For anyone who believes in the slightest moderate or somewhat progressive approach to government, the outcome of legislative elections in Virginia last week could be depressing.
The House of Delegates that has had a 61 to 39 Republican-to-Democrat split now has a 68-32 division. The State Senate, with a Democratic edge of 22-18, is now evenly split between the parties, but with a Republican Lieutenant Governor as the tie-breaker is now controlled by the Republicans who already occupy the governor and attorney general offices. The challenges the shifts in partisanship present come not from the greater number of Republicans but from the tea-party brand of Republicanism many of the members represent.
When I first went to the House of Delegates in 1978, I found that as a Northern
Virginia Democrat I had more in common with the moderate Republicans in the
House who represented change from the Byrd Machine downstate than I did with
many of the Southern Democrats who controlled the House at that time. Now the ultra-conservatives are on the Republican side and control their party in a way that prevents governance from the moderate middle.
The Senate of Virginia will no longer be the safeguard that it has been for the
past several years to stop wacky legislation. Moderate Democrats who lost their elections are not going to be replaced with moderate Republicans – far from it.
Moderates who have controlled the Republican caucus in the Senate for the past several years will be challenged for their leadership roles.
The Governor is not going to be a backstop for the far-out legislation that will be making its way through the General Assembly; he will be too busy burnishing his credentials with his base voters to get a vice-presidential nod. Arizona, Mississippi, and Wisconsin will be pushed off the front pages of national newspapers as Virginia takes leadership with right-wing legislation.
The aftermath of the election will not be favorable for the Commonwealth. Already underfunded public schools will see funding stripped away for vouchers. Budget
will be whacked. Regulations for public health and safety will be eliminated as being government intrusion while oppressive regulations of a woman’s right to choose will be imposed. A religious agenda will be imposed in a state that is home of the Statute for Religious Freedom.
The political pendulum has a way of swinging back over time. Federal elections are next year; elections for House of Delegates and Governor are in 2013. I believe that a shift to the middle will occur at that time. I am greatly concerned in the meantime, but please know that I will be speaking out and working had to stop any damage the outcome of this election cycle might inflict.