COTTO: What can the Republican Party learn from Ken Cuccinelli's loss?

The same thing that it can learn from a moderate congressional victory in Alabama and Bill de Blasio's landslide election. Photo: Terry McAuliffe/ AP

OCALA, Fla., November 6, 2013 — Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli lost his bid for governor yesterday. The only surprise was that he went down in defeat by a small margin; roughly two points.

It is a shame he didn’t lose by twenty points. 

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It is also a shame that the man who won, Terry McAuliffe, has spent his adult life in the gray zone between shady business practices and government malfeasance, if not corruption. A master fundraiser and public-private venture capitalist, he is the sort of person who voters think of when they ponder what is wrong with American politics.

When all is said and done, Cuccinelli’s loss should be chalked up to the fact that he never fit into Virginia’s left-lurching mainstream. His support of causes such as instituting anti-sodomy laws to supporting legislation which would criminalize all abortions and certain forms of birth control to forsaking environmental conservation left a terrible impression on voters.

At the same time, however, they never did warm to McAuliffe. This is why the Libertarian nominee, Robert Sarvis, ran well above the norm for third-party candidates. His merging economic progress with social tolerance was surely the best path forward for Virginia.

Alas, it was not the path which would ultimately be taken.

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In any case, Cuccinelli’s defeat is great news for the Republican Party, both at the commonwealth and national levels. The reason is not at all simple.

Earlier this year, a narrow band of hard-right activists gathered at the Republican Party of Virginia’s convention to nominate candidates for statewide office. Originally, the nomination was to be held via primary, which would have allowed the public to choose a nominee.

This also would have given moderate GOPers a fighting chance. If not for the brazenly undemocratic convention process, center-right Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling would likely be Governor-elect now.

The conservative wing wanted to flex their muscles, unfortunately, and put up not only Cuccinelli, but an obscure minister named E.W. Jackson. He went after Bolling’s job, and came nowhere close to getting it. 

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Since most of the VA-GOP statewide ticket faltered, a strong message was sent. This message resonates with voters, donors, campaign strategists, politicians, and special interest groups alike: Radical Republicans cannot win outside of select constituencies.

Last night’s results will almost definitely make Virginia’s GOP more inclined to adopt the primary system. It will also diminish the influence which culture warriors, who have long since lost their national battle, hold over the Party.

The icing on the cake is that a moderate Republican just beat his hardline theo-conservative opponent in an Alabama congressional special election. Sadly, Bill de Blasio — a former Sandinista who never outgrew his youthful radicalism — won New York City’s mayoralty walking away. 

He has morphed his support of third world terror into a unique hybrid of racial grievance-based politics and class warfare. Not a good combination by any means.

It looks like the Big Apple has boarded a time machine and travelled back to the mid-1970s. Unfortunately, with political demographics being what they are, there will be no Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani or Michael Bloomberg waiting in the wings. 

New York is primed to experience a live-action remake of The Warriors. What can one say? An overwhelming majority of people voted for this. Let’s hope that, after their horrid mistake is realized, they don’t swarm places like the Carolinas or Florida and bring their bad habits with them.

There is no way that Republicans can retool their messaging to win over de Blasio fans. Some constituencies simply must be considered lost causes. However, if extremists such as Cuccinelli and Jackson are eschewed, then reasonable voices will be heard by default. This should do the trick in swing areas where Democrats hold undue power.

That is the message which ought to be heard from Cuccinelli’s loss, along with the Alabama victory and de Blasio’s emerging nightmare. By focusing on the interests of centrist Americans, the GOP truly can have a bright future.


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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