For several decades, the Republican Party employed a very simple, yet effective approach to governance. Be obnoxious dicks, wrapping their dickitude in phony cloaks of concern and respectability. A mentality found at every level of governance; from the halls of Congress, to state legislative bodies, all the way down to local officials.
Something that the folks of Louisa County are familiar with after watching their Board of Supervisors resurrect a proposal for a “Business Park,” they voted against a few months ago.
Still, when it come to insufferable chutzpa, few things can top Dolt 45 proudly telling the world, “I’m gonna be a dick! I’m gonna be the biggest dick you ever saw! And I’m going to be so proud to be a dick that it’ll make me an even bigger one.” Knowing that every day that the government remained closed was another day Republicans could undermine our faith in government with disingenuous claims that “the government is the problem,” and “See? You didn’t need it.”
When in fact, government never was the problem, bad notions of governance, particularly ideologically based ones the Republican Party favors have always been the problem. Now that their shutdown is over and Republican controlled Senate and Dolt 45 have folded like cheap suits, their ability to spin their obstructionism with cheap platitudes became less creditable.
Of course, they will ignore this, throwing as much sand in the gears of government as humanly possible. For example, the House Intelligence Committee that our Congresswoman, Abigail Spanberger sits on can’t begin work until House Minority Leader Mike McCarthy selects the corresponding Republican Senate members. Since he has appointed Republican’s to virtually every other committee, except this one and the ones shown below, one has to ask what the holdup is?
Given his counterpart in the Senates role in prolonging the shutdown expect to see more “creative” obstructionism in the future.
With Virginia being the purplest of the five states holding elections this year, what happens in Commonwealth should indicate how the 2020 elections will unfold. More relevantly, whichever Party controls the House of Delegates and Senate after this year will be in the driver’s seat in establishing the States legislative boundaries during the 2020 redistricting process.
To illustrate the damage that such partisan gerrymandering has on the legislative process, look at what happened in Virginia after the 2010 redistricting. Where the subsequent 2011 state wide election saw Democrats lose 7 seats in the House of Delegates, and 4 seats in the Senate, with the Republican’s controlling both chambers and the Commonwealth’s legislative priorities from 2011 all the way to this years election.
That they were able to pass most of their donors, particularly Dominion Powers legislative priorities after the people of Virginia elected two consecutive Democratic Governors is a testament to the power of packing the General Assembly with partisan foot soldiers.
Beyond gerrymandering, one of the biggest reasons Republican’s why have been so successful in Virginia’s State legislative elections was because many seats, particularly in the House of Delegates went uncontested, and it’s a long term trend in the Commonwealth, and we are seeing it happen in other states as well.
And it’s something the people of Louisa County are quite familiar with after watching former Delegate Peter Farrell (56thHD) running unopposed in three consecutive elections.
If the results of Virginia’s elections in 2017, which saw the Democrats, turn a near Republican supermajority in the House of Delegates (66-34) into a 51-49 deficit is any indication Virginia’s voters are tired of politics as usual. The bad news is that Democrats will now have to hold most of the 15 seats they took in 2017, while picking up 2 additional seats.
The good news is that Democrats are favored to keep most of those seats, and assuming the court ordered redistricting takes place before the election, several more key Republican Delegates will be in danger of losing their seats.
While this begs the question of whether the General Assembly will ever allow a non-partisan independent panel to set those borders, and be allowed to submit their recommendations to the General Assembly for a straight yea/nay vote. It is safe to say that will never happen as long as the Republicans control either chamber of the General Assembly, and there are those willing to sacrifice principles for power.
Ordinarily, most voters little reason to pay attention to what happens in State elections outside of their district. Since these are not “normal” times, these graphics below highlight the seats the Democrats need to hold, as well as some of the most reprehensible Republican Delegates, many of which are long past their expiration date.
Which brings us to the 2018 Congressional election, which saw a 50-year high in voter turnout, and the Democrats taking 3 Congressional seats including, Abigail Spanberger knocking off the despised Dave Brat in the 7th CD.
With all 140 General Assembly seats on the ballot this year, both Party’s candidates are going to have their hands full, particularly since the 2017 House of Delegates elections came with a hefty price tag. With both sides burning millions more than in any other election over the past two decades. With roughly half of that going into the 15 races won by Democrats.
If the results of the 2017 House races were any indication, many of this years Senate races will also be trending blue.
Of particular interest to those folks living in the 7th CD, is the fact that the former Republican strongholds of Henrico and Chesterfield counties went heavily for Abigail Spanberger in her victory over Brat, and they encompass a large part of the 10th, 11th, and 12th Senate Districts.
Seats currently held by some of the Commonwealths worst politicians; Glen Sturtevant, “Church Lady” Amanda Chase, and Siobhan Dunnavant. The graphic below shows the most significant of these Senate races.
Virginia’s Republicans are keenly aware that in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election that “2017 was a wake-up call,” and are desperately doing whatever they can to keep 2019 from being a repeat of the past two years. With state races increasingly supported by out of district money around the country, Virginia’s Republican will have no problem on that front.
Support that starts with the Koch Brothers multi headed hydra, providing untraceable amounts of money laundered thru Freedom Partners. To front groups, like American’s for Prosperity, providing them with all the “political advocacy” and attack ads their candidates need. Finally, database services (i360), to assist them with targeting the “right” voters.
What is different about this year’s election is that this will be the first year Virginia’s Republicans test their latest tactic, one that starts with building their "bench" by running candidates for all of County Constitutional officer’s positions, the Board of Supervisors and the school board. I’ve heard through multiple unofficial sources, that this is happening in Louisa, Goochland, and Hanover counties, and I suspect in many other counties around the state.
While it’s illegal to run for School Board as a member of any Party, that hasn’t keep many clandestine Republicans from governing as unaffiliated “independents” in other counties, nor is it likely to stop the Party of “the illegal we do immediately, and the unconstitutional just takes longer” from doing the same in Louisa.
Even though our local paper, the Central Virginian, and indeed many other local/regional papers are content to dismiss this recent development off as “conspiracy theory,” it doesn’t change the fact that Duane Adams received unprecedented levels of support from State Party and parties unknown, during his 2017 campaign for the Mineral District Supervisors race.
Nor is any coincidence that we’ve seen a marked increase in pointless bickering over the course of the past two years on the Board of Supervisors over the broadband project, and now the Industrial Park. While many suspect that Supervisors Adams, Williams and Wade are orchestrating this ideological takeover of local government, proof is hard to come by.
And we’ve seen similar things happen in year’s past in Fluvanna, Hanover, Goochland and Chesterfield County’s. Whether these efforts to take over government at every level represents quantity over quality, or whether even the Koch Brothers have enough money to finance them remains to be seen.
What we have seen in the past few years is a marked increase in civic participation in Louisa County, and other counties around the state. Take Sara Gaborik, chairwoman of the Chesterfield County Democratic Committee, observation that “The energy and enthusiasm are there because people recognize local elections matter,” and “We’ve allowed the Board of Supervisors and School Board to do what they’ve been doing with no checks and balances. Now people are showing up to their meetings and monitoring everything they are doing.”
Plain and simple more community involvement in civic affairs leads to greater government accountability. While the Republicans general message appears to be “We’ve been running this county well for a long time – and if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.” Perhaps, but it's more likely that they haven’t made much if any effort to keep up with their communities values.
Kellen Squire who’s ran the 58th House District in 2017 noted at last weeks Indivisible Louisa meeting, that while Democrats don’t have as deep a bench as the Republicans, we do have a once in a lifetime opportunity to change that.
Given that this is an “off/odd election year” in Virginia, the biggest question for Democrats throughout the State is, will there be a drop off in turn out? Keep in mind that Democrats picked up 15 seats in 2017 largely because of a unprecedented surge of Democratic voters across the State, while Republican turnout didn’t appreciably change.
If we want to see all the progress we’ve made in the past few years continue, we're going to have to up our game in 2019. So make it your business to get out there and support your local and State candidate as well as candidates from surrounding jurisdictions. Otherwise, the Republicans will keep control of one or both chambers of the General Assembly.
