Why Mark Warner Should Quit the Democrats and Run As an Independent

Let's take partisan hackery out of the Virginia Senate race.


Virginians who will vote in November's Senate race have a choice between two hopelessly partisan hacks, say the candidates themselves. The Republican challenger, Ed Gillespie, constantly accuses incumbent Democrat Mark R. Warner of marching in lock step with President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. By way of rebuttal, Warner says things like this:

Gillespie "comes from a world where it's all about partisanship, one team versus another team. If there's ever a time where you have to check your Republican and Democrat hats and put our country first, it's now."

Warner has been singing this tune for years. His remarks are littered with references to bipartisanship and his self-appointed status as a "radical centrist." The press largely plays along. Warner "isn't like most Democrats," asserted a piece in The Hill back in the spring. Warner had showed up at the annual Shad Planking, the journal reported, "to show off the bipartisan bona fides that helped him become the state's governor."

Wait a sec. What were those, exactly? Prior to running for governor as a Democrat, Warner ran for Senate as a Democrat, and managed Democrat Doug Wilder's gubernatorial campaign, and served as chairman of the state Democratic Party, and worked for Democrats in Washington. Which of those "bipartisan" bona fides got him elected governor, again?

Gillespie's background is nearly as mono-partisan. He's been a Republican political strategist, chairman of the Republican National Committee, campaign chairman for Republican Bob McDonnell, adviser to other Republican candidates, and White House counselor to Republican George W. Bush. (Unlike Warner, he has a minuscule amount of cross-party history: Once upon a time he interned for a Democrat, and he founded a lobbying business with a Democrat.)

At the Shad Planking, Warner cited, as others have, his history of hashing out a budget agreement with a Republican-dominated state legislature back when he was governor. What often goes unsaid about that deal, though, is that it led to higher taxes and more spending. Warner's great "compromise" therefore achieved traditional Democratic objectives. His putative penchant for working across the aisle has never produced a deal favorable to Republican priorities.

Still, Warner has carried the flag for deficit reduction and fiscal sanity—a cause he clearly cares about—and one that many in his party view with indifference and sometimes hostility. He led the bipartisan Gang of Six, which sought to create a framework for reducing the national debt.

Republicans such as Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn praise Warner for (as Coburn says) "working hard to try to bring together a consensus" on deficit reduction. He is not afraid to use the term "entitlement reform," and even to suggest such reform is necessary. Granted, talk is cheap. But for some in the Democratic base the mere idea of ever limiting outlays on social welfare is heresy. Warner is certainly no Elizabeth Warren.

But then, "not as bad as Elizabeth Warren" sets the bar awfully low. The Warner team likes to point out that National Journal has ranked their man the 46th-most-liberal senator out of 100. That would seem to qualify him for member of the Senate Moderates' Club— there really are no Senate moderates anymore.

Data from organizations such as the Pew Research Center show that while there used to be substantial overlap between the two parties, over the past three decades or so they have split into two completely separate and warring camps. Being the most moderate Democrat, or Republican, is a bit like being the tallest of the Seven Dwarfs.

For instance, PolitiFact notes that Gillespie is correct when he accuses Warner of voting with President Obama 97 percent of the time. Moreover, Warner votes with Harry Reid 87 percent of the time. (When those two disagree, it's often over fiscal issues.)

And when you consider Warner's scores from other groups, he looks even less moderate. Here's how liberal groups score him:

NARAL Pro-Choice America: 100
National Education Association: 100
Environment America: 100
American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees: 96
Americans for Democratic Action: 85

And here's how conservative groups do:

The National Right to Life Committee: 0
Americans for Prosperity: 0
Heritage Action for America: 10
American Conservative Union: 13
The National Taxpayers Union: 19

This isn't necessarily so bad. Bipartisan agreement is overrated. Often the ideas with the broadest support turn out to be the worst (witness the Patriot Act).

Still, if Warner means what he says about disdaining a political world "where it's all about partisanship, one team versus another team," there's something he could do about it. He could renounce his membership in the Democratic Party and run the rest of the race as an independent.

Doing that would achieve three important things.

First, it would relieve him from ever having to cast another vote to support one team over the other.

Second, it would send an unmistakable signal to the voters that Warner is sincere about representing Virginia as a whole.

Third, it would offer a bold rebuke to the increasingly toxic political haze that fouls the national atmosphere. A half a century ago, notes Cass Sunstein, only 5 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats said they would be "displeased" to have a child who married someone from a different political party. Now, half of Republicans and one-third of Democrats say they would be. By renouncing his party, Warner would strike a real blow for peace in the partisan wars.

Besides, it's not as if he needs the party's help. He's the fifth-richest member of Congress, with an estimated net worth of nearly $100 million. He enjoys high favorability ratings—and lopsided odds of winning.

Finally, renouncing his party membership would inoculate Warner against Gillespie's charge that he's just a party hack. "This proves I really am a radical centrist," Warner could say. Then he could challenge Gillespie to renounce the GOP. "What do you say, Ed?" he might say. "I've checked my partisan hat and put my country first. Will you? And if not, then which one of us is the real partisan tool?"

NEXT: Is This The Worst Argument Against Libertarianism Ever? No, But It is the Most Recent.

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  1. So, Warner should become an crypto-Democrat rather than an open, avowed Democrat?

    1. Well, that’s assuming he really has these beliefs that all fit together nicely, rather than his holding a few beliefs sincerely and saying he agrees with the rest because that’s the closest approximation he can get from a team, whose help he’s needed in the past.

