I have spent this past week reflecting on what went so horribly wrong for progressives in this year’s Democratic primary and trying to figure out why. Progressives had an exciting gubernatorial candidate in Jennifer Carrol Foy who seemed to have all the makings of a winner. Sam Rasoul for lieutenant governor was running an inspirational campaign and seemed to be gaining traction everywhere. And in the attorney general race Jay Jones was bringing attention to the systemic racism in the criminal justice system and discussing much-needed reforms. But somehow they all lost, and lost badly. So what happened?
I think as progressives we have lost sight of an important issue and that is campaign finance reform. Michael Bills, Sonjia Smith, and Clean Virginia are spending millions of dollars on candidates they back, and it makes us look like hypocrites when we do not speak out about it. I know many progressives like myself have criticized the Koch brothers for spending millions on candidates as being wrong, because it is. So why are we not doing the same now? Whether or not we agree with them on policy, it does not make it right for one couple to try and wield that much influence. Furthermore, when we fail to address this it makes it easier for the more centrist elements to dismiss us as being hypocritical and unserious.
While we have been making good progress on lots of issues in Virginia we still have a long way to go. We need to bring serious progressive reforms to Richmond. But as long as a billionaire couple thinks they can buy elections, no one else will take progressives seriously. We need to tell Michael, Sonjia, and Clean Virginia “Thank you for wanting to help, but you are hurting our movement, and you need to stop.”
Mary Beth Thompson is a resident of Middletown.