“I am proud to shut down the government. I will take the mantle for this shutdown. I‘m not going to blame you for it,” President Donald Trump insisted to Democratic leaders at the White House on national television. It has been four weeks since one quarter of the Federal Government was shut down over the demand for a border wall—which Trump said throughout and after his campaign that Mexico would pay for—and there is no end in sight.
800,000 Federal employees are either on unpaid leave—to be reimbursed after the shutdown ends for no work performed—or they have been designated as “essential personnel” who must work without pay, and will be reimbursed when the government reopens. 50,000 additional personnel were called back this week to work without pay, joining others who have now missed their first paychecks, including many employed by TSA and the Coast Guard—trying to figure out how to pay their mortgages, rent, utilities, life insurance payments, credit card payments, and medical expenses.
Hundreds of thousands more federal contractors are off the job and will most likely not be able to recoup their missed paychecks. Garbage is uncollected and bathrooms are filthy at our national parks. There are long lines at airports. Tax refunds could be delayed. The federal government will likely owe interest penalties on late payments to contractors and to states if not paid on time.
Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, our new 7th District House Representative, pointed out in her op-ed Wednesday, Jan. 16, in the Culpeper Star-Exponent, that “we need to strengthen our national security in a long-term, comprehensive, and cost-effective manner. But we should be able to engage in these critical discussions without keeping the government closed.” She expanded on this following a meeting she attended with six other Democrats at the White House with President Trump Wednesday afternoon.
In mid-December, bipartisan House and Senate bills which Trump said he would sign were ready for the White House. The Senate bill was approved unanimously. But after commentators Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham of Fox News lambasted Trump for making concessions, he reversed course. Subsequently, the House has passed six bills with the same language as the Senate’s, but Republican majority leader McConnell has emasculated “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
Trump owns all of this. It’s Mueller time.
Editor’s Note: this letter originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
The original Equal Rights Amendment was introduced into Congress in 1923. Here we are in 2019 still trying to get it added to the U.S. Constitution.
The original version died in Congress. A second version was introduced in 1972 and passed. Thirty-seven states have now ratified it. If thirty-eight states ratify the amendment, it will become part of the Constitution.
The ERA will be considered in the Virginia legislature in 2019. It would be an amazing step forward if Virginia becomes the state that takes the ERA over the finish line.
Some have argued over the years that the ERA is not necessary or will actually be harmful to women.
Is it necessary? A recent 2015 poll by the ERA Coalition/Fund for Women’s Equality showed that 94 percent of Americans believe that the Constitution should guarantee equal rights for men and women, and 80 percent believe it is already there.
It is not there. No less a constitutional authority than Justice Antonin Scalia said that there is no protection against discrimination on the basis of sex in the Constitution.
Would the ERA harm women? There have been arguments over the years that women would be drafted and be forced to enter combat. Congress has always had the power to draft women into service and women are now serving voluntarily in combat areas. The Pentagon has recommended that women be included in the Selective Service Registration.
The Virginia legislature should take note that the vast majority of citizens support the inclusion of the ERA into the U.S. Constitution and ratify the amendment in the next legislative session.
Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in the January 7th edition of the Free Lance Star, and has been reposted here, with the authors’ permission.
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the government being on shutdown. I’m tired of Washington not getting down to the business of governing. The shutdown hasn’t touched my life personally yet, but I know friends and neighbors who are either government employees or government contractors who have lost their salaries during the shutdown. They are using up their savings and struggling to pay the bills.
I’ve never been a fan of term limits, but I am rethinking that. If you can’t get the business of government done, you shouldn’t be there. And you shouldn’t be paid either. Our recently elected Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger is doing the right thing by requesting her salary be withheld until the shutdown is over. More representatives in Congress and in the administration should do the same. They should refuse to be paid, or we should refuse to pay them, until they can do their job and keep the government open.
Abigail Spanberger campaigned on and brings to the table a sense of bipartisanship and an attitude of “Let’s get the job done.” She’s willing to work across the aisle to get things done for the people. She is even willing to challenge the leadership in her own party, as evidenced by her recent vote against Nancy Pelosi as speaker, a promise she made during her campaign. She has joined the Blue Dog Caucus in the house, which is known for coming up with bipartisan solutions that can get votes from both sides of the aisle, and get bills passed.
Spanberger also brings some much needed experience and oversight to our national security. Her years working in the Central Intelligence Agency and having been deployed abroad as an agent gives her a realistic perspective on many of the situations we read about in the papers or see on television. You have to admit, we need some experienced folks overseeing some of the crazy things that our present administration is doing.
Under this administration, we have given up our role as a world leader in trade, diplomacy and the military. We have cast aside our traditional allies, calling them adversaries instead. We are in uncharted waters with an inexperienced and erratic president and, frankly, our national security is at risk. We need some experienced folks like Spanberger to help evaluate and help chart our course forward on national security.
Another quality Spanberger brings to the table is her perspective as a woman, a wife and a mother. The more different points of view we have looking at the issues, the better and more sustainable our solutions to problems will be. Corporate and labor research has born this out over and over again.
Abigail Spanberger went to Washington to get things done, to solve problems, regardless of which party the solutions come from. If if works and gets the job done, act on it and get it passed. That’s her approach.
First order of business, reopen the Government and get back to doing the work of the people. We need the US Government open for business again.
Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in the January 10th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here, with the authors’ permission.
Delegate John McGuire came to Louisa recently to meet with constituents. I went to thank him both for taking time to come to Louisa and his work on the bipartisan Equal Rights Amendment last year. Not only did he support the ERA, but he cosponsored it.
I wondered why he has not signed on for the 2019 session, and was dismayed when Mr. McGuire claimed he had been “tricked” into cosponsoring. When asked what his hesitation might be, he said that it was already in the Constitution. This is not true, as there would be no reason to seek an amendment.
Many believe gender equality was passed in the 1970s, but it wasn’t. The ERA was first proposed in 1923 and passed by Congress in 1972. Thirty-eight states are required to pass it to be added to the Constitution. By 1982, 35 states had passed it. In March 2017, Nevada became the 36th and in May 2018, Illinois became the 37th.
Virginia could make history by becoming the 38th and last state. The upcoming legislative session marks the 400th anniversary of the House of Burgesses’ first session in Jamestown. What an opportune time for Virginia to continue to make history.
The Commonwealth has a poor record of validating women’s rights. While the 19th amendment was passed in 1920 and gave women the right to vote, the Virginia General Assembly stubbornly withheld its ratification until 1952. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 allowed women to open a bank account in their own name, get a credit card and apply for a loan. That was not that long ago. Now is a great time for our Commonwealth to support more than half of its population. More than 50 percent of Virginians are females, while 49.2 percent are males.
There is currently a patchwork of state and federal laws across the United States which could be simplified by passing the ERA. The late U.S. Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia said, “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.”
We should respect the opinion of this conservative jurist and constitutional scholar, and end discrimination against women in our country. Additionally the American Bar Association, which represents over 400,000 attorneys, has urged the Virginia General Assembly to pass this legislation. They too would like to see discrimination ended in all 50 states.
The ERA simply reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” This seems straightforward enough.
It is time to end the legal disparities between men and women. Let’s make history. The time is now. If you believe in equality, contact Mr. McGuire and let him know that you want him to flip back to support the ERA. For Louisa, for the 56th district, for our Commonwealth and for our country, urge Mr. McGuire to recognize women as full citizens deserving of equal rights under all laws.
Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in the January 10th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been reposted here, with the authors’ permission.
I don’t know what they teach in the school system anymore, but I do remember that they used to teach things like history, civics, and government. Good things to know. It’s not something we’re aware of on a daily basis anymore – in spite of the news accounts being broadcast daily – but these are things that affect our lives more than we realize or even want to admit. For those who remember, as well as those who only have a vague memory, of the branches of government and how they work, we should be paying closer attention to how dysfunctional they are in circa 2018.
For the past two years, the Executive Branch has been in the state of chaos that it created, and which has never been equaled in this country, with all signs pointing to a pursuit for the kind of power only available in Third World countries subjugated by petty dictators. The Legislative Branch is paralyzed by the dictates of ideology from a party corrupted by the influence of funds from Super PACs that have worked for decades to get the largest Return On Investment for the contributions from the wealthy and corporations. The Judicial Branch, relatively benign, has been infiltrated by Justices who, slowly but increasingly, view the rights of individuals as an impediment to the maneuverings of Big Business and the wealthy.
