For many of us, the single greatest accomplishment that took place as a result of the nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee for president last year was that the door finally closed (at least for now) on the distasteful era of a national Democratic Party run by good ol' boys who catered nearly exclusively to the big money donors, while leaving small dollar donors and grass roots activists on the political sidelines.
While Howard Dean was the first major candidate to tap into these overlooked masses, it took Obama and his amazing campaign operation to effectively bring these folks to the forefront and win the Democratic Party's nomination for president.
One person who typifies all that was wrong with the Democratic Party over the previous decade was former DNC Chairman -- and big money fundraiser -- Terry McAuliffe. Under his leadership, the DNC atrophied after the 2000 elections and suffered through one of its most disastrous runs in a generation (2001-2005) when it gave President Bush a majority in both houses of Congress (handing back the Senate to the GOP in 2002), lost ground in the state houses, and wholly failed to push back on the Bush-Cheney war machine.
Now, McAuliffe is running for Virginia governor. The fact that Virginia has no campaign contribution limits means that the former DNC and Clinton money man is able to accept numerous individual contributions in excess of $100,000 from the same big dollar donors that helped to nearly sink the DNC during his disastrous tenure. And beyond his big money obsession, McAuliffe's political philosophy has always been rooted in quick sand, always shifting to suit the moment's hoped-for outcome. Recall these moments (here and here) when he was Hillary Clinton's chief media surrogates during her presidential campaign's free fall last year.
So, I guess it should come as no surprise when McAuliffe is exposed for being every bit the shady backroom dealer we expected:
Consumer activist Ralph Nader accused Terry McAuliffe Thursday of orchestrating an effort to remove him from the presidential ballot in 2004 when McAuliffe was chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Nader said that McAuliffe offered him an unspecified amount of money to campaign in 31 states if Nader would agree to pull his campaign in 19 battleground states.
Granted, I feel not an iota of good will towards the reckless and ego-maniacal Nader for all he did to torpedo the excellent candidate we had in 2000 in the form of Al Gore (and who to this day Nader argues was insignificantly better than Bush). But Nader's accusation goes to the heart of the good ol' boy politics that McAuliffe represents and the very type which Obama sought to push out of the DNC's inner circle.
Incredibly, McAuliffe doesn't even deny Nader's accusation in the story:
McAuliffe isn't denying the charge. His spokeswoman Elisabeth Smith said in a statement McAuliffe "was concerned that Ralph Nader would cost John Kerry the election as he did Al Gore in 2000 and give us another four years of George W. Bush."
To McAuliffe, this is the way politics is played, especially if the other guy does it too. We used to believe that if we didn't adopt every sleazy tactic of our opponent, we would keep losing elections. And then came Obama, who not only refused to continue politics as usual, but refused to adhere to distasteful political traditions such as doling out hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to urban political party bosses to help turnout the vote, also known as "street money."
By running a campaign grounded in integrity and an understandable political philosophy, and built on the backs of millions of small dollar donors and grass roots activists, Barack Obama showed how to effectively combat the only style of campaigns that McAuliffe understood when he upset the McAuliffe-chaired Clinton machine in the Democratic primary and then smacked down a similar style of opponent in the fall when he routed John McCain and his crumbling Republican Party.
I suspect (and hope I'm wrong) that this new story won't cost McAuliffe the Virginia gubernatorial nomination. He will simply drown his opponents in ads as a result of the tens of millions of dollars he's able to raise and win the June 9th primary. Though, it may very well cost him the general election.
I certainly don't want the GOP to take back the Virginia Governor's Mansion, after the impressive runs by Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. But it sure will be hard to root for McAuliffe if he survives his primary, and I'm one Democrat who won't shed a tear if his distasteful, good ol' boy style of politics gets smacked down once again by his Republican opponent.
Until Democrats stop embracing conviction-less, big money pariahs like McAuliffe, and ignore the lessons of 2008, I'd rather lose a few more elections than continue to embrace these scoundrels. I guess I prematurely hoped that we had finally turned the page on these remnants of our recently bleak past.
I'll say a few prayers and hope Virginia Democrats come to their senses before June 9 and nominate a Democrat who doesn't leave the stench of good ol' boy politics, win or lose. Though, I'm guessing they won't be answered this time...