The Mt. Vernon Democrats straw poll results are in (Aneesh Chopra 148-Ralph Northam 61; Mark Herring 128-Justin Fairfax 108), and my friend Ben Tribbett has some thoughts. For instance, Ben argues, the fact that "none of the candidates have enough support to even get 200 people to show up and vote for them on a Saturday night in a location within 30 minutes of about 75% of the NoVA population...tells me everyone is really weak right now with very little organization behind them." It's an interesting argument, but do the facts back it up?
Looking back on past editions of this straw poll - and also Gerry Connolly's St. Patrick's Day ("the holiest day of the year," as Connolly half-jokingly calls it) straw poll - helps provide perspective, both in terms of the polls' raw numbers and also their predictive accuracy (or lack thereof). Here are results from a few previous NOVA Democratic straw polls.
In sum, that straw poll was completely wrong (Obama ended up winning Virginia, while Edwards had dropped out by then). It also was not particularly well attended, with just 227 votes cast, very similar to last night's Mt. Vernon straw poll. Meh.
Mt. Vernon 2008 Hillary Clinton 56%-Barack Obama 44% (note that Obama went on to win the Virginia primary overwhelmingly just 10 days later)
Leslie Byrne 52%-Doug Denneny 22%-Gerry Connolly 13%-Lori Alexander 11% (note that Connolly went on to win the primary by 25 points over Leslie Byrne, with Denneny and Alexander a distant 3rd and 4th).
In other words, the straw poll was not accurate in the least bit in terms of predicting election outcomes. As for the number of votes cast, Tim Craig reported that there were 180 votes cast for president (with presumably a similar number for Congress). That's fewer than candidates received this year, actually, yet I doubt anyone would argue that Democratic campaigns for president were "weak" in 2008.
When the ombudsmen of the major paper, The Washington Post writes a column like Patrick Pexton: Listening to Native Americans, one has to wonder. In that column we learned that were the team now led by Quarterback Robert Griffin III ever to return to play its games within the city limits, the current mayor, Vincent Gray
said recently that, if the football team were once again to play its games in the District, a discussion would have to be held on its name.
This is within the context of yet another lawsuit against the team's name coming in March, a symposium at the Museum of the American Indian on the topic of team nicknames in sports, and recent news coverage of a swimming team at a high profile girls school, Holton Arms, where the swimmers wore feathers and face paint. And as Paxton notes,
columnists have been talking with Native Americans about these issues for a couple of decades.
I will explore Paxton's column anon, but I will start with this for those who do not know the team's history - the nickname has absolutely nothing to do with honoring Native Americans.
Sure, it could just be some "reverse psychology" or part of a clever "your momma" mind game. But to what end though? The recent remarks by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (posted on YouTube by Rick Sincere), concerning - or more accurately a seeming lack of concern - regarding a three-way race for governor got me thinkin' the seemingly unthinkable. Could Ken Cuccinelli actually want a 3-way race for governor?
There is no logic for Cuccinelli to comment on the three-way race right now. Nothing he can say is going to have a positive effect on Bolling. Do you wave a red flag at a bull in order to make him less likely to fight? Perhaps Hemingway got it all wrong?
So I ask: Might the presumptive Republican nominee's campaign team actually want a three-way race this November? Ask UVA Professor Larry Sabato and the other certified political gurus in academia here in Virginia, and they will unanimously opine: an independent gubernatorial candidacy by Republican LG Bill Bolling will be a net negative for Mr. Cuccinelli. This conclusion will not be primarily based on the "second choice" indications pro-Bolling voters are giving to pollsters when asked who they would support in a two-way race. Rather, the gurus will focus on the difference in how a three-way race plays out over the ensuing months as compared to the normal head-to-head contest. All things being equal, a candidacy by a sitting Republican Lt. Governor in a race between a Republican AG and a qualified, politically smart Democrat who isn't in jail, certified crazy, or plagued by scandal, plays out as hurting Cuccinelli when played over and over on X-Box (whatever the gaming level).
Or does it? Cuccinelli, in his remarks, suggests his camp has the contrary view. Admittedly, the AG didn't expressly state this contra view. But let's logically dissect his comments.
Here are a few Virginia (and national) news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, February 10. Congratulations to Sen. Mark Herring (full disclosure: I'm consulting on social media for his campaign) and to Aneesh Chopra, who won the Mt. Vernon Democrats' straw poll last night at their Mardi Gras party. Finally, check out the video of Republicans "then and now" on the sequester. Note that they've totally changed their story.
