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A line in the sand

The brouhaha that fired up over the weekend concerning reaction in the local blogosphere to my endorsement of Terry McAuliffe for governor might pay some dividends for local Democrats long term. In fact I know it will, based on reactions to a comment that I posted in a thread on the AFP yesterday in response to my most vocal critic.

“We can hope,” I wrote, “that the next elections for officers in the (Augusta County Democratic Committee) lead to the installation of leaders who realize that their job isn’t just electing presidents and senators and governors and state legislators, but also having the backbone to fight the fight locally for county residents and county taxpayers.”

The response to that comment this morning has been interesting, at the least. I’ve had a couple of phone calls and several e-mails expressing support, even offering suggestions as to people who should be encouraged to run for leadership positions in the next ACDC officers elections in 2010.

That talk has actually been ongoing informally for a few weeks, and yes, it dates back to the controversy in Augusta County over the recent property reassessments there that exposed just how out of touch the current party leadership is with county residents, taxpayers and voters.

The leadership of the local party dismissed the efforts of Pastures Supervisor Tracy Pyles, a Democrat, to fight on behalf of taxpayers the reassessments that Pyles and I independently of each other verified through data-crunching were off and off significantly, on an order of at least double in terms of an average percentage increase what they should have been. A local resident and professor of business management at James Madison University, Marshall Pattie, came to the same conclusion in his analysis of the local real-estate market, and organized a group of county residents in the North River District to raise their issues with the Augusta County Board of Supervisors collectively.

The local Democratic Party leadership, led by ACDC vice chairman Cliff Garstang, the coauthor of a far-left political blog, Cobalt6, has assailed and continues to assail the moves to that end as being done in the name of “political expediency.” This is a curious charge from someone whose blog includes among its recent headlines “Chickensh*t” (a jaundiced look at McAuliffe’s ideas in the biofuels area), “Tea Party Movement – the new Weather Underground?”, equating people who met last week to protest the Obama administration to the ’60s and ’70s ultraradicals who expressed their political views through terrorist attacks, and the controversial comment posted by Garstang last summer on Cobalt that asked the question, “What’s the difference between a Republican and a terrorist?”, and offered as the answer, “Terrorists have principles.”

Apparently this rubbish isn’t done in the name of “political expediency” because, well, in the mindset of the leftist leaders of the local party, Republicans are terrorists, and Democrats who don’t toe the liberal line are full of “chickensh*t.” I’ll give them their due – this kind of politickin’ works well if you’re, say, a blogger, and the way you tell if you had a good day is if you got a few more zingers in on the right than the right got on you. To say that this kind of stuff goes over well in the Valley, though, let’s just say we’d have to stretch what we mean by “goes over well” to get a positive answer there.

Calling Republicans “terrrorists” and dumping chicken waste on Terry McAuliffe is gold standard in appeals to the far left. How many far left voters, though, do you think we have in the Valley? Versus the number of so-called Mountain Valley Republicans who are Republicans because people in Augusta County have been Republicans since Lincoln and just need to be convinced that the Republican Party now dominated by Grover Norquist libertarianism on fiscal issues and Pat Robertson theist engineering on social issues has long since abandoned them?

I know I’m not alone in thinking that we need to put the grownups back in charge of our local Democratic Party structure given the stakes involved. And no, the stakes aren’t scoring another political point tomorrow by gratuitously calling somebody a name, or even winning the next election, necessarily. Winning elections is the end goal, of course, but if we’re going to win elections here, on the Board of Supervisors and the local city councils and the local House of Delegates and Senate races that come up every so often, it’s going to be because we make ourselves the better choice for local voters.

Republicans currently hold the majority on the Board of Supervisors, for example, and their paleoconservative allies hold the majority on the City Council in Waynesboro. And in the name of holding the line on taxes, these people have gutted our local school system and public infrastructure and made a mockery of economic-development planning and implementation. Our local Republican representatives in the Virginia General Assembly have done the same at the state level.

I know from talking with residents and voters across the Valley that they have grown tired of the constant drumbeat of no, no, no, no from Republicans and are waiting for Democrats to offer a viable alternative. The childishness that passes for political dialogue in calling Republicans terrorists and the uninformed references to sensible efforts to stand up for disaffected taxpayers as mere “political expediency” are not going to appeal to these voters, who even as they have been complaining about the representation they’re getting from Republicans in recent years have been sending those Republicans back to represent them locally and in Richmond because while those Republicans might be devils, at least they’re devils they know.

This is a line in the sand moment for Valley Democrats. The demographic changes here are bringing more independent and Democratic voters to our midsts, and more and more of the native-borns who have decided to stick around are shifting what have been longstanding family allegiances to at least give the Democratic cause a test drive. No matter how much the Valley changes, though, it’s never going to be Northern Virginia where politics is dominated by whatever the left and far left set as the public agenda. At best the Valley is going to be a purplish or pinkish battleground, and we’re going to do our best when we run candidates who can talk to Republicans without calling them “terrorists” and who are thinking first and foremost about how government can have the best education system and transportation network and spur economic growth while also running the tightest ship possible.

It takes leadership from the top to get us there, and we have that leadership waiting in the wings. It’s time that we take our Democratic Party back from the extremists who haven’t the foggiest notion that politics isn’t a game, but is rather something very real that affects the lives of real people and real families.


– Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
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