There’s probably more happening outside of the Virginia General Assembly at this rate than within it.
True, there are some marvelous pieces of legislation popping around — Delegate Glenn Davis’ (R-Virginia Beach) bill linking school choice with ESAs is an intriguing conversation piece which immediately earned the attention and interest of Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears.
Yet this and a great many good ideas are all dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Virginia State Senate, which now enjoys a 22-18 majority after Republican Kevin Adams fell in a narrow loss to Democrat Aaron Rouse in SD-07 this week.
The special election was roundly viewed as a litmus test for Governor Glenn Youngkin’s ability to cement both his gubernatorial gravitas as well as his national aspirations. Youngkin carried by 4 points in 2021 after President Joe Biden carried the district by a whopping 10 points the year before. Jen Kiggans — who transcended to Washington in 2022 with a win over Democrat Elaine Luria — formerly held on to the seat with a mere 1 point.
Long gone is the spin of a new means of winning elections, ostensibly by running against gaffe-prone Democrats.
Instead, the headlines are a bit more realistic and openly reflecting the concerns of many a Virginia Republican — namely, that we have work to do in Richmond first before we start setting our eyes on the White House.
Of course, Virginia Democrats aren’t going to be accused by the media of being the “party of no” for watching Virginia Republicans put ego over results.
Instead, they are going to do everything in their power to preserve the institutions from any meaningful reform in the hopes that conservatives will take their eyes off the ball and go the path of bitter nomination contests.
If I’m sounding a touch pessimistic, it’s because I am pessimistic.
It is disheartening to watch paid staffers ensconced in cubicles hold the people who put them in power with borderline contempt. When politics stops being politics and starts becoming a method of manipulation, that should bother most people — right?
Case in point, with regards to the Kevin Adams race in SD-07, it doesn’t even really matter what Republicans actually say. Democrats still say whatever they want:
“You want to think it couldn’t happen in Virginia, but it could happen sooner than you think,” a female narrator says. “Republicans in Richmond are trying to pass a new ban on abortion, and Kevin Adams wants to join them to take away women’s freedom to make our own personal medical decisions.”
The screen fades to a darkened photo of Adams with a text overlay in all-caps: “KEVIN ADAMS WANTS TO BAN ABORTIONS.”
. . .
The ad, however, offers no citation for its claim that “Adams wants to ban abortion,” and we couldn’t find any record of him making such a claim.
Was that worth a few thousand votes?
Was it worth 400 votes?
Guess we will never find out. Yet the wider point applies.
There is no penalty for manipulating the public on such matters — none. No wider call from the media about misleading the public, no handwringing from the cognoscenti in our political science departments, not even much discernment from the voting public — that’s us — about whether or not we are being lied to.
All that matters is the result.
Or worse, the only metric for what is allowed isn’t whether it is true, but rather whether or not we have demonized the opposition so that anything we say is acceptable in the destruction of the opposition. In this instance, it didn’t matter whether Adams had a position on abortion or not. Adams is a Republican; any vile act is acceptable so long as it serves the wider aim of destroying Republicans.
Unfortunately, this same dynamic applies to political personalities as well. Or for those who put principles over values.
Kierkegaard put it best in The Present Age:
“It is acting ‘on principle’ which does away with the vital distinction which constitutes decency. For decency is immediate (whether the immediate is original or acquired). It has its seat in feeling and in the impulse and consistency of an inner enthusiasm.
“‘In this way everything becomes permissible if done ‘on principle’. The police can go to certain places on ‘official duty’ to which no one else can go, but as a result one cannot deduce anything from their presence. In the same way one can do anything ‘on principle’ and avoid all personal responsibility. People pull to pieces ‘on principle’ what they admire personally, which is nonsensical, for while it is true that everything creative is latently polemical, since it has to make room for the new which it is bringing into the world, a purely destructive process is nothing and its principle is emptiness — so what does it need space for? But modesty, repentance and responsibility cannot easily strike root in ground where everything is done ‘on principle’.”
— Soren Kierkegaard, “The Present Age” (1846)
Virginia Republicans are going to be prevented from doing a great deal of good this session on two counts, the first more obvious than the second.
First and foremost, Virginia Democrats are going to entrench themselves as “the party of no” while stuffing just about every good idea — bipartisan or otherwise — approaching the desk of State Senator Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth).
An honest and free press would call Virginia Democrats out on the carpet for that, but because the institutions all share the same nervous system, the old adage applies: pas d’ennemis a gauche, pas d’amis a droit.
Yet if the institutions of the political left are doing everything in their power to stuff Virginia Republicans from achieving anything for human freedom, the question as to what precisely conservatives are doing to move the ball forward remains up in the air.
At present, we have a governor more focused on Washington than Richmond, we have several bitter and divisive nomination contests across Virginia just waiting to demoralize the base, we have a thin majority in the House of Delegates which must be defended at all costs, and we have an opportunity to take back the Virginia Senate if and only if conservatives are given an agenda worth fighting for.
My wider fear is this.
That for the last 50 years, conservatives have won elections cheaply while progressives have worked assiduously to build their own media ecosystem, take over the institutions, and brand everything to their right as an evil fit only to be destroyed.
In short, the reason why we are losing? The progressives simply want it more, whereas we are simply looking for the next opportunity for advancement.
President Ronald Reagan warned us:
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
These sentiments, expressed in front of the Republican National Convention in 1964, were echoed and expanded upon during Reagan’s inaugural speech as governor of California in 1967:
Perhaps you and I have lived too long with this miracle to properly be appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and it’s never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by way of inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. And those in world history who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.
Read this speech and compare it to what we hear from politicians today. Did they change, or did we change? And if what we demand from our public servants has indeed changed. . . how right was Ronald Reagan after all?
Either way, we are giving away our inheritance and our capacity for self-government rather cheaply in service to demagogues and degenerates whose first instincts are inclined towards personal gain long before they are inclined towards a public and common weal.
Of course, pessimism is a naturally Irish perspective on most things. So perhaps I am allowing the weather to color my mood. Yet in the back of my brain, I suspect that I am not alone. It is one thing to have to put up with the “party of no” among Virginia Democrats; something else to up with “of no party” Virginia Republicans — unless it is a party of one, that is.