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Be Progressive! B-E Progressive!

Screen shot 2009-11-06 at 5.48.26 PMMuch as Newt Gingrich might wish it so, Tuesday’s election wasn’t a referendum on the President. And it wasn’t necessarily a referendum on the Democratic party platform, either. But it is probably a good lesson in campaigning for Democrats.

In terms of policy — the loss of gay marriage rights in Maine is truly saddening, but Washington state expanded benefits for domestic partnerships and Kalamazoo, Michigan passed an anti-discrimination ordinance; certainly these are in line with President Obama‘s views, if not necessarily his progress. Both Maine and Washington voted against anti-tax referendums — certainly not a tea party platform plank.

And in Virginia? The only person campaigning harder against the President’s agenda than Republicans was Creigh Deeds — ostensibly the Democrat. Historically, you could say fate was against his campaign from the start; Virginia has voted against the party of the President in the last few gubernatorial elections. Realistically, you could say his campaign was lackluster and he did everything to de-energize the very Obama Democrats who helped turn Virginia blue last year.

If Democrats are looking for a national campaign strategy for 2010, they should pay special attention to the Virginia loss. While its true that both of Virginia’s previous Democratic governors, including current DNC chair Tim Kaine, are fairly moderate, neither of them made a habit of attacking their party’s entire agenda. As Think Progress points out, Deeds did this time and time again, turning his back on his own earlier progressive stances on climate change and labor issues in the process.

Harry S. Truman once said, “Given the the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time.”

Virginia did. Virginia had the choice of a real Republican, and a Democrat who campaigned against the agenda of the very Democratic President who flew down to campaign for him. According to exit polls from Politico’s Mike Allen, President Obama’s popularity in Virginia is 51% — roughly the same as his national numbers.

There is certainly something to be said for pragmatic centrism, however well you think it’s worked out for the President’s agenda thus far. But Deeds is a warning: Obama’s 2008 victory isn’t enough to keep Obama voters motivated. Kevin Bondelli of the progressive youth electorate site Future Majority wrote, “The Millennial generation does not exist to serve at the beck and call of the DNC without being respected. When a candidate speaks to the issues of young voters and actively campaigns for their votes, they will deliver.”

This is true of the entire Democratic electorate. The Republican party has had a lock on organizing for decades – when there is a Republican to elect, establishment Republicans turn out to make it happen, particularly for its ideological brethren.

For Democrats, due to funding and an entirely different view of electioneering, this generally tends to happen with big name candidates in high profile races only. Democratic candidates have the luxury of drifting to the right more than anything, and can do so with the continued promise of funding from the likes of the DCCC (see: my Congressman, Bobby Bright (AL-02).

But Creigh Deeds evidently took it a step too far — and if the Democratic candidate can’t have any confidence in the Democratic platform, it’s unreasonable to expect Democratic voters to have any confidence in him.

Congratulations the Republican party on their victories across the country Tuesday — but to tell the truth, I personally cannot understand the reasoning behind claims that it had anything to do President, except perhaps suggestions even he can’t save doomed campaigns. If Democrats could win by embracing Republicanism, we’d probably be saying congratulations to Governor-elect Deeds. It would have at least been less of a blowout.

But they can’t, so we’re not — and we wait for November 2010, when the American electorate will have a chance to reshape Congress as it sees fit. If there’s a referendum, this is it — and thanks to Creigh Deeds, Democrats now have a pretty good idea of what will happen if they don’t stand strong on the policies voters turned out for last year.

The Election Wasn’t About Obama [Mediaite]
Creigh Deeds Failed to Run As A Progressive [Think Progress]
Youth Voters Flexed Muscle to Elect Their Own, Democrats Need to Pay Attention [Future Majority]

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