For those who remember their civics classes, or are somehow aware, these three branches of government are supposed to provide checks and balances to ensure that the powers of no single branch becomes excessive.
Circa 2018, how well is that working?
The answer speaks for itself every day that we read or listen to the news: local, state, national, and international.
We get mocked by the Executive Branch for being, somehow, different.
We get ignored by the Legislative Branch, especially those who have “other” commitments. We get slowly battered by an anachronistic thinking Judicial Branch.
The three branches of government haven’t been able to cooperate and work together for the best interest of the general public. Why should that be so difficult? Maybe it’s because no one told us we should be counting to four branches of government instead of just three. The fourth branch of government has been idle and secretly tucked away to make sure it doesn’t take away, or interferes, with the powers of the other three – because it can.
That fourth branch of government is WE, US, THE GOVERNED, THE PUBLIC.
WE FORGOT ABOUT US!!!
Thomas Jefferson wrote that “a well-informed electorate is a prerequisite to democracy.” With all the means of communication available to us in the times of modern technology – that includes radio, television, cellphones, internet, and personal computers – what are we really informed about? In general, the public seems to pay more attention to the “fantastic” and leaves behind the boring details of reality. And, the reality is that we have successfully allowed the other branches of government to do as they please, at least, whatever they think they can get away with.
Our civics lessons, if we had any, have been forgotten or ignored. Those lessons talked about engaging in “dangerous” activities – participating in government. Specifically, the greatest power the people have comes from the 1st Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
This very important quote, about redress of grievances, has technically been complied with by politicians and government administrators. We should take a close look to see how this right has been subverted, especially how it relates to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Our public officials and the well-paid lobbyists have formed a unique partnership that, de facto, restricts the access and visibility of the electorate. Regardless of the level of government, there are some remaining “opportunities” provided – by the government and administrators – for the public to make comments about legislation, regulations, public projects, or private projects subsidized by the government. Before any topics are presented for final approval, there have been monetary expenditures by large business interests – for their lobbyists and in performing studies – to evangelize the appropriate politicians and present only their interests to the public as being beneficial. The lobbying puts the priorities of the business entity over those of the public interest. Presentations are compiled after months or years of effort into voluminous documents containing the jargon of the industry, creating tomes that confound even the most intelligent of English speaking people and the “validity” of those presentations cannot be questioned because of the price tag. We, the public, aren’t funded in the same way as business and have little influence to the decision process. These seeming “opportunities” are, in fact, limitations to the discourse of the public with our elected officials.
We, the public, don’t get to lobby.
Yet, when it comes time for public comments, the playing field isn’t level. It never is. The public – the one that pays for an expensive project and suffers the consequences of its failure – is relegated to a position of minimal impact in trying to “redress grievances” if it can. Any individual member of the public is prevented from interfering with the goals of a government or a bureaucracy intent on pursuing its own objectives. The contribution of a single individual – whether simply concerned, informed, or a subject matter expert – is ignored only because of the dollar value of the project and the trivialization of the individual. How does a single citizen measure up against the combined forces of government, bureaucracy, and business? Or, how do the forces of government, bureaucracy, and business resist against the combined of efforts of a well-informed electorate?
And still, the need to “petition the government for a redress of grievances” remains without an adequate response because there is no real answer forthcoming. There isn’t time allowed in the system for such frivolities. That “petition” is intentionally stagnated as if Franz Kafka retrieved it from “The Castle” and updated it to the present.
Another arbitrary restriction foisted onto the public is the definition of “peaceably” as it relates to assembly of “the people.” With the backdrop of British subjugation centuries ago and the American Revolution, avoiding violence was a significant motive for advocating discussion over armed resistance. As time went by, and technology – radio, television, and internet – began to increasingly interfere with the normal communication between the public and government, it became easier to mistake listening to a medium as a substitute for participation in the government process. It also became easier for the government to manipulate the process for administration without the bother of objections from a public unaware that those restrictions are imposed as an arbitrary default mechanism. After all, we did see it on the news from our couch, which seems to be the only place most of us “peaceably” assemble and avoid offending the officials who are supposed to be working for us and our best interest.
Where is the Fourth Branch of Government now? Slowly, over time, it’s been fractured and factioned. We have become invisible – sometimes annoying to our elected officials. Many traditional special interest groups have wrongly and greedily concluded that their own survival is threatened when someone else wants the same liberties and benefits. What is misconstrued and manipulated is the fact that those liberties and benefits are available to all and have been denied or taken from others. The Fourth Branch of Government has been lulled into a state of being comatose shortly after atrophy replaced critical thinking, dialogue, and active participation. Why do we think that someone else knows what we want better than we do? If a complete stranger approached us on the street to offer advice, we wouldn’t listen. How significantly different is the public official from the stranger? There are too many people and their interactions for the intimacy of trust to be granted without a watchful eye.
We can easily point the blame to anyone else – the current operational model from the Executive Branch – but that does nothing if we ignore the whole picture. By ignoring, we fail to see how all the pieces fit and work together – or not fit and work together in too many cases. And if we’re real clever and are able to discern all the dysfunctions we see before our eyes, then we’ll be able to understand the words of Pogo, the Great Swamp Philosopher:
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
The weapons used against us are: propaganda, deceit, influence, diversion, and fear. And those weapons are effective, each in its own way. A simple sleight of hand. Keep the spotlight on a different subject. And while the spotlight draws attention, we’re left in the dark. We’re presented with false choices that have nothing to do with an issue. An example of that tactic was recently demonstrated by an outgoing Republican Congressional Representative when asked about environmental pollution. His arrogance was in full display when he responded, “Do you want to be rich, or do you want to be poor?” This is not a choice – this is about living healthy lives. We’re offered limited choices by our elected officials when they’re supposed to act on our behalf. Whether intentional, or not, all the facts and options aren’t always made available for public scrutiny. The result is a decision guided for us that’s not always directed to our wants and needs.
It shouldn’t be too late to use the information we have – while we still have any – and combat the attempts to keep us ignorant.
“We have the vote!” you say.
But we only use that vote during the election cycle. In addition to the vote, we need a voice. The vote isn’t always loud enough or in time.
There are two other excellent tools we should have for our use to make politicians accountable, and they’ve been hidden from us.
Recall and Referendum: On Demand!!
On Demand, so we don’t have to wait an election cycle while unnecessary abuses and corruption accumulate.
On Demand, so we control our own destiny instead of abdicating that power to a few who can have different motives.
On Demand Recall, to rid ourselves of corrupt, inept, unresponsive officials.
On Demand Referendum, to pass the laws we, the public, want or to repeal those that serve no useful purpose other than taking up space in the legislative archives.
This is no great epiphany for me. It’s not a revelation of any kind. It’s simply a matter or realizing that our freedoms have been under constant attack without any rational response in any practical way for past decades. There is a precedent for thinking about these things and if all of us don’t recognize the source of the following words, then we’re truly dysfunctional as the most important branch of the government and can simply return to our miserable non-existence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Editor’s Note: This op-ed originally appeared in Richmond2Day, and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.
It is always proper to reflect at the end of the year, by remembering the heroes and the events that were singularly outstanding. The funerals of Senator John McCain and President George H. W. Bush highlighted their values, many of which are being tossed aside today.
Vice President Biden eulogized McCain as a hero whose character, courage, honor, integrity, and even his understated optimism were integral to his being. “He loved basic values: fairness, honesty, dignity, respect, giving hate no safe harbor, leaving no one behind and understanding Americans were part of something much bigger than ourselves.”
In the Senate, Biden said McCain saw friendships and worthy opponents and was not into using party membership as a tripwire to shun another human being, let alone representatives of voting citizens. President Obama added in his remarks that “when John spoke of virtues like service and valor, they weren’t just words to him, it was a truth that he had lived and for which he was prepared to die.” McCain’s commitment to human rights, to the rule of law, and to the dignity of every human being, was part of his core.
