With Labor Day having come and gone, the statewide campaigns are now in full swing.
In normal years, this day marks the beginning of the general election, when campaigns gear up and begin pitching their message far and wide, using this time to connect with the independents who stayed out of the party primaries.
However, this is not a normal year.
Led by Tom Perriello and egged on by Bernie Sanders, Democrats spent the primary racing towards the left with little regard for Virginia’s center. On Labor Day, the Democratic ticket broke a six-decade bipartisan tradition in skipping Buena Vista’s Labor Day parade, an action the Roanoke Times said sent the wrong message to rural Virginia.
“Rightly or wrongly, this sends yet another signal that Democrats don’t really care about anything outside the urban crescent,” wrote the paper’s editorial board.
The reason why is simple: this year, Democrats have nominated a ticket too partisan and too extreme to compete for rural votes or even keep pace among independents, which several polls have Gillespie winning by double digits.
Justin Fairfax, Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor, won his primary appealing to the Sanders wing of the party, taking very liberal positions in favor of single payer health care and against the pipelines, earning him the admiration and endorsements of grassroots groups like “Our Revolution,” which describes itself as the “next step for Bernie Sanders’ movement.”
At the first LG debate, Fairfax found himself stumped when asked where he disagreed with his party, spending a full minute and a half talking up his party-line mindset without pointing to a single point of disagreement, major or minor.
Candidates usually don’t campaign on this level of partisanship in a general election. See for yourself:
By contrast, Vogel handled the question easily, pointing to a legislative record of bipartisanship and an independent streak which has become a diminishing quality in politicians today.
The contrast could not be more clear and nobody can seriously question which candidate is better able to connect with independent voters.
That challenge requires a certain style which de-emphasizes partisanship and focuses on themes of working together and getting things done. On that front, Fairfax has nothing to run on.
Even with the primary over, he can’t seem to leave behind his far-left activist mindset and his combatively partisan style. A full month after the primary, Fairfax delivered this immature, intemperate, and inflammatory comment at an event in Leesburg.
Partisanship aside, joking about refusing to say the president’s name is divisive and beneath the dignity of the office of Lieutenant Governor. It reflects very poorly on a candidate who will need to work with the White House on important priorities like transportation funding, education funding, and Virginia’s role as a home to countless federal civilian and military workers.
We live in a state where 20 cents of every dollar of economic activity is tied to the federal government. Fairfax’s invective may grow partisan base turnout, but they don’t grow Virginia’s economy.
Independents do not want to hear partisans railing about a “second American Revolution” or yelling into a bullhorn about a “wildfire of progressive change.” They want problems to be solved, and look on party-line candidates like Fairfax with skepticism.
Fairfax’s partisanship, rhetoric, and extreme views make him a potential liability to Northam. If current trends continue, Fairfax could find his campaign short on resources, if party strategists and donors believe his views and style constitute a risk to his running mates.