Only One of Virginia’s Two Major Parties Is Broken

Chris Saxman and Steven Brodie Tucker have each delivered withering critiques of the Republican Party of Virginia – and rightly so. Somehow, however, their zeal to look past the Virginia GOP combined with old tribal antipathy toward its rival to create a bizarrely shared viewpoint that the entire two-party system is somehow in trouble.

Both men rely largely on anecdotes (Saxman explicitly so) for their assertions about the Democrats’ travails. The data tell a different story.

Tucker asserts that “Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden represent Virginia Democrats as well as John McCain and Donald Trump represent Virginia Republicans.” I think that’s supposed to be a slight at Clinton and Biden – never mind that both won a majority of votes in each of their Democratic primaries.

More to the point, Biden won more than 54 percent of the vote last week. Not only was that the largest share of the vote for a presidential candidate in Virginia since 1988, but it was also the best performance for a Democratic nominee in Virginia since FDR. Yet somehow, Tucker’s response to the party having it’s best presidential result since World War II was …”Let’s blow them up.”


The Congressional results were far more troubling for the Democrats nationally, but Virginia was another story. All three House seats taken from the GOP in 2018 were held. In fact, Congresswomen Luria, Spanberger, and Wexler won higher shares of the vote in 2020 than in 2018. This is hardly the sign of a party in trouble.

Tucker and Saxman are straight shooters. Their blistering diagnoses of the Republicans make that clear. However, their long histories in that party have shaded their views on the Democrats. As Saxman himself notes (albeit regarding the media): “It’s one thing to show bias, we all have some.” They may also have another motive – building a third-party movement. Tucker is explicit on this: “Moderates should form a Virginia Independent Party….”

… but then he nearly causes a miscarriage by recommending the V.I.P. “… draft someone like Denver Riggleman or Bill Bolling.”

Tucker would have us believe a movement led by an outgoing Congressman “who was on President Donald Trump’s re-election team in Virginia” (CBS19) and an ex-LG who openly supported Trump can appeal to the 54 percent of Virginians who supported Biden. I’m … not seeing it.

Now, this doesn’t mean Virginia Democrats can rest on their laurels. The 2019 elections may have been a Democratic triumph, but it was hardly an unalloyed one. Democrats may have held their suburban federal gains from 2018 this past month, but as I had noted previously, it was a different story last year:

While Northern Virginia Democrats seized control of the Boards of Supervisors in Loudoun and Prince William, no such wave hit the suburbs of Richmond. Henrico and Chesterfield are still under Republican control locally (Northam carried both in 2017). Virginia Beach (another city that voted for Northam) re-elected its Republican-endorsed City Treasurer. Frank Wagner’s seat remained in Republican hands.

A Democratic Party that was “sweeping the suburbs” doesn’t suffer those losses.

Still, the Democratic Party now has all three statewide offices, both U.S. Senators, a Congressional majority, and legislative majorities, all while delivering electoral votes for a victorious Democratic president. Nearly everyone acknowledges the Democrats are the favorites in Virginia’s 2021 races. Of course, favorites can lose, but it’s more difficult to see that if the opposition divides between pro-Trump Republicans and pro-Trump “Independents.”

If Democrats do indeed lose next November, a discussion can (and should) be had about where we went wrong and whether or not the problems are permanent versus temporary. For now, the simple fact remains that the Democratic Party of Virginia is stronger than it has been in decades.

What ails the Virginia Republicans is limited solely to the Virginia Republicans.

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