FWD BLOG: Virginia Democrats need to build TRUST via “Democracy First” Coalitions to win in 2023 and 2024

Forward Progressive
5 min readJun 30, 2023

As I said in my recent Letter To The Editor published in the Washington Post recently, if Virginia Democrats want to build Majorities and win statewide they need to run democracy-driven campaigns that follow the Obama-Biden bridge-building playbook that preached to Respect, Empower and Include.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction to the message from some of my party leaders in the Fairfax County Democratic Committee so I think I hit the right tone. Although the article was aimed at a few more progressive incumbents and challengers I did note that both “establishment” and “anti-establishment” party factions have a history of burning bridges.

So, regardless of where our nominees fall on the ideological spectrum, now that the primary season is over our candidates need to understand that “Unity” is a two-way street. Don’t expect supporters of your opponent to help your general election campaign without taking steps to reach out to them first.

Otherwise, you might still have their vote but might lose a potential advocate, volunteer and/or donor.

And who would blame a Democrat for not going the extra mile for a candidate who never reached out to them and especially for a candidate that pushed them away? There are lots of good causes in politics for them to focus on.

But this can become an even bigger problem for a broader coalition because if ONE candidate alienates several members of a democratic community it can weaken the community as a whole as members feel more and more ostracized from the entire ticket.

Maybe our Blue District nominees and party activists can stay safe in their political bubbles in 2023 without consequences, but Virginia will have critical statewide races again in 2024 and 2025 and 2026.

But when Democrats get lazy they can lose Blue Seats too.

That is why I am in particular disappointed with my Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano who was so obsessed with whether his opponent was a secret Republican he ran a misleading ad about his opponent based on a secretly recorded audio recording that he never fully released which is a tactic that the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional in a court of law. For the record, Ed Nuttall stated he wouldn’t prosecute abortions in Virginia and from what I understand the full audio would state as such.

This “by any means necessary” approach to politics is desperate and anti-democratic.

From what I have seen and heard, the other Commonwealth Attorney incumbents in Arlington and Loudon were also obsessed with painting their Democratic opponents as Republicans or Republican-supported as well.

I understand the value in positioning yourself as the most loyal Democrat in a primary campaign but reacting to criticism from the Center-Left with personal attacks that paint your opponent as a traitor is unprofessional and destructive.

The blessing and curse that Center-Left candidates have in primaries is attacking opponents as “Far Left” is generally frowned upon but in a battleground race a Center-Left candidate is a Democrat’s best friend.

Personally, my biggest concern when Republicans mobilize against a Democratic incumbent in a competitive primary is the fact that its a competitive primary in the first place as Republicans wouldn’t bother getting involved if the Democratic base supported the incumbent.

Regardless, I am old enough to remember when Barack Obama celebrated his Republican supporters who he called Obamacans. Yes, it started out as an Anti-Hillary voting bloc but it also was evidence that Obama could build a coalition beyond the Democratic base. And in recent years the Never Trumpers have been essential to Democratic Victories including Joe Biden’s election as President of the United States in 2020.

I was also disappointed in the negative rhetoric from Saddam Salim’s campaign for State Senate about him being the “Real Democrat” in his race against Tim Kaine-endorsed Chap Petersen. Even worse, when I posted in his “Saddam Squad” facebook group that if they were interested in unity they should cool it with the “Real Democrat” talk.

What I witnessed in return was a witch hunt where one of the members literally said i should be kicked out. And I was.

When I brought the issue to Saddam he did nothing which I think displayed poor judgment.

Screenshots of this entire exchange are available upon request.

During the 2008 campaign, I doubt many Obama supporters were fans of Hillary Clinton but I don’t remember any of us attempting to declare that Obama was the “Real Democrat” or the “Real Progressive” because he opposed the War in Iraq or some other policy.

And I would have been shocked if I was kicked out of an Obama group because I asked people to stop saying those kinds of things.

That’s because Obama showed leadership by example and his campaign followed his lead.

So, despite the threat of the PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) crowd, Obama was able to unify the party and the presidency twice while training a generation of leaders that laid the groundwork for President Biden to win in 2020.

Democrats need to transform the Obama-Biden Model into a “Democracy First” Coalition that values our common ground over partisan or ideological infighting. That is how you build trust and can come together to win elections over much bigger threats like Donald Trump.

You can learn how by reading the book “Dirty Road Revival” which outlines how to win in any district via a POSITIVE COMMUNITY-DRIVEN ORGANIZING STRATEGY.

If you would like to discuss coalition-building feel free to email me at jimmcbride@networkforprogress.com or schedule a meeting here: https://calendly.com/jimmcbride13

Join my next Virginia “Blue Victory” War Room here: https://tinyurl.com/KeepVABlueWarRoom

ABOUT JIM MCBRIDE:

Jim is a Democratic Community Leader and Strategist focused on mobilizing grassroots networks from DC/MD/VA and beyond to win battleground districts for Democrats. He is creator of facebook communities Virginia Democrats Network and Virginia For Biden as well as host of Virginia “Blue Victory” and “Blue Victory 2024” Events featured on https://www.mobilize.us/bluevictory.

He is founder of Network For Progress (formerly Generation Obama-DC) and a member of Swing Left Virginia, NoVA For Biden, Virginia Grassroots Coalition and the Fairfax County Democratic Committee who ran for Chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia in 2022.

He previously served as a DNC & Biden-Harris Community Leader and Communications Director of the DC/MD/VA Grassroots Coordinating Committee. He also took the role as the 1st Volunteer Database Coordinator for Virginia For Obama during the 2008 Primary while in the position of Vice Chair of Arlington Democrat’s Precinct Operations and founded Generation Obama-DC/MD/VA Chapter while in the position of President of Arlington Young Democrats in 2007.

Jim has over three decades of communications and political experience including managing the communications department of the International Association of Fire Fighters and working with award-winning public relations firms. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Corporate Communication with a minor in Politics from Ithaca College in 1996.

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Forward Progressive

Jim McBride is a former VA Dems Chair Candidate and Founder of Blue Victory War Room and “Keep Virginia Blue” War Room briefings on events.democrats.org.