I’m just too tired to do a writeup. It was a very long day. More tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy the speech given by Senator Creigh Deeds tonight at dinner. EDIT: This varies slightly from the prepared text as Senator Deeds gave me his marked up copy and I used it for this post.
Thank you for the kind introduction, Jim and thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you here tonight.
I want to talk tonight about the 2007 elections for State Senate and what I see as an excellent opportunity for Democrats to take control of the upper chamber of the General Assembly. Now I see a lot of Republican faces out there in the crowd—and I’m sure the next speaker will completely disagree with my analysis, too—but I hope you’ll indulge me.
But, before I get to that, I want you to know something: Despite the best efforts of my staff, consultants and even some of my supporters, I read the blogs.
They say, Creigh, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can start a blog start trashing you, why would you want to read that stuff?
They tell me, Creigh, there’s only a few hundred people who read that stuff and they are already very set in their opinions. You know you’re not going to change anybody’s mind, right?
Or, I get some variation of, Creigh, you know it’s not very statesman-like to get on the blogs.
I read the blogs because I believe you have to meet voters where they are. And right now there are voters on the blogs, getting news and evaluating the merits of each side. The blogs are a powerful tool—but I won’t bore you with my list of reasons why. I’m sure you know the power of the blogs much better than I do and could do a much better job up here explaining that power.
But, I hope you’d mention how blogs eliminate the news filter provided by the traditional media, break down the barriers to entering political discussion, and further hold our elected leaders accountable.
In short, you can provide a compelling alternative to the mainstream media.
Unfortunately, when I read the blogs, I don’t always find the alternative that compelling.
Blogs have the power to further hold our elected leaders accountable, but just like the traditional media, the reporting often relies on rumor and unnamed sources, or even worse, the reporting of others without any independent analysis. When the Washington Post or NPR leads with a story that is later proven inaccurate, the correction comes in a little-noticed snippet buried deep in the paper or at the end of the broadcast. Often times blogs don’t even bother.
Bloggers have broken down the barriers average citizens face when trying to enter the political dialogue, but you’ve erected new barriers to participation by fostering an us-versus-them, left-versus-right mentality where voices of moderation from the center are drowned out by voices of extremism from the margins.
You’ve removed the news filter created by the mainstream media, but in its place you’ve created a new filter where gaffes and homemade movies make the cut but acts of leadership and consensus building are left on the cutting room floor.
In short, you can provide a compelling alternative to the mainstream media, but are you?
No, I didn’t drive all the way down here tonight just to criticize. I came because in this business—the business of politics—we’ve seen a lot of red ink lately and for the future of this Commonwealth and this Republic we can’t allow the business of politics to go bankrupt.
The base is shrinking: Every day more and more people drop their party affiliation and start identifying themselves as independents.
People are losing faith in the power of democracy: In the past five years there has been a 16-point drop in the number of people who agree that as Americans we can find a way to solve our problems.
People are losing faith in government: Not since 1994 have so many Americans felt that their government was out of touch with the needs of people like them.
But most alarming, young people aren’t participating: The next generation of political leaders and voters still say they have the least interest of all age groups in being either political leaders or voters.
Whether it’s in Washington or in Richmond, we have to change the tone of the debate and put a stop to the endless bickering and gamesmanship that has come to define politics.
We have to reject the poisonous language that is used to describe the other side and hold up as an example those people who believe, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
For the past few years, I have put forth my plan to end the divisiveness in Richmond by introducing a constitutional amendment to create a non-partisan redistricting system that lets the people chose their elected leaders; not the other way around. When my party was in power we used redistricting for political gain—when the other side took the reigns, they did the same thing. None of us can claim to have clean hands in this debate. But we can agree that our current system of drawing legislative districts is broken.
This year, that constitutional amendment passed for the first time in the State Senate but was defeated in the House of Delegates. We have another chance to pass redistricting reform before the next census, but if we don’t that means the old system of the electeds choosing the electorate will still be in place.
I know that we can’t wait another decade to change the way we do redistricting so that we can end the bickering.
But I also know that the blogs can be a compelling alternative to the mainstream media. You can elevate those voices that speak with mutual respect and sincerity and marginalize those that only seek to poison the debate. You can hold your elected leaders accountable for what they say, and the way in which they say it. And you can report the news in a way that promotes discussion and debate, not argument and ad hominem attacks.
So, no, I didn’t drive all the way down here to just to criticize. I came to ask for your help.
Help me change the tone of the political dialogue in Richmond so that we can make our Commonwealth the best place to live, work, and raise a family.
Well, Jim, you asked me to come down here and give my perspective on the state senate races this year: Democrats pick up four seats and take the majority. How’d I do?