Verrry interesting; thanks to Rick Sincere for shooting this video of Ken Cuccinelli speaking this morning at the Albemarle County GOP breakfast.
I met with the LG a couple weeks ago for about an hour and one of the things I told him was I didn't meet with him sooner because everything I saw him saying suggested that even if we were on a desert island together he didn't want to talk to me...We talked for a while, and it wasn't the most comfortable set of circumstances...I've worked with Bill for many years, he has over 20 years of great Republican service. Frankly, when we were in the Senate, our voting records, there was hardly a hair's breath of distance between us...
I have a lot of good things to say about Bill...he's going to make his own decision here, he's set an announcement for March 14, and obviously I hope this will be a one-on-one race. But I also don't want you to get too wrapped up in that...the two polls I've seen that included him, he's drawn as much from McAuliffe as he has from me...
It would be a more difficult year, we'd much rather run with Bill as an ally and a supporter and continuing as a Republican as he has been for so long, and I hope that's the way it goes, but it will not be solely determinative of the outcome of the race. I expect that unless he thinks he can win, that he isn't likely to get in...he's got to formulate a path to do that somehow, where he and I have very, very similar political records. That presents a challenge intellectually for him to think through how that would happen and then to get behind it...
By the way, one amusing - also highly telling - thing about this video, is that it's pretty much one conservative, older white guy after another asking questions; no Latinos, no Asian Americans, no African Americans, no LGBT Americans, no young people, no women (at one point Cuccinelli practically pleads for a woman to ask a question...none do, at least that I saw on the video). That's why the Republican Party keeps losing national elections, and it's a huge challenge for them going forward. We'll see how they respond.
Governor McDonnell as Robert Frost, the favorite poet of the Massachusetts liberal elite for many years, winner of (4) Pulitzer Prizes in a field sneered at by "he man" conservatives? As the saying goes, "who would have thunk it?!" But right now, Frost's "The Road Not Taken", at least by any other governor, is required reading at the Statehouse. So far, Senate Democrats and Republican Tea Baggers are resisting.
It is an odd game of Three Card Monte for sure, but about to change. It is difficult to see Senate Democrats siding with Tea Baggers and not McDonnell in the end to enact some transportation plan. McDonnell has thus thrown down the gauntlet to Tea Party conservatives, a significant perhaps pivotal event in current national, not just, Virginia politics. This has aspect has received little attention here in Virginia, much less around the country.
"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both"
Thus began Mr. Frost's poem, a mere 20 lines, published roughly a century ago, about the time a special "user fee" tax on gasoline began to gain wide acceptance by conservatives and liberals alike, along with those in between, as the right way to finance the growing national love-affair with Henry Ford's Model-T. Way back, Thomas Jefferson supported a lottery, for example, to build roads. There were tolls. There were fees. But until Henry Ford got the combustion engine just right for his $240 dollar basic Model-T ($5,500 in today's bucks) policy makers had not considered the growing impact of the new American "dream machine."
By 1920, the gas tax had entered the American lexicon. A few years later, then State Senator Harry Byrd challenged his own party's Governor, advocating higher gas taxes, and less debt financing, for road building. The two tangled: and Byrd beat the old boss to become the new VA boss. In 1986, Governor Jerry Baliles got fellow Democrats to add 1/2 cent to the state sales tax, dedicating all this new revenue to financing the transportation grid. At the time, I pointed out this use of a general tax, as opposed to a user fee, likely would destroy the bipartisan coalition developed during the Byrd days to fund transportation. 27 years later, no governor has been able to raise the gas tax, the longest such period in state history.
Here are a few Virginia (and national) news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, February 9. Also see the video of President Obama's weekly address, in which he "urges Congress to act to avoid a series of harmful and automatic cuts-called a sequester-from going into effect that would hurt our economy and the middle class and threaten thousands of American jobs."
(Also, make sure you sign the petition by Sen. Herring and Del. Hope to demand Medicaid expansion now! - promoted by lowkell)
After an eventful week in Richmond, the General Assembly has been working furiously to wrap up the business of this session. There are many issues to consider, with transportation issues, redistricting plans, and the issue I am fighting for, Medicaid expansion.
The Senate overwhelmingly voted to move forward with expansion in their budget this week, after Lt. Bill Bolling (R) explained why he supported expansion and Secretary Bill Hazel addressed the Senate. With the Senate voting to do the right thing for Virginia, we now await action from the House of Delegates. If the House and Senate can agree on expansion in their conference committee, to work out their differences in their budget blueprints, it will be up to Governor Bob McDonnell to decide if he wants to allow Virginians to continue to pay taxes while forfeiting the benefits of Medicaid expansion to other states who chose expansion. With the Chamber of Commerce supporting Medicaid expansion, is there any other choice for the House and Governor?