At his now-famous 2008 town hall meeting, McCain tried to allay fear—he said Obama “is a decent person and a person you do not have to be scared of as President of the United States,” and politely scolded a woman who repeated the Republican trope about birtherism by saying, “No ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen, and I just happen to disagree with him on fundamental issues.”
President Bush was another Navy combat aviator whose experiences led him to commit himself to public service. From the rigors of combat in the Pacific, to the House of Representatives, ambassador to the UN, director of the CIA, and as vice president, Bush was the quintessential public servant.
At the funeral, historian Jon Meacham described Bush as “America’s last great soldier-statesman, a 20th-century founding father. He governed with virtues that most closely resemble those of Washington and of Adams, of TR and of FDR, of Truman and of Eisenhower, of men who believed in causes larger than themselves.” Former Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney said of Bush that “every single head of government in the world knew that they were dealing with a gentleman, a genuine leader, one who was distinguished, resolute, and brave.”
Bush’s son, George W., concluded with the same themes: “He showed me what it means to be a president who serves with integrity, leads with courage, and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country.” Bush added that historians will say his father was “a diplomat of unmatched skill, a Commander in Chief of formidable accomplishment, and a gentleman who executed the duties of his office with dignity and honor.”
In today’s America there is little room for optimism as we mourn men of character like Senator McCain and President Bush. With these funerals and eulogies behind us, we see more clearly than ever that in President Trump’s world, rawness, crudeness, and shunning are more acceptable. We knew that before the government shutdown, before the Mueller investigation, before the Trump charity was shuttered, before the Defense Secretary resigned in protest, decrying America’s walking away from its allies, friends, and those who thought America would protect them.
We knew that before tweets substituted for knowledgeable position papers. We even see it at the local level where the Culpeper Republicans censured two elected state senators for working in a bipartisan manner. Bipartisanship has become evil. The thrust of politics has become the maintenance of ideological purity, ignoring the needs and wishes of We The People.
Editor’s Note: this originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.
Something is not right at the Mineral Post Office!
The Louisa County Democratic Party has had the same post office box at the Mineral Post Office for many years. I generally check our box a couple times per week. We do not receive a large volume of mail, but the first of the month is our high volume period— bank statements, donation checks, etc.
On Nov. 9, I checked the box for the third time that week, and when we still hadn’t received any mail, I decided to talk with the clerk.
I went inside and talked to the clerk and she went to check. She came and told me our box had been closed. I asked why, and she said she did not know, but asked if we had paid our rental fee. I said yes, and another clerk checked the computer list verifying we were paid through March 2019.
I asked who had closed the box, and they said they did not know, as any clerk could have physically closed (blocked) it. I asked when the box was closed. They said they had no way of knowing.
I asked why they didn’t put a notice in the box before it was closed so we (or any renter) would know there was an issue. They had no answer.
I asked where our mail is and they said they were supposed to hold it for 10 days before returning it, but they didn’t know when the box was closed, so they did not know if it had been returned or not.
I asked to speak to the postmaster and I was told he was would return next week.
On Nov. 13, I met with Mineral Postmaster Blain Crickenberger. He admitted our post office box should never have been closed. When asked who closed the box, he said he did not know, as he did not have any one person designated as responsible for post office boxes. Note: The Louisa post office has one employee designated in-charge of post office boxes.
I asked about closure notices, and he admitted we should have received several closure notices starting a month before the box was closed. Note: I learned later they are supposed to provide three notices over four weeks before closing the box.
I asked where our mail was, and he said it should be at the post office, but he did not know where it was. Postmaster Crickenberger commented that this was just some screwup and he would look into it.
For us, this seems to be much more than just a simple screw-up. There appears to be no procedures in place to control and/or monitor postal box activities, our checks and our missing mail have still not been recovered, and the fact this happened during the run-up to a very contentious election adds another level of intrigue.
Your guess is as good as ours as to what actually happened.
We have referred this to the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service for investigation.
As I said at the beginning, Something is not right at the Mineral Post Office!
Chairman, Louisa Democratic Committee
Editor's Note: this letter originally appeared in the December 20th edition of the Central Virginian, and has been re-posted here with the author's permission.
In addition, the CV printed an article about this in their December 20th issue, and it is summarized here: Blain Crickenberger, the Mineral postmaster, described the closing as “a simple mistake.” Saying that he still does not know which of his 19 full- and part-time employees closed the box, and that “I’ll probably assign it to one individual [now],”
No one other than the Democratic Committee has complained to the post office that their box was closed without their knowledge, Crickenberger said.
An employee at the Bumpass post office, which has four full-time and two part time staff, said that depending on who’s available, two to three workers handle their post office boxes. And Chris Lloyd, an employee at the Louisa post office, said renters there receive two written notices before a box is blocked. As a courtesy, they hold mail for a period of time after a box is blocked to give the renter a chance to pay what is due.
Schatz said he didn’t know how much mail that should have been delivered wasn’t. Three donors who had mailed checks to the committee had to re-send them because they were never received, Schatz said.
Pete Brown, a special agent for the inspector general in Richmond, said the complaint was likely referred to post office management. It could come back to his agency if there is any evidence of criminal wrongdoing, such as mail tampering.
Well…the U.S. is in a trade war with China. But if the U.S. complaint is about Chinese subsidies for state-backed enterprises, overcapacity in steel and other basic industries, and on the practice of forcing investors to hand over valuable technology, why are Culpeper soybean farmers being punished?
America is a vast continental economy that produces a multitude of goods and services. Post-war WWII trade agreements focused on creating opportunities for free trade and market access. Trade disputes are not uncommon as one economy adjusts to its role in the world and seeks a balance of accommodations from its trading partners. Usually delegations meet back and forth and over time reach those negotiated accommodations.
These days, however, America is playing its hand differently. Rather than enter negotiations, the current administration started out by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. This blunt tactic is an unusual way to start negotiations, it is is equivalent to a union calling a strike and shutting the plant down, before negotiations begin.
This blundering tactic took everyone by surprise. Confusion continues as presidential tweets mischaracterize the role of tariffs and who pays. As we learned in Economics 101, a U.S tariff is a tax on the U.S. economy. It raises the price of all the parts used to make a product. In a free enterprise economy, all businesses are cost sensitive. Hence, steel users such as Harley-Davison and General Motors reacted in a manner that any economist could predict. They moved to offset the tariffs’ new costs by announcing they would move production to a location with cheaper material and labor costs, or close plants.
A student of an International Relations 101 class could predict China’s initial response. Seeing the tariff move as heavy handed and heading an economy that is the second largest GNP in the world, it is difficult to see that China would just knuckle under. Its vast holding of U.S. Treasury Bills would also give it confidence to resist. Academic observers note that the list of U.S. demands and deadline presented to China at Buenos Aires read like the terms for a surrender rather than a basis for negotiation.
The Chinese leadership also could take confidence in the response of the American stock market. Earlier this week when the administration announced a Buenos Aires agreement, the American stock market soared. Later in the week when it was realized that Trump’s assertions of success were lies, the stock market fell 800 points.
China responded to the blunt U.S. move by instituting its own tariffs. But for Culpeper, the Chinese soybean tariffs are key. American farmers sold more than $12 billion worth of soybeans to China last year, the world’s largest buyer of soybeans.
From the perspective of a Culpeper soybean producer, the trade war with China has depressed prices, because there is now considerable stock that can’t be sold. Farmers are looking at loans they assumed under a steady market. Storing the harvest requires money and capacity for silage. There is limited silo capacity in Culpeper, so crops will need to be stored in the open, on the ground. There will be spoilage. The Nebraska farm bureau reports losses of $1 billion so far. Farmers shouldn’t be victims of government-caused market disruptions. The government should let free enterprise work.
We often think of the high pursuit of diplomacy as something that happens over the horizon. Rarely do we think foreign policy could jeopardize the family farm. The stakes in the trade war between China and the United States could be that serious, and that local.
Editor’s Note: This op-ed originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author’ permission.
Those of you who have been following the commentary in Blue Louisa from members of the Culpeper Dems, Mike McClary and Dave Reuther know that their op-ed’s are also printed in the Culpeper Star Exponent.
