Solve problems. Unify people. Results. This is the message that Republicans are in their own inimitable partisan way are saying will mark the death of the Virginia Democrat as Tim Kaine prepares to take over the Democratic National Committee.
The last time I saw Kaine, two months ago in Staunton, in the afterglow of the victory of his friends Barack Obama and Mark Warner in a Virginia that people were starting to say had turned blue, he was less Karl Rove proclaiming a permanent majority and more, well, Obama and Warner, staying as close to the political center as was possible for the titular head of a state party.
“I think Virginia is still independent-minded,” Kaine told me when I asked him about Virginia and the color blue. “The fact that we don’t register by party – even folks who call themselves Dems have usually voted for an R, and vice versa, and then the biggest group is folks who call themselves independents. So you have to be able to win independents to win statewide, and independents, they want to see problem-solvers, they want to see unifiers. They don’t want the wedge issues and the division, and they don’t want to see a lot of rhetoric and partisan deadlock. They want to see results,” Kaine said.
That was why Kaine thinks Obama was able to bring Virginia into the Democratic column for the first time in 44 years. “He doesn’t demonize the opposition, and he always looks to try to find the common ground to solve problems. That’s what Virginians like. They don’t like the hard partisans, and they don’t like the dividers. They like problem-solvers and unifiers,” Kaine said of Obama, who has made bipartisan unity a theme of his transition, nominating Bush administration holdover Robert Gates to serve as his Secretary of Defense and GOP Congressman Ray LaHood to serve as his Secretary of Transportation and tapping conservative evangelical Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.
So here was Kaine preaching this sermon about how Democrats have to govern from the middle. Naturally Virginia Republicans, who are so far removed from the middle of the political spectrum that the middle no doubt does look far, far left to them anymore, are seizing upon Kaine’s elevation to the head of the DNC as an opportunity to score partisan points by suggesting that somehow he’ll change his stripes once he gets to Washington.
“This is a highly partisan post at a time when Virginia desperately needs bipartisan leadership,” said Phil Cox, the senior strategist for Attorney General Bob McDonnell, the presumptive ’09 GOP gubernatorial nominee. Republican lawmakers, Cox told the conservative Times-Dispatch, are “looking for leaders who are willing to reach across the aisle to get things done. And I don’t think this helps,” Cox said.
Not to be outdone, G. Paul Nardo, the chief of staff to House Speaker Bill Howell, said Kaine’s involvement with the DNC would fully erase the image of Virginia Democrats as putting “Virginia ahead of party interests.”
Solve problems. Unify people. Results.
“Democrats, we’ve been that party,” Kaine told me back in November in Staunton. “Now, any Republican can wake up tomorrow and say, I want to be that person. So it’s not really a partisan message, it’s just the one that we Democrats have really been able to use as our governing philosophy, and Virginians have responded,” Kaine said.
On second thought, maybe those Republicans have it right. Tim Kaine is such an obvious flaming partisan. I mean, really.
– Column by Chris Graham