That truth should be silent I had almost forgot.
Antony and Cleopatra, Act 1, Scene 2
November 5, 2001
In Virginia, it's collusion as usual
By RONALD N. NEFF
In 1990, Sen. John Warner (R.-Va.) ran for reelection to the U.S. Senate. The Virginia Democratic Party ran no one against him; his only opposition came from Lyndon LaRouche's camp, and the state party barred LaRouchies from running as Democrats. Despite the fact that the Virginia Democrats had shown themselves to be fully capable of running successful candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and U.S. Senate, they would have us believe that they could find no credible candidate to run against Warner.
In 1993, Virginia elected a Republican governor, George Allen. It was practically a shoo-in. Even so, Allen's lieutenant governor wound up being a Democrat, a businessman from Falls Church named Don Beyer. One reason for Beyer's successful candidacy was that Sen. Warner had helped to sandbag the candidacy of the conservative Republican candidate, Mike Farris.
In 1994, Warner refused to support the Republican candidate, Oliver North, for Virginia's other Senate seat. Instead, he helped create a third party, which ran as its candidate the man who had lost Virginia's 1989 gubernatorial election by his incompetent campaigning. Thus did John Warner help ensure that the Democrats would retain the seat held by Chuck Robb.
In 1996, the conservative wing of the Republican party put up a candidate who threatened to make a strong showing against Warner in the primary, but who would probably lose the general election. Nevertheless, Warner won the primary handily because of a large cross-over vote: Democrats unaccountably preferred the strong Warner in a general election to the weak conservative. Democrats further assisted Warner in his reelection bid by running a multi-millionaire with the same last name, Mark Warner. Mark Warner received little party funding, despite its fabled Hollywood, trial-lawyer, labor union, and Indonesian millions (he financed his own campaign), and garnered so little moral support that Republicans desiring to associate him with President Clinton had to fake a picture of Mark Warner and Clinton standing together.
Mark W. is clearly a mensch. First, in 1996, he took it on the chin; then, in 1997, he played by the rules, biding his time by not getting in the way of Don Beyer's doomed bid for governor. This year he's trying to become Virginia's governor, a highly prized position often promising higher position later: both the current and the former junior senator from Virginia came from the governor's mansion, and the current governor is the chairman of the RNC. Indeed, it is entirely possible that the purpose of Mark Warner's 1996 senatorial run was not to win that election, but to pave the way for this year's. And he has been rewarded for being a stand-up guy by both the Democratic and Republican parties: he sailed through the Democrats' nomination process without facing any challengers. And the Republican candidate (who has the same first name!) is so weak that he has been unable to glean the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.
Moreover, though Mark W. has spent tens of millions of dollars on this campaign, we hear little from the Republicans about any attempt on his part to buy the election certainly nothing like what we heard from Democrats in 1994, when wealthy Congressman Huffington spent tens of millions attempting to unseat wealthy Senator Feinstein.
One might think it is the job of political parties to win elections. In Virginia, it is clearly the job of political parties to throw elections. Voters who think there is some kind of civic merit in participating in the political process must simply avert their eyes from political realities. They will not choose the governor on Tuesday, November 6; party bosses have already chosen him indeed, probably chose him five years ago. Voters are needed only for appearance' sake. Such is the democratic process.
If Mark Warner's opponent does not lose, it is only because, as Walter Karp used to say, "Not winning elections is not always easy."
Update from Neff:
After spending $20 million (more than the combined total of the two major-party candidates in 1997), at least $5 million of which was his own money, Mark Warner won on November 6 with 52 percent of the vote. Republican Mark Earley received 47 percent, and a Libertarian named Redpath received 1 percent.
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