What you may not know is that up until the tail end of last year, the Star Exponent also printed Dr. Tom Neviaser’s far right batshit crazy screeds. Long story short, after one of the editors questioned the accuracy of his claims, he walked off in a huff.
At least until last month, where he took his act to the Culpeper Times, part of the insidenova chain of local weekly papers. While the screenshot below of last months op-ed is relatively tame compared to his previous rants in the CSE, the quantity of disjointed RW talking points crammed into such a short op-ed is worth noting.
In response, Dave Reuther penned this letter to the editor, which appeared in this week’s issue.
A letter that the Culpeper Times chose to title “Spanberger shouldn’t copy Republican tactics.” Whether their choice represents an attempt to drum up reader interest, or is a ham-fisted to attempt to negate the letters content is immaterial.
What is relevant is that such actions represent one of modern journalism's deadly sins; the promotion of false equivalencies. By reprising Dr. Neviaser’s “As I See It” column, and not challenging his claims before they are printed, the Culpeper Times is effectively giving his serial falsehoods credence.
And there will be at best, a limited response to such deceptive op-eds given most local papers strict word limitations. Something the Central Virginians readers are quite familiar with, where year’s worth of far right syndicated content are seldom commented on.
The danger of such systemic habituation, like a frog in a pot of water slowly brought to a boil, is how effectively it serves to normalize extreme ideas, to where few will even remember why X, Y or Z was such a bad idea to begin with.
Another dubious practice is the reflexive presumption that there are always two sides to any issue, one which assumes that both sides are; A) equally valid and B) are arguing in good faith. Like their coverage of the October Brat/Spanberger debate.
Clearly many of the thing’s Brat said during that debate were; inflammatory, misleading, or flat out lies. Other than pointing out his Tourettes like repetition of Nancy Peloisi, there was little mention of the veracity of his other claims, or Spanberger’s for that matter.
If one didn’t watch a video of the debate, it would have been easy to think that based on what they read, particularly in the smaller local papers, that this debate was accurately reported. When in reality, both the Culpeper Times and the Central Virginian’s coverage of the debate were heavy on the factoids, and light on critical commentary.
A journalistic malpractice which allows disingenuous extremists like Brat, Bryce Reeves, and John McGuire, to say almost anything, without any meaningful response from the local community.
So how comfortable is that warm water feeling now?
Dave Reuther and Jon Taylor
Many of Blue Louisa’s readers will recall how after redrawing of legislative boundaries in 2011 that Republicans gained enough seats for a supermajority in the House, and a tie in the Senate, and how only one out of 140 seats changed hands after the 2015 election.
What they may not know is just how badly such partisan gerrymandering distorts the outcome of state elections. By any standard, the outcome of Virginia’s 2015 election was a statistical outlier, one that far exceeds historical averages of 97% of incumbents being re-elected.
For example, during this year’s election, Democrats in Wisconsin out voted Republicans statewide by 8%, yet won 28% fewer seats.
Even with this years “blue wave,” which saw Democrats retake the House in Congress there remains a persistent pattern of “underperformance” in Republican controlled states.
What makes this practice so insidious is that legislators in “safe’ seats are effectively insulated from any pressure from, or need to respond to their constituents. Moreover, for most of this decade, Virginia’s Republican controlled General Assembly has done what ever their donors, particularly Dominion Power wants.
Even after losing the Governors mansion in 2013, they continued to browbeat successive Democratic administrations into submission. Now that they face losing both chambers, they will do whatever is necessary to maintain that power, supported by Speaker Cox’s Colonial Leadership Trust PAC, a host of national PAC’s, and unknown quantities of mystery money.
Next year, Virginia will be the purplest of the states holding “off year” elections, what happens in the Commonwealth will be a strong indication of how the 2020 elections will go. Considering that the state Democratic Party spent a lion’s share of their resources retaking 15 seats in the House last year, if they are to retake the General Assembly, it is critical that the national Party support their candidates.
The best chances of retaking the Senate are in three districts adjacent to and within the 7th Congressional District, where Democrat Abigail Spanberger’s victory over Dave Brat was their first in 48 years. The same electoral calculus, which propelled Spanberger to success in Henrico and Chesterfield County’s will continue to be a significant factor in 10th, 11th, and 12th Senate District races, where three extreme incumbents; Sturtevant, Dunnavant, and Chase hold those seats.
While with the exception of outlying parts of Fredericksburg, Bryce Reeves 17th Senate district is mostly rural, as is 56th District Delegate, John McGuire. Fortunately, neither McGuire nor Reeves will be able to conduct business as usual next year.
Especially after what happened to soon to be former Congressman, Dave Brat it should be clear that limiting their public interactions to “members only” meetings, and group clown halls is a loosing strategy.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether in the face of this challenge to their authority, if the Republican controlled General Assembly is capable of maintaining their genteel “Virginia Way” facade, or if they will attempt to retain power regardless of the elections results as we’ve seen recently in Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina.
On November 19, 2018, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors held its regular scheduled meeting, which is open to the public for comments. The main topic of concern was the vote for investing taxpayer dollars into the development of an industrial park in the Shannon Hill area of Louisa County. As expected, there was a large public turnout to voice opposition to this form of development. The public comments were contentious with unanimous disapproval to continuing the project. The question was asked and no Louisa County citizen indicated support for this funding.
The due diligence reports were concluded and the financial aspect did not adequately support economic expansion of the type that was proposed. With so much public animosity displayed against this venture and the lack of financial justification, you have to wonder why the Board of Supervisors was split 3 to 3 on the vote to continue this development. As it finally, turned out, the Board voted to defeat the expansion and the wish of the citizens was granted. But why should there have been so much controversy and angst to overcome in the first place?
While participating in this endeavor I also took great pains to make sure that I observed and understood as much as possible. I learned a number of things – some unsurprising and some disturbing. A retrospective of events, even regular and seemingly insignificant, is always a good idea before setting out to repeat the same mistakes. My personal retrospective follows the chronology, which may be a better way to explain the progression.
Louisa County Procurement Process Needs Significant Improvement
In the business world there are assorted Good Business Practices or Good Management Practices, which don’t preclude implementation by government agencies whether federal state, or local. Procuring goods and services by the Louisa County Administration has to be performed, keeping in mind the best interest of the citizens of the County. Getting information to help with a decision about how to spend millions of taxpayer dollars requires more scrutiny and insight than what was available for the Shannon Hill Expansion; something that should have been done with better effectiveness. Below are the missing components from an effective process for the procurement of services in Louisa County.
This isn’t a complete list of missing components that should have been resolved with a documented procurement process, but it should be evident that there are a number of things that would work better if some Good Business Practices were known and implemented.
Louisa County Evaluation Of Due Diligence Report For Deciding The Development Project
One specific report that was anxiously waited for was the Economic Due Diligence Report. This is a 49 page document that became available approximately November 8, 2018. The next time the topic would come up for discussion would be at the November 19, 2018 Board of Supervisors meeting, which would be open to the public for comments. Given the amount of time available – from receiving the Due Diligence Report, to reviewing it, to understanding it, and preparing for the meeting – these steps were challenging.
That challenge would be enough for the members of the Board to read and understand by the November 19 meeting, but the public was especially disadvantaged because it didn’t know when the report was available, where it would be posted, and in most cases would be unfamiliar and uncomfortable with trying to read and understand a relatively complex technical document on short notice. Even the elected officials on the Board must’ve had some difficulty because none addressed any of the report’s critical findings listed below.
Public Comments About The Megasite Were Stifled
The claim that public comments are stifled is real, in fact, it becomes more obvious by examining events and the process of public meetings. If you ask about what constitutional right voters exercise by attending public meetings, most would guess the answer is the 1st Amendment of Freedom of Speech. That answer is anecdotal without the formality of a valid survey. There appears to be one part of the 1stAmendment that often gets forgotten, maybe because it doesn’t sound as dramatic: “… petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Members of the Board of Supervisors frequently make comments that sometimes sound critical – that the public should participate more than it does. This invitation sometimes sounds more like an admonishment than a welcome, but it’s true, the public should play a larger role in how it’s governed. There should be more thought to determine why there may be little public participation and more work in solving how to solicit larger public involvement.
