Democrats try to put best possible face on their General Assembly session of woe

Is General Disarray advising Virginia Democrats?
It’s no shock that the New York Times is beating the social issues drum. The Democratic house organ is merely swimming with the narrative tide that the GOP is advancing a host of abortion, gun rights, voter ID and other bills and, in the process, engaging in over-reach that will inevitably alienate the independents who decide elections.

It’s also no surprise that this has “some Republican strategists and officials” worrying that all this social issue focus will cost the party in November. But as such talk is supposedly anathema, they were “reluctant to be identified because they do not want to publicly antagonize the party’s base.”

Profiles in courage, they are.

But let’s take a look at the state of the opposition here in the commonwealth — AKA, the wiry bicep of the Republican over-reach effort. Virginia Democrats aren’t exactly primed to make a comeback. The recent fight over the state budget, a patch-job narrative that was really a fight over power in the Senate, ended in a whimper. Democrat Chuck Colgan broke ranks, giving the state its spending plan and leaving Democratic leader Dick Saslaw to mutter “That was a big mistake.”

Saslaw intended his remarks to be a warning to Republican leader Tommy Norment. But it was one of those statements that cuts both ways. Democrats were unable to radically change the budget. Power sharing eluded them. Caucus discipline, rarely a strong suit, failed when it was needed most.

One mistake feeding the next, leading ultimately to collapse. Virginia Republicans are very fortunate indeed to have opponents such as these.

The Democrats are trying to put the best face on it, though:

“Politically, Democrats won because the Republican majority overreached and became the laughingstock of the nation,” said Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran, the former minority leader in the House of Delegates.

Politically they won nothing. And it seems the nation has quickly moved on to the next set of laughingstocks (something about dogs, I understand).

And their problems could last well into the future:

The Democratic caucus has other gaps — chiefly rural party members who have been known to cross lines to vote with Republicans on gun-friendly measures — but remains confident that it heads into this fall and 2013 better than it started 2012.

“In 2012 Republicans tried to legislate the transvaginal wand,” said Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico. “They can’t help themselves when it comes to their right-wing social agenda, and that will come to the fore again in 2013.”

And even if it doesn’t, Don McEachin will be there to gin one up. He will have to work a bit to edit out the Democratic votes that helped the “right-wing social agenda” succeed. And he’ll have to find a secluded ditch into which he can elbow Chuck Colgan for his budget apostacy.

The question, though, is whether the rest of his party is in any shape to exploit the GOP’s exposed position. If the budget fracas is any indication, Virginia Democrats still aren’t up to the task.

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