The inner workings and various factions that make up Virginia’s Republican Party fascinate me, and I’ve been attending Tea Party meetings and following the debate between these factions pretty much since I moved to Hanover County in 2008. The short non-academic version is that a very active and motivated base has worked to take over the Virginia GOP for more than a decade. This base very much wants to enforce a kind of ideological purity that focuses far more on cultural issues than policy.
This intra-Party insurgency initially manifested itself in the capture of local Virginia GOP units by Tea Party activists after Barack Obama won the Presidency. Ideologically, this group is to the right of what I call “Chamber of Commerce” Republicans (defined as conservatives who want small government but want it to actually work). Think of this as the “conservatives lose elections because they’re not conservative enough” crowd.
“Whenever I’m in New York, I can work myself into this state of really bleak despair, and then I go out and travel and meet … it’s not even necessarily Democratic Party activists as much as Indivisible activists or Democratic Socialists of America chapters or these sort of grass-roots groups that have sprung up since the election and are just doing so much work. And it always makes me feel so much more hopeful about the future.
You hear the same story over and over again of these kind of middle-aged women who, they voted, but they didn’t necessarily pay super close attention to primaries, maybe they had to look up what congressional district they were in, and who woke up the day after the election and were so shattered and looked around for somewhere they could go and found either an offshoot of Pantsuit Nation or a local Indivisible meeting.
And you meet these women, and they go to meetings now four or five nights a week. They have all new friends. They are just astonishing organizers, and they’re kind of using this intense local knowledge that they have. You can’t replicate that when it comes to canvassing, somebody who just knows everyone on the block. So you see that being deployed everywhere, and that I think is why you’re seeing these numbers in some of the special elections, these swings that are even bigger than the swings you see on the generic ballot.”
I can tell you that I saw the same thing all over Virginia’s First Congressional District during the primary campaign this spring, and these folks don’t seem to be tiring. So I’m more optimistic than some of my fellow Progressives that we’re really about to see a Blue Wave in November.
I spent Primary Day roaming the First District putting out signs and helping volunteers where we had them at the polls talking to voters. Took some photos of John Suddarthvoting. Started off at a polling place in Caroline County where I greeted a handful of voters and spent 30 minutes talking to Steven Brodie Tuckerabout the state of the Republican Party, whether Nick Freitasor Corey Stewartcan win Tim Kaine’sSenate seat this fall, and single payer health care. Interestingly, he seemed open to the idea once I explained that John’s proposal would actually free up markets in health care by removing for-profit health insurance companies from the mix. Continue reading →
Washington lobbyist and Republican political operative Ed Gillespie made Virginia political news last week with this video announcement that he plans to challenge Mark Warner for Senate this year. This decision apparently pleases Virginia GOP political activists: state Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins, for example, called Gillespie a “good candidate” in this Bearing Drift op-ed (intended more to frame Jeff Shapiro as a Warner supporter than to call for a Gillespie run).