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Can’t we all just get along? Yes, we can

Fellow Valley Democrats are crowing about how the local GOP is a house divided, but in so doing are pointing out the splinter in the other guy’s eye while missing the log in their own. I say that because in my view the cause of the Democratic Party here is no more unified than what we’re seeing out of local Republicans; and I know because I’m among those caught up in the not-exactly-friendly fire being volleyed back and forth.

What brought things to the surface on the Democratic Party part of this equation was a policy dispute on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors that had the sole Democrat on the Board, Tracy Pyles, on one side proclaiming that the reassessments done by the county were way, way off base and calling for at the least a do-over, and the Republican majority on the Board on the other side dismissing the charges from the combustible Pyles. I jumped into the policy matter after doing my own fact-checking and came down on the same side of the assessments controversy with Pyles, and based on my strong feeling on the policy part of this later chided the leadership of the Augusta County Democratic Committee for not backing the only elected Democrat on the Board for what still seems to me to have been the right thing to do.

I have since come to learn that Pyles and the county Democratic Party leadership have had a bit of a mutual conflagration thing ongoing for some time now that has little to do with policy and a lot to do with personality. I’ve also become quite aware that the resulting flames are now threatening to torch a local House of Delegates candidate and possibly even the local part of the ’09 gubernatorial campaign upcoming in the fall as Democratic frontrunner Terry McAuliffe has found his way into the crossfire with my otherwise innocent public endorsement of him last month.

No amount of pointing fingers at the Augusta County GOP and the recent controversy over the move by county leadership to expel 56 members of the local party from the ranks because of an ongoing intraparty dispute on the red side of the ledger or guffaws at the fate of the last several Republican Party state chairs who have been throw to the brimstone by the party faithful over there makes the nonsense that we’re facing down on the Democratic side any more palatable.

We’ve got to take a long look in the mirror at ourselves here and have something akin to a come-to-Jesus moment. I mean, sure, I get it – Tracy Pyles can’t stand Cliff Garstang and Tom Long, and Tom Long and Cliff Garstang can’t stand Tracy Pyles. Personally, I’ve had issues over the years with all three. I’ve also at various points over the years had solid working relationships with each of the three, and more important than that, at this day and time I share a lot in common in thinking and approach with the three today and will tomorrow and the next day.

We all believe that this county deserves better, that this Valley deserves better, that Virginia and our nation deserve better than we’ve been getting from the people who have thrown us into record real debt fighting wars to settle personal scores and an even more troubling psychic debt through soulless policies that have made the rich richer and the middle class less so at the expense of our health and our children’s education and our ability at the local level to sustain and build on the economic foundation that we inherited from our noble predecessors in the Greatest Generation.

We might come at how we want to see our way back to moving things forward again in slightly different ways, but we’re on the same team here.

The stakes that we all face individually and as party leaders are obvious. I seriously think we can add another Democrat or two to the Board of Supervisors in 2011 and perhaps have an outside shot at having a working majority on that body at that point for the first time since Democrats were almost a different party brand altogether. I think we have an outside shot of winning one or even two House of Delegates races here locally. And we absolutely have to keep Pat Robertson clone Bob McDonnell out of the Governor’s Mansion; failure on that is not an option, no way, no how.

It’s not a guarantee that we do any of the above even if we can get everybody sitting around the campfire singing “Cum Ba Yah.” I think we can just about guarantee that we won’t be able to do anything that we want and need to do if we’re spending the better part of our days kicking each other in the shins.

We have as our shining example there our friends on the Republican side of the local political divide, whose inability to either like one another personally or agree with one another on even minor points of policy had us thinking that we could turn the Valley blue in the first place.


– Column by Chris Graham