Saturday, February 23, 2008

My thoughts about Last november

I've been putting off writing about last November's elections. Frankly, my opinion isn't all that important, or necessarily informed. And I didn't see the point of making any broad statements so soon after the election where they might be seen as self-serving.

Remember that I'm not a political consultant. I don't really know how elections are won or lost, and while I have suggestions for candidates, I don't know if these would be winning suggestions, or losing ones.

Number one: My opinion now is that candidates can't ignore blog attacks. I used to think they could, that the blogs were just noise read by people who already made up their minds. But now I see that ordinary folks use the web "just to get info", and if the only information out their is a string of negative information, it will have an impact.

I don't think candidates should go after their accusers, or even directly address posts and comments. What I think they should do is to provide their own regular columns in which they would address the accusations indirectly. These columns could be posted on their web site, or could be e-mailed to bloggers who could post them. Get some bloggers on your side, and let them do the work of interpreting your statements relative to the attacks. Volume is great, but it has to start with authoritative information.

For example, in the Gill race, I could post as many articles as I wanted about MY opinion justifying his law firm's work representing people in deportation hearings. But without the candidate making the argument, nobody knows if my opinion matches the facts -- it was just speculation.

And no newspaper was going to pick up MY thoughts. If the reporter read statements from the campaign, that would be news. This used to be bad -- it would get a story that was previously in the blogs out into the real world. So I wouldn't use this to tackle clearly scurrilous and false stories, but for real questions, even if they are based on false premises, the good of having the truth published outweighs the focus on the false stuff. And it gives bloggers real facts to post.

Number two: Regarding Gill. I don't think the "terrorist" charges are what did him in. I don't think the accusations of "representation of illegal immigrants" did him in either, although frankly I think that was a more serious problem for him and did cost him votes. And I realise that without those two issues, this third one wouldn't by itself had made the difference in this close race.

But I think his real problem was having powerful blogger personally opposed to him in the county. Because Greg was against him, it gave voice to every negative piece of information, it gave the opposition a large platform from which to operate, and it gave a lot of people cover for attacks. Further, it showed the democrats that there was significant resistance within the Republican party for a nominee, which may have made it easier to urge Nichols to enter the race.

Gill would be a great delegate. He is a bright man with good conservative ideas, he can express himself well, he is a powerful debater, he is personable, and except for the relationship with Muslim organizations (which I think are explainable but will always be there to be twisted into something else), his family history and his own biography are excellent.

But in my own uninformed opinion, because of the reality of the local Republican opposition driven in large measure by personal conflicts both with Gill and with certain members of the republican leadership, I fear that Gill would have a hard time winning an election here in Prince William while his critics are still here. He'd have a great chance if he moved somewhere else and established a new connection.

In a perfect world, the animosity could be overcome by hard work and civility, but this isn't a perfect world, and people have said so many things that I don't see them being able to overcome it, if for no reason other than the natural inclination to save face. Those who spent months insisting that Gill had a plan to steal the convention with the help of Kopko couldn't turn around and say Gill wasn't involved. Those who ridiculed Gill as a strategy to defend a lawsuit would have a hard time pushing him as the competent, intelligent, and able legislator he would be.

There of course is a certain narrow segment of our party (and the democrat party too) who can't get over the "devout muslim" aspect of the Gill candidacy. Without other negatives, that can be overcome -- EVERY candidate loses a percentage of his base for one reason or another. But having had e-mail exchanges arguing this point, it is clear that a few very motivated people DO think it would be wrong to put a "muslim" in a position of power.

I heard the same from one or two people about Mitt Romney and his "Mormonism". As I said, this crosses party lines, but is something we have to be aware of. It's no help just yelling "bigot" when you confront this -- the arguments made are often "valid" things to discuss, and they should be discussed without the personal animosity. But it's hard -- I've been called a jihadist simply for supporting Gill, which makes it hard to actually discuss the real implications of a person's faith as it impacts legislative tasks.

Number three: Again, I am not a professional, or particularly well-informed. But I agree with Ben Tribbet, who said at the Thursday committee of 100 forum that he doesn't think Faisal's loss is what caused Jay O'Brien to lose. In my opinion, the abuser fees are what did him in. Those fees were a big mistake both policy-wise and politically for a Republican, and hurt many of our candidates.

Would a stronger showing by a local republican have helped Jay? Probably. But Corey Stewart was on the ballot in those precincts, and he did pretty well. It's not like Republicans didn't show up, and while they may have voted for Nichols in a some cases instead of Gill, if they also chose to vote against O'Brien it wasn't because Jay supported Gill (after all Corey did as well). I haven't done the analysis that Ben does, so this is just my gut feeling.

I don't post this to step on any toes. It's just my observations. If Gill does decide to run again, I hope I am wrong about my opinion, because as I said he'd be a good delegate. If someone things O'Brien did lose because of Gill, maybe they are more informed than I am -- I just don't see it.

And for those who actually believed what they were saying about Gill, that's sad in my view. But I'm through arguing about it.

(ED NOTE: I was just going through my old posts, and found that this was never posted, so I did it)

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