Could someone explain to me why Virginia Democrats have chosen to settle for a Bush-voting insider who almost left the party in 2009? Virginia is going to be the most consequential election this year. New Jersey is a lay-up given partisan lean, off-year turnout dynamics, and the hollowed-out remnants of Chris Christie’s career. Given Trump’s plans for the federal bureaucracy, there’s a chance for big gains to be had in Virginia legislatively, possibly even a flood if it’s bad enough to overpower the gerrymander. And the state has in recent years been one Democrats can rely on for (narrow) statewide wins, including 2006. I’m sure that Ralph Northam has made all the proper assurances and may well govern like an acceptable Democrat, but why take the risk? Someone who in recent times can’t make up their minds between the two parties is either an ignoramus or an opportunist. Period.

Tom Perriello has become almost a progressive unicorn, which is too much since he’s taken some problematic stances in his time (see aborted Syria bombing, support for). Nevertheless, I really don’t see a downside to supporting him. The party needs fresh faces and younger voices and it needs potential future leaders, both of which are in short supply. Northam, an AARP-eligible white guy who believes in nothing, isn’t that. Perriello is. Given Virginia’s proximity to a major media market, he could be a very visible face of the party, possibly performing the function that Chris Christie did for the GOP before, you know, the collapse. The stakes are a bit higher than simply filling the office with a (D), though I see no indication that Dem elites see it that way. What’s troubling here is that it seems that Democrats took none of the lessons of 2016 to heart. So far as I can tell, Northam is the guy b/c money and a deep desire to avoid a primary contest. But you know who didn’t have money and went through an almost comically bitter primary contest? Donald Trump. Elite Democrats place too much emphasis on this kind of thing. And Northam is the sort of uninspiring insider who Democrats have had a very difficult time selling to the public in recent years, particularly in terms of motivating marginal voters. Perhaps those voters will be energized anyway because of Trump, but if that’s to such an extent that anyone could win, what sort of prize is Northam? Honestly, the only other thing I can think of is that they’re impressed by his victory margin in 2013, which would be stupid considering his unusually incompetent opposition. Sandersistas can’t take over this party soon enough for me, but a nice step would be to kick in a couple dollars for Perriello.

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