By David Swanson
I ran into Creigh Deeds, candidate for Virginia Governor, at the farmer’s market in Charlottesville on Saturday. He’d been trailing in the polls for a long time while the two men ahead of him, Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe beat up on each other. Now Deeds is leading, but only just barely. Essentially it’s a three-way tie for the Democratic nomination in the Tuesday, June 9th, primary, with virtually nobody planning to vote and the outcome entirely dependent on who gets their handful of supporters to actually go to the polls.
When I spoke to him on Saturday, Deeds clearly liked the prospect of now being ahead but also the idea of being the underdog, and he accurately said that nothing had been decided. He did not strike me as particularly progressive. He is the local boy for rural Virginia, of course, and people here want to like him. Meanwhile, Moran did not at first appeal to me because he shares a last name with his brother Jim Moran whose performance in the U.S. Congress leaves much to be desired. On the other hand, in Moran’s favor, Deeds has been endorsed by the Washington Post and extensively bragged about it as if that were a good thing.
But all of these superficial prejudices ought to give way to consideration of the candidates’ positions on issues, with some concern for their past actions and proven ability to get things done. McAuliffe is, of course, such a disgusting sold-out corporate stooge that few progressives will support him. The few who do, seem to base their support on the idea that he’ll fight hardest against Republicans. But what policies will he fight for? I haven’t seen any good answer to that question. The key question right now is how to beat McAuliffe on Tuesday. If, between Moran and Deeds, one of them were clearly better than the other, we could all get organized behind that one and work to defeat McAuliffe. Otherwise, we could end up seeing our third choice candidate win.
This dilemma could also be solved, in a way, with Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). Back when Deeds was trailing, Rob Richie was arguing that both McAuliffe and Moran supporters would choose Deeds as their second choice and thus give him the victory if IRV were used. But so might supporters of Deeds favor Moran as their second choice. In primaries conducted on paper and counted locally (as in a recent Charlottesville City Council Democratic primary at a single polling place that used IRV) the integrity of an election can be protected while considering second choices and ensuring majority support for a winner. But in a state-wide race, votes could only be counted at a central location if IRV were used. If you can’t ensure the results by having them counted publicly where they are cast, what good is improving the method of calculation?
There is a better way that takes into consideration the weaknesses of winner-take-all. We should figure out who the best winner would be and back that candidate. Claims about viability do not in this case even enter into it. The race is a three-way tie.
Looking at Deeds’ and Moran’s positions on various policies, one finds above all else overlap. I’m surprised neither one has sued the other for plagiarization. But there are differences, and they favor Moran. His positions may be full of hypocrisy and exaggeration. He’s opposing things he’s supported in the past. But that’s true of all three of these candidates. Only Moran is saying he will oppose off-shore drilling and new coal plants and nuclear plants. Only Moran is supporting repeal of a hateful anti-gay rights amendment. Only Moran, as far as I know, is talking about the rights of the accused and the need to lock fewer people away for many years in prison. If those positions win in the primary, they will be made stronger. Deeds’ positions on these issues are closer to those of the Republican he would compete against in the general election. Guns in bars may sound like fun to certain people, but should we elect someone who thinks it’s a smart idea?
Moran has accepted more legal bribes (campaign contributions) and significantly more from military contractors. But Deeds has accepted military money, he just hasn’t been able to accept as much of it — no doubt because he doesn’t have a brother in Congress on the Appropriations Committee.
One other consideration, beyond who’s best to win the primary, is who’s most likely to win the general election if nominated. But I’ve heard passionate declarations that only Deeds and only Moran and only McAuliffe can win the general election. It comes down to whether you buy the conventional wisdom that the best way for Democrats to win is to steal Republican votes, or you accept the alternative view that Democrats have a better chance if they inspire more people to vote and allow the Republicans to keep their voters. Given that huge numbers of Virginians registered to vote last year precisely in order to vote for Obama for president, the inspiring-more-people approach has greater potential than usual. Can first-time voters in 2008 be persuaded to vote in a general election in 2009? What about in a primary?
My recommendation is to find anyone who would vote for either Moran or Deeds (but especially Moran) and make sure they vote on Tuesday. I’d save most of the energy that could go into debating the merits of these two imperfect candidates and invest it in turning out their supporters. Volunteer here now: