A few years back I tried to convince the Virginia Democratic leadership about the desperate need for a coherent, strategic communications plan to convince voters that its vision and plans for the future would be what’s best for Virginia. The only way to succeed in changing the conversation in, and direction of, the Commonwealth is to change the frames we talk about issues. I admitted to them that it would take courage, discipline and patience. They all said that it sounded good, but ultimately, the leadership did nothing.
The chickens come home to roost every January when the Republicans in Richmond roll out exactly what Democrats should be doing. The conventional wisdom was defined in Monday’s Washington Post article by Roz Helderman.
[T]he governor’s agenda could earn [Democrat} the same criticism that Democrats have been lobbing at Republicans in Washington – that they are obstructionists who have not advanced an alternative vision for governing.
While individual Democratic lawmakers have submitted bills they say they will prioritize, the caucus has not announced plans to roll out a unified legislative package.
"The dilemma will be if McDonnell maneuvers them into a position where they are vulnerable to the same attack that’s been made against Republicans for a decade – that they’re the ‘party of no,’ " said Robert D. Holsworth, a former Virginia Commonwealth University professor who writes a blog on state politics. "I think it’s very clear they’re going to be feistier. Whether the Democratic Party puts forward a very clear alternative on issues beyond social issues is their challenge."
Nowhere is the dilemma likely to be more pronounced than on transportation, a perpetual dividing line between the parties that has bedeviled state politicians for a decade. Most experts agree that fixing Virginia’s overburdened road network and crumbling bridges would cost more than $1 billion a year over the next 20 years.
Democrats have long maintained that the problem requires finding a new stream of revenue, such as a tax increase. But Republicans have said they will not raise taxes.
…Although Democrats agree the top priority should be job creation, they do not have a cohesive response to McDonnell’s economic development proposals.
This lack of an agenda keeps Virginians wondering what Democrats stand for other than vaguely for a tax increase for roads. The party refuses to be strategic and develop a narrative about what Democrats stand for. It is killing them, as now the key reporter covering Richmond has called them out. Hers will be the narrative that describes this session. Alas, I have no faith that anyone in the Virginia Democratic party has a clue as to how to change it.