Inauguration day has come and gone, and we now have Democratic control over the top three jobs in Virginia. Combine that with the loss of the two U.S. Senate seats and Virginia’s statewide offices are in the hands of the Democratic Party for the first time since the Byrd Machine era.
We can debate why that is all day long. Those of us from Northern Virginia can lament the choice of candidates. Those of us from the rest of Virginia can complain about the big government liberal parasites in Northern Virginia voting for more government hand outs. Regardless of the reason, the facts are the facts. Unless we can beat Mark Warner this year, which is possible, we’ll be out of control here in Virginia for the next four years.
So now is the time for choosing here in Virginia. We have a few options available to us, as Republicans, as to how we can handle ourselves for the next four years.
We could do things the Washington Way. This is what we’ve seen going on in DC since 2010. It’s the way of Ted Cruz and Justin Amash. Republicans cross their arms and simply stop cooperating with the Democrats to get anything done, no matter how beneficial to the citizenry. We harp on every little issue that comes up, from typos on Facebook to cabinet appointees. We throw as much mud as we can carry, and hope enough of it sticks so that by the time election day rolls around in 2017, the voters are tired of getting nothing done and elect us to office to fix problems – many of which came about because of our intransigence. We adopt the “shutdown the government” model of Washington and begin governing by crisis. Maybe we get a budget deal done this year, maybe we don’t. Maybe we shut down the government in Virginia this year, and maybe we don’t. But one thing we definitely do is punish any Republican who makes the cardinal sin of working with a Democrat to get a bill passed in the General Assembly. And all the while, the rank and file members of the party eject a non-stop stream of hate and vitriol at the Democrats, charging them with every crime we can think of, from perversions and murder to willfully attempting to destroy Virginia and America as we know it.
Or, we could do things the Virginia Way. This is how we used to do things in Virginia, before Washington style politics polluted our body politic. Republicans and Democrats would fight hard and long during the campaign season, and when the fighting was over, both sides would pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and govern effectively for all Virginians. The bitter invective and the accusations went away. Both sides looked to find solutions to problems, not simply kick the can down the road. And if a Democrat and a Republican worked together to get a bill passed, they were rewarded for accomplishing something, not attacked. Debate was just that – debate. It was about doing what was right and what was in the best interests of the entire Commonwealth, not about scoring cheap political points by mocking the other side or accusing them of every evil we could imagine. And by the time 2017 rolls around, the voters would have a choice about who they want to govern going forward, one unclouded by the long memories of legislators eager to even the score for four years of abuse by the other side. We get a budget deal done, one that doesn’t make either side completely happy, and the Commonwealth’s government stays open. We get a few other bipartisan issues addressed, like ethics and education reform. And when Governor McAuliffe walks away from the Governor’s mansion in 2017, thanks to Republicans and Democrats, Virginia will be a little better off than she was in 2014.
I can’t speak for everybody, but given the tenor of some of the comments I’ve seen here on Bearing Drift lately, some folks are clearly opting for the Washington Way, rather than the Virginia Way. I think that’s a mistake, especially given the enormity of some of the proposals we are looking at having to deal with in the next few years. Republicans can’t simply be the party of no in the General Assembly. While there are things we absolutely should say no to – like the Medicaid expansion – we can’t simply say no to everything, or else we’ll be marginalized and the independent voters who swing elections across the Commonwealth will continue to opt for the Democrats as the lesser of two evils and we’ll continue losing elections.
The campaigns are over, and now it’s time to govern. Republicans still control the House of Delegates, and – with luck – we’ll either control the Senate or have a close enough split that we can block bad legislation there. We can stop the worst excesses of the McAuliffe Administration, and that’s what we should do. How we do it, though, will be the key. If we do it the right way – the Virginia Way – we’ll be setting ourselves up for solid campaigns in 2017 to win back the Governor’s mansion and the other statewide offices. If we do it the wrong way – the Washington Way – we’ll find ourselves on the losing end of even more statewide races and we’ll put our majority in the House of Delegates at risk. I don’t want that, and I don’t think most Republicans want that.
How we conduct ourselves – not just elected officials, but rank and file Republicans – matters. If we conduct ourselves well, we can make the debate about the policies, not the people. That’s where we win because our philosophy and our ideas are simply better than the Democrats’ are, and the voters will know it. If we conduct ourselves poorly, we open ourselves up to all of the same old tired attacks we’ve seen used effectively against us over the last few years.
It’s a time for choosing. Choose the Virginia Way and let’s stop the Washingtonization of Virginia politics.