In a sign that the Democratic Party might continue in a pragmatic fashion, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe easily won his party’s primary on Tuesday. This bodes well for 2022.
McAuliffe, who was prohibited by law from seeking a second consecutive term but who was free to run again after sitting out for awhile, bested his two progressive challengers by almost two-to-one. So, any argument that he got the nomination simply because the hard left was split won’t hold up. Combined, the two got only a third of the vote. And this in a state that went for Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 10 points.
McAuliffe is as establishment a Democrat as you’ll find, with a long history of left-center activism going back to Bill Clinton’s first run for president. His overwhelming victory is a fair indication that Democrats are still in a mood to win.
That shouldn’t be all that surprising. While the hard left makes the most noise, it’s actually pragmatic moderates that make up the bulk of the party. To quote the New York Times story on the result, “this primary more closely approximated last year’s presidential primary, when a coalition of moderate whites and Black Democrats rallied to the moderate candidate they knew.”
And it’s important to point out that, until recently, Virginia had been a purple state. It’s now pretty solidly in Democratic hands in part because Trump pushed moderates away, but also because those moderates felt comfortable moving to a party where a guy like McAuliffe could win.
It will be an uphill battle for Democrats to hold Congress next year, simply because the party in power almost always loses seats in an off-year election, and the Democrats have no margin in the Senate and virtually none in the House. But if the party’s voters follow Virginia’s pragmatic lead, they’ve got a fighting chance.