There are a lot of things that are going right. Here are five things that are going wrong.
1. What’s wrong with Amanda Chase? The candidate for the Republican nomination for governor — who last summer appeared at a rally where some people were giving Nazi salutes — seems to be unusually obsessed with Jennifer McClellan, one of the five candidates on the Democratic side. At a recent campaign event, Chase said of McClellan: “She is the vice chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, and I’m all for diversity, but we cannot continue … And I said she will not be a governor that supports everyone.” She said virtually the same thing last summer on Twitter (so it was hardly some misstatement): “She serves as the vice-chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. One thing you can be sure of — she is NOT for ALL Virginians.” And what, exactly, is that supposed to mean — other than perhaps the obvious? McClellan called this a “racist attack” and it’s hard to disagree.
Let’s explore Chase’s “logic” here: If McClellan were just a regular member of the Black Caucus, would that be OK? Is it her status as vice chair that makes her supposedly unable to represent all Virginians? What about members of other types of caucuses — are they able to represent all Virginians or is this uniquely something that applies to the Black Caucus? What about members of the Biotech Caucus, the group of legislators interested in promoting the bioscience industry? Can they not represent all Virginians who might not be so interested in bioscience? For that matter, what about members of the more general Democratic and Republican caucuses? How can any member of either political party hope to represent all Virginians when obviously all Virginians aren’t members of just one party? We’re carrying this to the absurd to make a point: Chase is an utter embarrassment to the state. She’d be an embarrassment for Republicans, too, except for one thing — she quit the Republican caucus in the state Senate. Speaking of embarrassments …
2. What’s wrong with Bob Good? The 5th District Republican congressman was one of just 12 representatives to vote against giving congressional medals to police officers involved in protecting the Capitol when rioters stormed the building Jan. 6. At least some of those 12 objected to the resolution calling what happened on Jan. 6 an “insurrection” — as opposed to what? A rowdy sightseeing tour? Good — who previously declared COVID-19 to be “a phony pandemic” is doing a good job of staking out his territory on the bizarre fringes of American politics. Is that really what 5th District voters bargained for?
3. What’s wrong with Virginia Democrats? That’s a broad question, so let’s narrow it to the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor who have taken part in the “Virginia People’s Debate” sponsored by a long list of Democratic groups (former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is the notable exception). One of the questions asked was whether the General Assembly should be full-time. The four gubernatorial candidates taking part — McClellan, Lee Carter, Justin Fairfax and Jennifer Carrol Foy — all said yes. Seven candidates for lieutenant governor said yes. Hala Ayala said maybe, only Paul Goldman said no. Why are liberals so enamored with creating a full-time legislature? That actually seems a very illiberal thing — creating a class of full-time politicians separated from the constituents they serve. It also seems bad politics — a lot of Democrats just went on record in favor of bigger government. That would seem a useful talking point for Republicans in the fall. All those things Democrats want won’t happen if they wind up talking themselves out of not just the statewide offices but also their majority in the House of Delegates. Speaking of bad politics …
4. What’s wrong with Virginia Democrats? Same question, different subject — this time, the state inspector general’s decision to fire its senior investigator who has been working on the probe of the Virginia Parole Board (which includes Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea). Maybe this was justified, maybe it wasn’t — it’s officially a personnel matter, so we don’t know the full story. But as a political matter, this is very bad politics for every Democratic candidate running this fall. The parole board scandal was bad enough — the inspector general inquiry had exposed how the parole board was violating both state law and its own policies in its headlong rush to release certain convicted murderers. Republicans always love to accuse Democrats of being soft on crime, whether they have evidence or not. Here a Democratic-controlled agency is gleefully creating that evidence for them. But now firing the chief investigator? Again, there may be details we don’t know from a distance this sure looks akin to President Richard Nixon ordering the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox during Watergate. Whether that’s so or not, that’s certainly how Republicans will make it look this fall. Why are Democrats doing this to themselves? Kirk Cox, one of the candidates for the Republican nomination for governor, seems thoroughly beside himself. Pete Snyder has made his campaign about reopening schools; Cox has decided to focus on his campaign on how he’ll fire the parole board. You can rest assured of this — no matter who Republicans pick as their candidate, that nominee will be running on Cox’s platform of firing the parole board.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the situational ethics involved here: Republicans in Washington were aghast last year when a whistleblower called out President Trump for his dealings with the president of Ukraine. Now Virginia Republicans are rushing to embrace this whistleblower who has dared challenge a Democratic governor. Trump and others wanted to “out” that whistleblower; now a Democratic administration has fired one whose identity was known. Republicans were wrong then, and Democrats are wrong now.
5. What’s wrong with America? The recent mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado, only highlight something that’s been true for a long time: The United States is the only country — outside of war zones — where these kinds of random mass shootings happen with any kind of regularity. We love to argue about whether guns make violence more likely or guns make violence less likely. But we never seem to find time to talk about why that violence is happening in the first place — and why it’s so uniquely American and even more uniquely American male. Think either party will find time for that?