Virginia politics is facing a leadership crisis, compounded by communications quagmires. At Ceisler Media, we have vast experience guiding clients through complex times.
The Democratic Party finds itself in a crisis of its own doing. Starting in December 2017 with calls for Sen. Al Franken to resign, Democrats have demonstrated a no-tolerance policy on #MeToo allegations of sexual assault or harassment, and set clear expectations around acceptable behavior.
We have seen this unfold at the national level – Presidents and candidates and Supreme Court nominees. We have seen it at the state and local level as well. We are now watching it in Virginia, where a litany of allegations of bad behavior – from racism to rape - by Democrats, threatens party control of the statehouse.
Now, Democrats have to look in the mirror and wonder if sometimes they were too fast to call for resignations before learning whether there was a counter narrative; before considering all implications, and before prioritizing which types of allegations are the most egregious. The calls for resignations have affected the first three rungs of the entire state leadership, without any due process. These calls may not be wrong, but as the standards of one party are held high, could the actions of single individuals drag it completely down?
It is a real pickle for Democrats, one that has ensnared candidates for President (see John Edwards) and Presidents (see Bill Clinton) themselves, as well as major figures in the party (see….well, let’s not start listing). The party needs an answer, but without leadership and consensus, they could be going down a rabbit hole that will have serious implications for 2020.
In our practice, we have been called on over the years to assist in issues like these, as well as others in corporate or non-profit settings, where calls for resignations and potential lawsuits occur. Some cases also include claims of bad business practices, as well as consumer mistreatment.
It is probably the most stressful aspect of our firm’s portfolio of services, but it is a situation in which we thrive. There was only one time we were involved in a case where the allegations against an organization proved to be credible – and in that situation, our job was to convince the company to admit the misdeed and then begin a new chapter without it being taken under by the crime.
In other situations, we have always been sensitive and respectful to allegations – and that started years before Franken and #MeToo. We have always worked to get to the truth and then assist the client, however the narrative plays out. For the most part, we work with clients who are surprised when these allegations or other types of bad behavior are alleged. Many times we are brought in by the law firms representing the entities. There are times when our role is to prevent a story that should not be in the media from getting out there – but if it gets out, to make sure that the clients are prepared to defend themselves in the court of public opinion.
In this type of situation, it is always smart to be on the side of the truth, to stick to the facts rather than try to mislead.
We have been very successful in this area of the practice. Success has various metrics in this challenging space – for us what it means is our clients are pleased with how they are able to move forward once the media cycle dies down. We are proud of the long-standing partnerships with law firms and others who recommend us when it comes to these difficult situations.
Allegations can never be ignored. But responses must be thoughtful and intentional before jumping to a course of action. That’s what we do, and it’s a direction Virginia Democrats should go as well.
Larry Ceisler is the founder and Principal of Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy.