I like to think of articles like these (via RCP) as being written at darkening twilight. The author is sitting at his or her table, favorite bottle of wine to hand, pausing from writing only to swig from the bottle, or to sadly watch out the window at the valley below.
Watching and waiting for the first flickering signs of the torch-bearing Mob.
Of all the losses on election night for progressive politicians, the two that hurt most were Russ Feingold’s defeat at the hands of self-funded corporate clown Ron Johnson,
But he’s not bitter!
and Virginia Congressman Tom Perriello’s loss to Republican State Senator Robert Hurt.
In the wake of Perriello’s loss, it’s tempting to conclude that conviction politics simply doesn’t work. But the fate of Perriello’s fellow Virginia freshman Democrat Glenn Nye suggests it’s not so simple. Nye also beat a Republican incumbent in 2008, though in a district Obama won—rather than lost—by a narrow margin. But he took the opposite tack from Perriello, distancing himself from the national party and the president almost immediately, voting against cap and trade, healthcare reform, patient protection and extending unemployment. Fat lot of good it did him. He lost his race by seven more points than Perriello did.
Strange as it is to say, the lesson of election night, in Virginia and nationally, may be that Congress members’ voting records don’t matter all that much.
You’ll notice that the author unaccountably doesn’t bring up the Griffith/Boucher race over in VA-09. To refresh your memory, Boucher was a long-term Congressman who parsed the heck out of his voting record… and got beaten anyway, by more or less the same margin as Perriello did. For that matter, Nye voted for the ‘stimulus’ – something that the author also unaccountably doesn’t bring up. So, if we look at the full spectrum of flipped seats in Virginia, we see that three Democratic Congressmen who had a record of voting against the interests of their districts (and the country, for that matter) and for the interests of soon-to-be-ex Speaker Pelosi got thrown out of office.
Sounds to me that voting records mean quite a good deal. Especially the record of the first one; you know, the one where every Democrat in the 111th Congress signed off on enabling every whim of a hard-line Frisco liberal and her cronies. This was the election cycle where the GOP* was able to establish that that first vote enabling the Pelosi agenda was at least as important as any later votes. This was also the election cycle where the GOP* was able to make it clear that the Democrats were carefully rationing out symbolic votes against unpopular legislation, the better to allow individual Members of Congress like Nye and Boucher at least some cover. Being able to do so got us back a lot of seats.
As to why Nye lost by more than Perriello did… not being an expert in local Virginian politics, I’m uncertain (and mildly indifferent). Perhaps Perriello ran a better campaign. Perhaps Nye has an offensive body odor. Perhaps it was in accordance with the prophecy. The central point is, don’t run too far Left for your district. And these days, voting for a liberal for your House leader is running too far for your district.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*The Good Guys.