10/16/2013 10:08 am ET Updated Dec 16, 2013

Virginia, America's Chance to Shut Down the Tea Party

Off-year elections can often seem like after-thoughts for voters, national parties, and political donors exhausted by big national election years. But next month's gubernatorial election in Virginia should be anything but an after-thought. Far from a sideshow to this year's epic dysfunction in Washington, Virginia's election offers a path forward for rejecting the Tea Party's destructive ideology. It's a test of whether extreme Tea Party ideology is a winning strategy for their side or if it's our chance to splinter what the Republican party has become. And Virginia's unique place on the chessboard of national politics can't be understated. Who wins Virginia will signal whether the GOP can win a state that could determine presidential elections far into the future. The election in Virginia presents one of our clearest opportunities yet to fight and win against the unhinged Tea Party faction that has wrested control of our federal government and ground it to a halt. Republican Ken Cuccinelli is the distillation of Tea Party politics:
  • He's so anti-gay that he's tried to reinstate "sodomy laws."
  • He's so anti-woman that he supports radical "personhood" bills that would ban abortion in all circumstances and even some common forms of birth control.
  • He's so anti-immigrant that he's compared immigration enforcement to "pest control" and immigrants to rats.
  • He's so anti-science that he's launched a legal campaign against climate scientists.
  • He has so little regard for average American families that he led the unsuccessful crusade to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
  • He also has a Tea Partier's penchant for conspiracy theories: He's expressed skepticism about President Obama's birth certificate and reelection and considered not getting his son a Social Security number "because it is being used to track you."
And we haven't even gotten to Cuccinelli's running mate, lieutenant governor candidate E.W. Jackson, who has compared Planned Parenthood to the KKK, called gay people "perverted" and "sick," and thinks federal disaster relief is unconstitutional because it turns "government into a kind of God." As the Tea Party faction of the GOP wages a war on the the federal government to a halt and divides the national GOP, the question is how long a national party can be controlled by an extreme, unbending fringe. In Virginia -- a state that, like the country as a whole, is growing more diverse and more progressive -- that question will be put to an almost perfectly-designed test. Cuccinelli clearly has his sights set on higher office and is proud to be the "Tea Party's attorney general." Next month's election will help determine not only his future but the future of his party. And through that, it will help determine whether the right-wing fringe continues to control the GOP and hold our country hostage. Virginia's emergence as a swing state in presidential elections has promised to turn electoral college math on its head. A candidate could lose the swing states of Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Iowa and still win the presidential election on the strength of Virginia's 13 electoral votes. A reliably blue Virginia would clear the path for Democratic candidates to the White House for years to come, to say nothing of a currently lopsided congressional delegation that protects potentially vulnerable GOP representatives through aggressive gerrymandering. A win in this year's gubernatorial race wouldn't just be a bellwether -- it would be a critical progressive victory. That's why we're doing all that we can do to help defeat Ken Cuccinelli and draw the line on the Tea Party in Virginia.