If the House of Delegates comes around, we can move forward with Medicaid expansion on January 1, 2014 and begin to help 400,000 Virginians gain health insurance, create 30,000 jobs in the Commonwealth, and avoid the masochistic choice to have Virginians continue to pay their fair share of Federal Taxes and leave that funding for other states to benefit.
When Howard Dean gave up his 2004 campaign for president, he didn't dismantle the grassroots organization that gave such vitality to his improbable run, for a while making him the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Instead, Dean for America morphed into Democracy for America, a PAC that is dedicated to electing progressive candidates to office at all levels of government, from city councils to Congress. DFA, with more than one million members, has endorsed two of our own for the November House of Delegates election: Jennifer Boysko in the 86th District and John Bell in the 87th District.
Since 2008, Boysko has served as Legislative and Herndon Aide to Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust. This race is definitely one to watch since Barack Obama carried the 86th District with 61% of the vote, showing that if Democrats get their voters to the polls, this is quite winnable. The DFA endorsement will be extremely helpful as Boysko runs to unseat Del.Tom Rust. In addition to DFA, Boysko has been been endorsed by over 80 grassroots activists and 21 current and former elected leaders in Northern Virginia.
The DFA also has endorsed John Bell, who is running in the 87th District against first-term Del. David Ramadan. The 87th was moved from Norfolk to NoVA with the redistricting in 2011, and Ramadan won the general election. Barack Obama carried this district with 57% of the vote. Bell, a retired Aur Force officer, served as Comptroller in the Middle East in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bell says that he plans to run a grassroots campaign and "reach out to voters as never before in a House of Delegate race."
A DFA endorsement brings a national network of activists together, providing key resources to an endorsed campaign: time, people, money and media. If you are interested in being part of this progressive, grassroots PAC, go to DFA and join. Also, don't forget to donate to the two DFA-endorsed candidates in Virginia. The money to make these two races winnable will come from small donors. Be one of them.
In Part One we traced the17th century English roots of the Second Amendment and how they were modified in the 18th century by one of our Founders, James Madison, who, in the American Bill of Rights, crafted the Second Amendment mainly to protect the Southern states' militias (frequently used as "slave patrols"), making it yet another of those delicate political compromises which underpin our Constitution.
HEIRS OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT In the 21st century, the Amendment's "well regulated Militia" and "right to keep and bear Arms," has been broadened from a "collective right" into a demand for an "individual right" to unlimited firepower in the hands of private citizens, mostly thanks to lobbying by the National Rifle Association. The unspoken hidden subset of this individual right is the right to insurrection (against the national government). Without the insurrection theory there can be no rationale for a civilian in America to own an arsenal of assault weapons with huge magazines.
I believe it is easy to see the continuance of those Southern state militias, that is slave patrols, in the night riders of the KKK, and in most of the skin-head militias today; the insurrectionist theory is in full bloom among today's states' righters. They vigorously deny any racism, but are clearly the heirs of the plantation culture of the original states' righters in Philadelphia in 1787 in their deep suspicion of the federal government. For most of them, their new home is in the Republican Party and its fringes.
My source is right about Lt. Governor Bolling's smart, indeed only sensible play right now unless something changes dramatically. Bolling will be only 60 years old in 2017. If my source is right - and Ken Cuccinelli is unelectable - then the smart play for Bolling is easy: sit out 2013, be a loyal party guy, back whatever Governor Bob McDonnell does this year, and start running for governor in 2014. Right now, Cuccinelli is clearly the underdog against Terry McAuliffe. Given the AG's refusal so far to help Governor McDonnell on transportation, this underdog status may get worse if he isn't careful.
My sources tell me this Politics 101 scenario has been pressed on Bolling by some very savvy political types. He is resisting so far. But they feel he will have to agree with them in the end. It makes sense, if Bolling really believes Cuccinelli is unelectable as the LG publicly claims.
Why? Because the odds favor a Democratic sweep under those circumstances, or at least no more than one Republican elected statewide. Governor McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli would owe Bolling big time if he decided not to run and merely gave a pro forma endorsement to the GOP ticket. They would be willing to "pay up" for such a Bolling move.
If Cuccinelli gets beat as Bolling predicts, this would help the LG's "moderate" image big time as well; and if he does the loyal thing and doesn't run, it would gain him a lot of backers in the party in 2017 if his prediction is right.