Lead time for review and comprehension of documents is too short
As mentioned previously, the Due Diligence Report became available approximately November 8 with an expected Board of Supervisors meeting scheduled for November 19. The next Board meeting would be December 3 because of a December 4 deadline for committing to continue the project. Given the length and technical nature of the report it is unreasonable to assume that the pubic, in general, has the experience with reading and understanding the content within the timeframe and still comment about the flaws and any possible merits with any comfortable degree of confidence. This would even be a daunting task for the Board members, which may well have been, since there was little discussion about the Critical Findings that invalidate the basis for funding the Megasite. The most significant finding is the report author’s disclaimer about using the report to make a decision based on the report.
With the report written the way it was, it inherently discourages those without the background to analyze the information. Reports of this kind should include a section written specifically for the general public using layman terms.
“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” – attributed to Albert Einstein
Limited public speaking time
The right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances” implies that the Freedom of Speech is not abridged in a way that would impact that petition. For some people, 3 minutes is insufficient to express and explain the specific nature of a grievance especially with information is presented with the complexity of the Due Diligence Report. The problem is aggravated by the short time between receiving the report and appearing at the public meeting. The problem may be further exacerbated by invoking parliamentary rules, such as, Robert’s Rules of Order, or similar restrictions. The formal rules of order may be necessary for a small group of public servants but this imposes an unfamiliar burden on an unsuspecting public. This doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be some “Rules of Engagement” but those should be clear, understandable, and unintimidating. Some parliamentary procedures are intended to facilitate discussion, but discussion is limited with a format that doesn’t allow for an immediate exchange of ideas and rebuttals.
Rationale is missing for decisions
During the public meetings, it appeared that the Board of Supervisors had expectations for the public to present its case against the Megasite without emotions. Because it is the “public,” that could very well be an unreasonable expectation. People get emotional about increased traffic, destroying scenery, interruptions in livelihood, and a whole host of even “tiny” assaults on lifestyle.
That’s the public!
That’s the voting public!!
In some sense, the process of public meetings and decision making should be treated along the lines of due process. Advocacy, for or against the Megasite, needs clear and adequate rationale to justify decisions on behalf of the public. A simple “Yes” or “No” doesn’t do that because there’s no indication that our elected representatives even understand the issues well enough to make a decision, one way or the other. Without including a discussion of why the vote was made, there’s little confidence the voter can have about the capability of its elected representatives.
In many ways, the Board of Supervisors owes the voting public more than just a public meeting to be heard. The voting public needs to be listened to. Comments from some of the members of the Board of Supervisors indicted that the hearing part functions much better than the listening part. That perception is enhanced again when some members of the Board claim that if the voters are unhappy with a decision, that member can be voted out in the next election. After some research, it appears that Virginia is one of two states that have a legislative recall mechanism for elected state and local officials.
All the above represents what I observed and what I concluded, mostly about the interactions between the public and the officials that were elected to represent it. Looking at this from a communication point of view, the picture is dismal, but it can be shored up with outreach by the Board of Supervisors that would hopefully lead to more interest and enthusiasm by the public. The occasional high-emotion motivator, like the Megasite, could be avoided with long-term consistent involvement by the public, and a Board of Supervisors that focuses on soliciting what the public wants rather than assuming that it can determine what the public needs. With the right discussion methods in place, the public can be satisfied and the Board of Supervisors can make its own work easier.
Editor’s note: This letter originally appeared in Richmond2Day, and has been reposted here, with the authors’ permission.
Editor’s commentary: Transparency has never one of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors priorities, who IMHO value getting along to go along above all else, even if it means getting nothing done.
And after what would be a humbling experience for most, it remains to be seen if they are capable of learning, or will they continue to govern along the path of least resistance? And will we see even more extreme candidates, like Williams and Adams emerge next year?
Even with this years Blue Wave which saw the Democrats retake the House of Representatives in Congress, and approximately 300 of the thousand plus state level seats they lost during the Obama era, it should be clear that based on how most of the country voted, many would still vote for a dead man as long as there was an R next to their name.
Meanwhile, the biggest story of this election, widespread voter suppression continues to be under reported. Republicans are prepared to use any means necessary to keep people from voting, as this report from Florida makes clear. Even after the elections are over, they will continue to use tactics little removed from the 2000 Brooks Brothers riot to keep the votes from being counted.
If they were counting on gerrymandering, where after the 2010 census they packed many vote rich suburbs into “safe” Republican districts to save their bacon, those plans backfired spectacularly. Thanks in no small measure to the widespread unpopularity of Orange Julius, and his heavy handed crassness. With college-educated women denouncing him in droves, voting heavily for Democrats, a degree of self-inflicted damage so severe its hard to see how Republican hope to win them back anytime soon.
All that being said; based on the results in many rural counties in the Central Virginia region that logic doesn’t seem to apply to thoroughly despicable candidates like Cory Stewart, who got 60 % or more of the vote. The biggest reason for that is because of hypocritical evangelists, who as a group consistently and overwhelmingly vote for the most extreme candidates, largely because of their fear of people of other creeds, colors, and languages.
And it’s why they will continue to support radical candidates at the state and local level in the 2019 and 2020 elections far more than they ever supported Bush, McCain, or Romney. Their enthusiasm for hard core rhetoric has never been about terrorism or enforcing laws, its always been about fear. And according to one report, “White evangelicals overwhelmingly back hardline positions on immigration…”
A hypocrisy which has become a wholesale surrendering of their own values and moral judgment, and abdication of any sense of social responsibility, something which we will see play out in Tuesdays special Senate election in Mississippi, where the people of that state will likely elect an openly racist Senator. And we will see that same dynamic in next year’s state and local elections, as well as the 2020 presidential election.
Until last year when the Democrats unexpectedly took 15 seats in the House of Delegates, most of the Central Virginia's regions state Delegate and Senate races typically went 65/35 or more in favor of Republican candidates, who rarely faced any opposition. During this year’s Congressional elections that previously insurmountable margin appears to have dropped even further, in many cases all the way down 55/45 splits, making many formerly uncompetitive and often uncontested districts competitive for the first time in living memory.
Louisa County followed this trend with overall support for Republicans candidates dropping by 6% from the 2016 election cycle, and seats which have long been controlled by Republicans like the House of Delegates 56th district were no longer automatic victories.
This trend is important, because which ever Party controls the House of Delegates and the Senate after the 2019 elections will be in charge of the 2020 redistricting which sets the boundaries for all state and federal districts for the next decade. So consider how during the 2010 redistricting, House and Senate Republicans abused that power to gerrymander themselves into a permanent majority.
A one sided relationship which made them immune to any pressure from their constituents, allowing them to effectively pick their voters rather than the voters electing their representatives.
Actions which delivered immediate results for them in the 2011 statewide election for Delegates and Senators, giving Republicans a supermajority in the House of Delegates, and a 20-20 tie in the Senate. Along with the 2015 statewide election where only one out of 140 seats changed Party’s, a statistical improbability which far exceeds national historical norms of 97 % elected officials being re-elected.
A toxic majority which allowed them to implement what ever policies their donors wanted, particularly during the Sponge Bob McDonnell era. Even after losing control of Governors mansion in 2013, Republicans in the General Assembly maintained enough clout to force two consecutive Democratic administrations into doing Dominions bidding.
Faced with the prospect of loosing their slim majorities in the House and Senate, it should be clear that Virginia’s Republican Party will do whatever is necessary to maintain control. And we should expect to see many Republican Delegates and Senators being heavily funded by State Party PAC’s, like speaker Cox’s Colonial Leadership Trust PAC accompanied by national Party money and rivers of untraceable outside dark money from the likes of AFP and other Koch Brothers controlled groups.
Given what’s at stake; and that winning 15 seats last year in the House of Delegates took up a lions share of the State Party’s funds, it remains to be seen if the state Democratic and national party is prepared to pony up the money needed to retake the General assembly in 2019.
And in this neck of the woods, if unaffiliated and “non partisan” groups like Indivisible Louisa who were indispensable in local canvassing and GOTV efforts for Abigail Spanberger will continue to put forth similar efforts on behalf of Democrats and independents in 2019 and 2020.
