretending to say I know who that candidate is (yet), but after a vigorous and positive primary, I have a feeling I will know who can best lead Wisconsin forward.