If there is a Democratic sweep in 2013, then Bolling is the favorite to be the next GOP gubernatorial nominee. There is little chance Cuccinelli loses and both the other statewide GOP nominees win. The chance of either the Republican LG or AG winning if Cuccinelli loses is 50-50 in my view.
When it comes to expanding healthcare access to needy families, political gamesmanship has no place in the conversation.
But Republican extremists in the House of Delegates don’t see it that way and they proved it by blocking the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia – an expansion that will cover over 300,000 uninsured Virginians and infuse tens of billions of dollars into our state’s economy. They’re putting ideological politics ahead of Virginians.
We need to make clear where we stand on this: We want more access to healthcare, not less. We want to make sure every child can see a doctor. That a basic illness doesn’t spell financial ruin.
I’m joining with Delegate Patrick Hope to demand immediate steps to pass an expansion, but we need your support. It has to be unequivocally clear this is what Virginia wants. Send that message.
If you haven't seen the classic film "On the Waterfront," you definitely should. But Bob McDonnell might want to avoid it, as the classic line uttered by Marlon Brando - "I could've been a contender! I could've been somebody!" - might be a bit too painful for ol' T-Bob to hear.
Why do I say this? Because, simply stated, McDonnell wanted to be a national "contender" - salivating and practically groveling to be Willard's VP pick; now desperately looking for a "legacy," or at least SOME accomplishment as governor, which he can point to when he runs for president in 2016. But after "transvaginal ultrasounds;" the antics of Ken Kookinelli (whose lunacy has overshadowed McDonnell among Teapublicans); the failure to anoint his loyal Lieutenant Governor as his successor (thanks again to Kookinelli!); and McD's utter lack of progress on transportation funding (offshore oil revenues? selling off ABC stores? ditching the gas tax and raising the sales tax? all dead or on life support), McDonnell is almost certainly not going to be a contender for president in 2016...or ever, for that matter.
Today's 2016 GOP presidential rankings by "The Fix" make this as clear as can be. Not that "The Fix" is the be-all/end-all in any way, but he IS very good at gathering the conventional wisdom and spewing it back at us. In this case, the conventional wisdom among Republicans is that Bob McDonnell doesn't even make the Top 10 list for 2016 presidential contenders.
In stark contrast, the other prominent Republican who was elected governor of his state the same year as McDonnell (that would be Chris Christie of New Jersey in 2009) ranks #2. That one's really gotta hurt, as both McDonnell and Christie were touted as rising stars, yet only one of them (Christie) has actually risen, while the other one (McDonnell) has pretty much fizzled out (a "one-way ticket to Palookaville," as Brando says?). Also interesting to see on this list are several Tea Party newcomers - bat**** crazy Rand Paul; gay bashing/climate science denying/Grover Norquist obeying Marco Rubio - in the Top 10, but no "Bobby" (as his BFF Pat Robertson calls him) McDonnell. Sigh.
On the bright side, "The Fix" was wrong about pretty much everything in 2012 (Mitt-mentum!!! Ohio's back to "tossup!" LOL), so most likely he's wrong about 2016 as well. Still, when you believe you should have - could have, would have, etc. - been a contender, but now have just a few months left as governor of Virginia, with no particular path to future political office ahead of you, it's gotta bring back those Brando "could've been a contender!" flashbacks. Ouch.
Rather than pursue home grown education solutions to improve state schooling, much of Governor Bob McDonnell's education "reform" proposals have mirrored policies pushed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. As McDonnell appears with Jindal today to promote their plans for school "recovery districts", it might be useful to review the programs' outcomes in Louisiana.
Recent Education Week evaluation ranked Virginia 4th nationally for educational policy and performance. In contrast, Louisiana, whose model McDonnell is following, scored significantly lower and was ranked 23rd overall. Education Week 2012 State Report Cards
The recovery school district model, which McDonnell has labeled "Opportunity Educational Institutions", remove community decision makers from oversight over local schools while opening the door for for-profit and charter operators to take over with little accountability.
Research conducted by Kristen Buras of Georgia State University's Department of Educational Policy Studies found student achievement did not improve in Louisiana's Recovery School Districts (RSD). National Education Policy Center
Louisiana's RSD was sued because charter school operators were not admitting low-income and special education students. National Public Radio
The Georgia State University study also found lawmakers continually changed the goal posts for failing schools, shunting more schools into the RSD and into the hands of charter school operators. National Education Policy Center
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