In an extremely close election, Abigail Spanberger captured the 7th District’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives—one that had been in the hands of the Republican Party for almost 50 years.
She succeeded in this “unwinnable” campaign by focusing on the needs of the people in the district and the issues that affect their lives: Affordable and accessible health care, equitable tax policy and sustainable growth, infrastructure expansion like broadband that can bring economic and educational opportunities to our communities, protecting our natural resources and safe and nurturing well-funded public schools.
The message in her victory declaration was one of unity and working for all her constituents: “We are for ensuring the rights of all of our neighbors no matter who they are, where they live, who they love, what they look like, who they worship and where they’re from. We succeeded at the polls tonight because voters rejected the politics of hate, the politics of division and the politics of ideology. I am committed to bringing you the kind of responsive and accountable leadership you deserve.”
Culpeper citizen John Owens presciently posted this on the Culpeper Persisters’ Facebook page two hours before the polls closed on Election Day: “I think it’s important that we stop to look at the amazing, unifying force that Democrats in Culpeper county and central Virginia have become.”
“When I moved here in 2011, I did not feel this was a very welcoming place for a Democrat. We now have an active, vibrant, unified force for change that showed up en masse today to help take back a country For All and restore decency and common sense in government. In the last year, the (Culpeper County Democratic Committee), Persisters and other groups have mobilized in a way that I never thought I would see in this area.”
The Virginia Public Access Project’s (VPAP.org) analysis, comparing the 2016 presidential election with the 2018 midterms, showed that Democrats gained between 5 percent in the Lignum precinct and 21.7 percent in Willow Shade. The East Fairfax, Willow Shade and South Ridge precincts flipped from red to blue. West and East Fairfax, Eggbornsville, Browns Store and Brandy Station each increased their spreads more than 13 percent.
Change is coming to Culpeper, and though the Blue Wave may have merely lapped at its shores in this election, it is a fact that Abigail Spanberger won her seat in the House of Representatives by 6,587 votes. It is a fact that Culpeper County delivered to her 7,906 votes. Elections have consequences. Every vote matters.
Voters and poll greeters at each of the precincts again showed civility and friendliness toward each other despite differences in political opinions, proving again that Culpeper is a cut above the nastiness that has been going on in other parts of the country.
Culpeper’s Board of Elections and its very able registrar, James Clements, again proved that we have honest, open and fair elections here. Georgia and Florida could learn some lessons from Virginia.
There is some talk of perhaps having a bipartisan social gathering after the first of the year, to help show the way in solving problems in a spirit of compromise and to promote good governance and community well-being.
On Jan. 3, our newly elected congresswoman, Abigail Spanberger, will take office along with her colleagues, who will collectively transform the House of Representatives back to its proper Constitutional role as a check and balance to the executive branch. She will work for all of us, not just the ones who voted for her. We should all cheer her on.
Editor’s Note: this originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
When it comes to Dominion Power and Virginia politics, we can’t be reasonably expected to be energy experts, or knowledgeable about what’s happening in other State House of Delegate and Senate districts, a little knowledge goes a long way. And in the aftermath of Democrats picking up 3 Congressional seats in Virginia, comes this betrayal.
With Delegate Jennifer Boysko (HD 86) running for the now vacant 33rd State Senate seat, that opened up after Jennifer Wexton’s recent victory over Barbara Comstock for Virginia’s 10th district Congressional seat.
Should she win this Saturday firehouse primary against Democrats Sharafat Hussain, and Charlotte McConnell, she becomes a heavy favorite to win the “special election” held on December 18th, against whichever patsy the Republican’s end up nominating for this seat
Given that Governor Northam just replaced every air quality board member opposed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and that she has repeatedly refused to take the Activate Virginia pledge - not to accept any contributions from Dominion and Appalachian Power which almost all of the new Delegates took in 2017, claiming with a straight face that “I can take their money and vote against them.”
It’s clear that she prefers to be part of Democratic Senator “Dominion Dick” Saslaw’s dirty Dominion money machine, rather than maintaining her independence. More importantly, if elected to a the 33rd Senate seat, it would give the Republican’s a two vote majority in the House of Delegates, as well as giving Dominion another reliable vote in the Senate.
Update: With Eileen Bedell running for the 10th District Senate seat next year, the chances of her winning in 2019 are good, since Clinton won this district by 12 points in 2016, and Ralph Northam won by 15 points in 2017. And the odds of the Senate being controlled by Democrats in 2020 just went up.
I know that the RTD is a Conservative newspaper. But, I am disappointed that you ignored the facts in choosing to endorse Dave Brat in Virginia's 7th Congressional District.
--You didn't mention that Mr. Brat knowingly voted to increase our national debt by $2.5 trillion. (H.R. 1, H.R. 6756, H.R. 6757, H.R. 6760).
--You ignored the fact that Mr. Brat has opposed any action by the Federal Government to alleviate the effects of climate change, thus endangering our grandchildren's future.
--You forgot to mention that Brat has stated his intent to cut Social Security and Medicare, threatening the economic security of America's seniors.
--Maybe you didn't know that Brat has acted to allow mentally incompetent individuals to acquire guns and to remove the minimum sentence for criminals who use silencers on their weapons.
--You didn't mention Brat's vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would leave millions without health care.
--You ignored the fact that Brat acted to restrict EPA's ability to enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts
--You apparently are unaware of Brat's refusal to approve comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
--You didn't consider Dave Brat's intent to use public education money for school vouchers.
--You apparently don't care that Brat has acted to defund family-planning organizations.
I am sure that had you actually considered the facts you wouldn't have endorsed Dave Brat. I hope that now that they know the facts, your readers will vote to retire Brat on Election Day.
Editor’s Note: This letter originally appeared in the Times Disgrace, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
After a lifetime of searching for the lessons in our history, I feel compelled to say as emphatically and humbly as I can that I am deeply troubled by what the 2016 election sanctioned, our current political discourse, and the human values we are trading for a pot of porridge (to draw on the Biblical story). They are hauntingly similar to how politicians “redeemed the South” for white rule after Reconstruction, to why America tolerated the Jim Crow and Racial Purity laws of the 1900s, the blind frenzy of the Red Scare in the 1950s, and many other examples. I think we have arrived onto dangerous ground.
We’ve repeatedly seen resentment; fear, anger, and vilification of “the other” ignite violence, from lynching to modern mass murders. Many of you are friends or acquaintances who usually vote Republican. No matter party preferences, I hope we share a desire for our leaders to cease abusing our trust through stoking fear and lies, speaking of opponents with open scorn and disdain, and peddling short-term economic gains that threaten our future and the better part of our American character. Where are the voices to build our courage instead with statements like, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”?
If Republican leaders, afraid to split with President Trump and his voters, continue to dominate both houses of Congress, they will succeed in creating policies and their consequences we may be unable to reverse in the future. It’s unlikely that any of us – on either “side” - will change our sentiments on actual issues. But, based on honest moments with some of you, I know that you are also troubled by our current leadership. Some of you even turn off the television when the President is speaking because you don’t want your grandchildren to think his language and bullying is something they can emulate. How can that be OK with us as a nation? Is it really OK with you?
I implore each of us to think deeply about our motivation as we vote in Tuesday’s election. Maybe some of you are consoled that the Supreme Court now has a conservative majority. If so, will you risk joining me, even just in this one particular election, in voting for Senator Tim Kaine and Abigail Spanberger to ensure we have voices in Congress willing to challenge our current president’s increasing power when it is important to do so? Whatever the election results, I trust we can find ways to work together as a community and not be divided here in Louisa by what is playing out on our national stage.
Editor’s Note: This originally appeared in the Central Virginian and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission
Are your parents or grandparents retired? If so, you have a big stake in the Nov. 6 election. Medicare and Social Security are on the table for budget cutting. As a matter of fact, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R) has said the present budget deficit is “driven by the three big entitlement programs that are very popular: Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.” According to McConnell, these programs are the problem and must be “reformed.” That’s another word for cutting their budgets or privatizing them.