      1. What I’m really asking is, do major party positions come about thru logrolling (horse trading), or from ideology?

  2. Warner voted for Obamacare. He was, like every other Dem Senator in 2010, effectively the deciding vote. Reid allowing him to cast meaningless votes against the Dem agenda doesn’t change the fact that when Reid and Obama need something, Warner gives it to them.

    Beyond that, Warner is clearly a racist anyway. He is trying to act like he is embarrassed to have supported the first black President. If Obama were white, Warner wouldn’t be so ashamed of supporting him.

    1. All that said Warner is still about 90% better than most D senators.

      1. Meh, he tows the party lion when he’s required to. Pure politician. He’s not as bad as Kaine, but he’s a Democrat through and through.

        That said, Gillespie is a POS. The Virginia GOP cannot seem to nominate anyone at the state level that can win a race anymore. They keep going back to the same old tired well and dragging out useless and unelectable candidates, Cuccinelli notwithstanding. And the Cooch couldn’t keep his foot out his mouth.

        1. But if Warner is obviously worse, and he clearly is, wouldn’t it be better for Gillespie to win? What purpose does Warner winning serve? All I can see is it serving some fantasy that Republicans will produce the ideal candidate if only we give the Democrats more power.

          Also, at what point to Democrats start to be punished for producing pieces of shit like Warner? Shouldn’t we want the Dems to be a little bit better party too? The Reason stance seems to be that only the GOP should ever suffer for having bad candidates. The Democrats seem to always get a pass.

          1. I don’t really care one way or the other. Gillespie isn’t going to vote to shrink the government. He’s establishment GOP to the core.

            The choice sucks.

            1. And for the record, Warner is a POS too.

            2. But Warner will shrink it even less. Moreover, if someoen like Warner loses, it would tell other Democrats that they can’t just mindlessly vote with Reid and Obama and expect to be re-elected. That sounds like a pretty positive outcome to me.

              If Gillespie turns out to suck, great, maybe the Democrats will run a better candidate in 2020. One thing is for sure, if Warner wins, the less will be, you can vote total retard prog and never worry about suffering for it at the poles because as long as you pretend you didn’t come election time.

              1. 2 points

                If Gillespie wins, it tells the GOP that they can run crappy bullshit artists and go on doing what they have been doing. You may as well write in John Boehner.

                I don’t worry about who the DNC runs because they all suck and they’re never going to go for smaller government.

                1. Gillespie is terrible I’ll be voting Sarvis.

                  1. And the result of that vote and others will be getting someone worse than Gillespie in the Senate.

                    1. worse by a smidge, and if that is what it takes to move the republicans to the right, than that is the hill I’m willing to die on.

                    2. What makes you think your voting for Sarvis would move Repubs to the “right”? Why couldn’t they just as well think, we’re never going to get their votes, let’s try to pick up more on the “left”?

                2. Who is worse Boehner or Reid? Reid is a lot worse. Beyond that, it is clear how this game ends. No Republican is ever good enough to meet the standard and no Democrat is ever bad enough to justify removing from office.

                  I fail to see how holding one party to absolutely no standards helps anything. Warner voted for Obamacare and you are happy to see him re-elected because well John Boehner!!. That is idiotic. Fuck Warner. It is more important for people him to lose than it is to worry about the guy replacing him being only a little better.

                  1. It is more important for people him to lose than it is to worry about the guy replacing him being only a little better.

                    No. The only way out of the hole we’re in is to elect candidates who actually want us out of it. Not to elect people who’ll only dig a tiny bit slower.

                  2. No John it’s important to me that the fucking republicans nominate someone who I agree with 70-80% of the time than 20%.

      2. I don’t see how. He votes exactly the same way with them and can be counted on to do so whenever he is really needed no matter how bad the legislation.

        What difference is there in practice between Warner and say Boxster or Schummer other than Warner is a little more quiet and smart enough to keep his mouth shut?

        He is just as bad as any of them.

  3. Don’t care. Not my state. But taking time to post this anyway.


  4. The reason that dropping the “D” after his name wouldn’t matter much is that Warner would still have to toe a party line in the Senate if he wanted to get good committee assignments. The parties control access to the committees, so even independents have to play nice with one side or the other. It might give him a little more leeway, but ultimately he would be expected to vote as Reid and Obama ask him to vote if he wanted to keep getting plum committee assignments from the Democrats.

    1. Exactly. The only way Warner could escape from voting as Reid and Obama told him to would be to become a Republican.

      1. He would never do that. He’s a Dodd acolyte who used his knowledge of telecom law from his early stint in government to make his fortune. He’s a creature of regulation and regulatory capture.

        1. Of course he wouldn’t. Voting for Warner is no different than voting for Dodd or Reid or any of them. How in the hell Reason could consider Warner winning to be preferable to anything is beyond me.

      2. Heh…why don’t he & his opponent each offer to switch parties? That’d be a mindfuck, huh?

  5. “Still, if Warner means what he says….”

    “Still, if babies are really delivered by a stork….”

  6. It’s an off year. My money’s on the repub.

    1. That would be a huge upset. Warner’s leading by 13 points. They’d have to have video of him fondling a 12 year old at this point.

      1. Then the people of Virginia deserve to be represented by a straight partisan hard left Senator.

  7. IIRC, there will be more than two names on the ballot.

    1. Kodos: It’s true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about it? It’s a two-party system. You have to vote for one of us.
      Man 1: He’s right, this is a two-party system.
      Man 2: Well I believe I’ll vote for a third-party candidate.
      Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away.

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