Gary Friedman has an interesting letter to the editor in today’s MJM that gives county Democrats a partial roadmap back into political relevance in the county which follows a pretty honest assessment of what happened in the last election cycle. It would not surprise me one bit that county Democrats decide to ignore this free advice, much as they have discarded the input of others such as Matt Harrison who worked hard to point out legitimate problems that could be fixed if only there was a constituency within the PWCDC that was actually interested in being effective.
But PWCDC woes are more complicated than that. If county Dems want to start winning elections, they will have to acknowledge past failure, understand the causes and resolve to act for success. That process must start with the following key changes:
1. Reset the foundation: Control of the PWCDC is firmly held by a handful of individuals who date back decades. These fine individuals’ efforts should be acknowledged and appreciated. But, their continued control of the PWCDC is both toxic and suicidal in today’s political environment.
The new foundation should welcome these individual’s in ceremonial roles, while it looks to others to develop political strategies, recruit candidates and promote policy initiatives. Key to this new foundation is putting credible, talented and politically astute individuals into positions of leadership who will realize inroads must be made in districts not traditionally strong for Democratic candidates and who know how to do it.
2. Rebuild burnt bridges: More politically savvy, effective, and energetic people are former members of the PWCDC than are current members. Many of those who have left the committees are still in the county and want to see Democratic success, but have concluded the PWCDC is hopelessly dysfunctional. Whoever assumes the mantle of leadership on the PWCDC will have to reach out earnestly to rebuild damaged relationships.
3. Recruit and support credible and viable candidates: There are effective ways to identify and advance strong candidates. In the past, those processes generally have been victimized by excessive internal influence exerted by those with little or no understanding of the political landscape in the county beyond their own personal interests. This must change.
When political parties are strong and competitive, the public benefits from a better, more vigorous political debate. As long as Prince William County Democrats continue to be ineffective, our citizenry will continue to lack substantive choice in the political arena.
The last part of this is perhaps the most relevant for the greater electorate. Without good competition among candidates for elected office, not only do Democrats suffer by consistently losing, but the electorate in general loses as well. The success of a two-party system really depends on having strong competition, not elections where incumbents go unchallenged and those challengers that do step up are woefully inadequate.
I would add to this list the following:
- Democrats should stop trying to pander to the illegal alien lobby. It simply doesn’t work with the general electorate. That doesn’t mean they have to start acting like Tom Tancredo (although I wish they would), but at least taking the example of Congressman Heath Shuler who authored the SAVE Act in Congress, would really shore up their support within their traditional constituencies. The “little guys” out there are under severe pressure because they’re forced to compete with illegal aliens for jobs, and they’re being severely undercut in the job market by them.
- Although a few Republicans have really gotten on board with protecting the rural crescent, a majority have not. Neither have Democrats. If Democrats are going to run on a platform of protecting open space, reducing sprawl, and smart growth, they better start voting that way, and staking out some clear ground on this issue when campaigning. As it is now, Democrats have absolutely no consistent theme on this issue, and can be counted on to support the agenda of developers which makes them very vulnerable on this issue, since they’re not living up to their rhetoric.
- How about not reflexively considering additional taxation as the natural solution to every challenge in the Commonwealth? This is getting mighty old. If you want to increase government revenues so more can be done, focusing on economic growth is the way to do it. Heck, it was JFK who figured this one out quite a long time ago, and that lesson has not only been lost as of late, but securely padlocked away, where no Democrats will ever risk stumbling upon it.
- Quality of life issues such as residential overcrowding are a huge issue for many voters. Leslie Byrne (who I don’t often agree with, but on this she was on target) had some interesting ideas on this, and the party promptly slapped them down and won’t let anyone discuss them. When you have a legislative initiative that solves a real problem and is popular with the electorate, the proper thing to do is work to get it enacted, not hide it from the world.
Perhaps Democrats will listen this time, but I’m not at all counting on it. It’s a consistently frustrating experience for those few reformers such as Gary Friedman to talk sense to their party, which causes many of them to walk away out of frustration, and the electorate is not well served by this. Without a consistent credible challenge by Democrats, the danger of Republicans getting fat and lazy is very real.
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