These programs were created to keep seniors out of poverty and provide healthcare to them in their aging years. All of us Americans have paid into these programs during our working years so that they might provide for us during our retirement years. Both programs have been very successful in providing for seniors. But the Republican Senate and House are determined to cut these programs and perhaps privatize them so that Wall Street and insurance companies can make a profit from them, all in the name of reducing the ballooning deficit (which they created).
Keep in mind that since Trump and the GOP have controlled the presidency and Congress, the debt has doubled and it is growing rapidly. The deficit has grown from $548 billion in fiscal year 2016 to $985 billion in fiscal year 2019, and it is growing every day even during these non-recessionary times. The recent huge tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations have not paid for themselves and likely won’t.
This ballooning debt is not the fault of Social Security and Medicare. These programs have remained stable because of fiscally disciplined management. In fact, the Social Security Administration expects Social Security “to be payable in full on a timely basis until 2037, when the trust fund reserves are projected to become exhausted. At the point where the reserves are used up, continuing taxes are expected to be enough to pay 76 percent of scheduled benefits (from the SSA website). In fact, Medicare will be able to fund Part A health care expenses for beneficiaries through 2028, and the program can adjust for inflation and increase deductions to fund the program well into the 2030 decade.
These programs are not in crisis! In fact, there are many reform efforts being proposed in committee, reforms that serve the needs of the middle class and working people who rely on these programs. Social Security and Medicare must not be cut to provide tax cuts for the wealthy who don’t need these vital programs.
Again, these programs are NOT responsible for the acceleration in the national debt. The recent huge tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, along with fiscal mismanagement by the President and the Republican Congress, are responsible for the alarming rise in the deficit.
Social Security and Medicare were created by Democrats. They have been defended over the years by Democrats. If you want to preserve them, I recommend you vote for Democrats this Nov. 6th.
Editor’s Note: This originally appeared in the Central Virginian and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission
Dave Brat in Virginia’s 7th District, and other Republicans, have called on Trump to lessen “burdensome regulations,” and make “it possible for people to once again buy the low-premium coverage they prefer.” (Dave Brat, “We Still Can’t Get Healthcare Right,” March 27, 2017).
President Trump responded by recently expanding “short-term,” inexpensive health plans, known as “skimpy” policies. They became available on the ACA Exchanges in October.
As Dave Brat has called for– these “skimpy” policies increase competition, lessen regulation, but they also gut consumer protections. “Skimpy” plans don’t have to cover pre-existing conditions, or cover 10 Essential Benefits on the ACA– such as ER care, prescription-drugs, mental-health/ substance-abuse counseling, cancer treatments, etc. Some doctors call these “skimpy” policies “junk insurance.”
The Trump administration says “skimpy” plans are good for young/ healthy people. However, young people who get critically injured in car accidents, have substance-abuse issues, acquire youth cancers (testicular cancer, or leukemia), might be left high and dry on “skimpy” plans.
Also, economists warn if younger/healthier people pull out of the ACA– premiums may skyrocket for sick and older folks left on Exchanges. And buyers beware: ‘Skimpy” plans historically have been falsely marketed–promising to cover conditions that in the fine print (few read) are not actually covered.
Dave Brat is also advancing high-deductible Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to add competition in the healthcare marketplace. These accounts, often invested in the stock market, allow consumers to save for medical care tax free. People who rarely get sick/ injured make out best with HSAs.
Brat’s biggest contribution to healthcare is that he co-sponsored a bill raising dollar limits people can contribute to HSAs each year– up to $9,000 for individuals and $18,000 for families. The higher your earnings, the higher your tax deduction with HSAs, so these accounts clearly favor wealthier consumers.
Abigail Spanberger, also running for congress in the 7th District, wants to increase competition in health care, too. Spanberger wants to maintain coverage of the 10 Essential Benefits in the ACA for all Americans, as well as protections for pre-existing conditions. She also believes Medicare X (which is not universal health care) would compete on Exchanges with private insurers, encouraging them to lower overhead and thus premiums.
Medicare X would be a public option on ACA Exchanges, which consumers could voluntarily buy at any age. This plan uses the same doctor networks in traditional Medicare (the popular seniors government healthcare plan) but would also cover maternity/pediatrics.
Importantly, Medicare X would not touch the Medicare Trust Fund, or change its solvency, because consumers would pay premiums. But Medicare X would be affordable, because unlike private insurers, it doesn’t have high overhead. That’s because it doesn’t have to pay shareholder profits/ big CEO bonuses, or spring for expensive TV ads/ fancy PR.
Importantly, Medicare X would be rolled out in rural areas first, since rural areas have little competition on the Exchanges and many rural hospitals are struggling to survive.
Knowing how candidates define “competition” in healthcare helps constituents be more educated voters.
Editor's Note: This originally appeared in Richmond2Day, and has been reposted here with the author's permission.
Like most current Republicans, Representative David Brat (VA-7) offers considerable misrepresentation of his background and talents. He labels himself as the only economist in the Congress. This claim might have redeeming value if Brat’s academic writings were on economic subjects, such as a study of the Federal Reserve, the economics of development, or the mechanics of the housing market. But his major academic writings are not in the field of economics.
Even as a legislator Brat has little influence on economic issues. He has sidelined himself by joining the minority Freedom Caucus of Republicans and is not a major player on any of the economic/commerce committees. To ingratiate himself with the Republican leadership he parades the standard Republican talking points. Like most Republicans he was critical of the Affordable Care Act on the grounds that it would increase government debt. Like most Republicans, he is silent about the impact on the debt of the Republican tax bill of 2017. Nor has Brat complained about the fact that the bill makes tax breaks for corporations and the 1% permanent, while middle class tax breaks will expire shortly.
If he is not an influential legislator, what kind of economist is former professor Brat? Not a very ethical one according to recent commentary from the world of economists. It seems Brat plagiarized major parts of a paper he published. Typical of Brat’s research interests, this paper was not about trade, or monetary policy, or other typical subjects of the “dismal science.” No, this bungled paper was a rewrite of the theme of his doctoral dissertation.
His doctoral dissertation copies German philosopher Max Weber’s thesis highlighted in his 1905 book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber proposed that Protestantism was one of the major influences associated with the rise in the Western world of market-driven capitalism and the bureaucratic nation-state. He argued that it was the basic tenets of Protestantism which gave capitalism a boost. To Weber Protestant religious values were inherent to the spirit of capitalism. Or, as Brat wrote in his dissertation “the Protestant effect may simply be viewed as the absence of the negative Catholic effects” he described earlier (p. 118).
His dissertation goes on at great length about the failures of Catholic societies. His dissertation is really not about economics at all but drifts into the literature of sociology. To substantiate Weber’s thesis, Brat’s dissertation compares England and Protestant Germany to Catholic France. After discussing comparative education and government systems Brat opines that France is less capitalistic because of its lack of scientific inventions in the 1800s and weak organization of its academic institutions. Not much core economics here, but Brat offers a not so subtle attack on Catholic institutions.
In the current campaign, Brat’s weak background and glaring prejudices are beginning to erode his base. His fundraising is anemic. Vice President Pence recently threw him a life line via a fundraiser in Washington. His staunch support of the Administration raises eyebrows.
His avoidance of town halls and his decidedly weak performance at the only candidates’ debate fades his academic image. His lack of grasp of the issues during this debate did not help. His academic plagiarism makes it difficult for him to separate himself from the ethical problems of the Administration. While Brat likes to characterize himself as an economist, he has not shown much economic sophistication in voting for increased government debt or parroting the Republican promise to cut Social Security and Medicare. Brat’s claim to be an economist is as hollow as his lack of compassion.
Brat’s opponent, Abigail Spanberger, could not be more different. She is a former CIA officer, who is used to collecting information and presenting it in a factual way to policy makers. She has practical operational experience in national security and foreign policy. She has accumulated significant labor and other endorsements including that of veterans in the 7th District and national media attention. She also has the advantage of being born and raised in Virginia. Her practical experience and openness versus his reliance on Republican talking points has moved the needle in the gerrymandered 7th Congressional District from leaning Republican to a toss-up
Editor’s Note: Ockams Razur is a nom-de plume of one of the Culpeper Dems, and this piece originally appeared in the DailyKOS, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission. So be sure to give them some love over there.
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