us consider a blasphemy in the abstract. Let us
suppose, for the sake of argument, that raw politics
does, after the November elections, manage to back
up in the pipes of state government until it seeps
out onto the floors of the legislature.
couple of givens: There are going to be no
discernible “mandates” coming out of these
gubernatorial campaigns. No proverbial "fork in
the road," so to speak. George Allen had a
mandate. Jim Gilmore did. And to a certain extent,
so did Warner. But don’t look for one to come out
of these campaigns They’re too homogenized.
There is nothing to them that foretells a coming new
direction for Virginia. We’re not going to veer
too much left or right from where we are now.
second thing to keep in mind is this: No matter what
members of the House and Senate tell you to the
contrary, there is, sitting on the shoulder of every
single one of them, a little voice whispering,
“Careful, you want to be re-elected. How is this
going to look in 50,000 mail pieces dropped against
you? How is this going to play back home?”
is there imperative? Is there political
consideration to this coming session? There is, of
course. There always is.
must take off the training wheels this
session—it’s been long enough--and learn how to
govern, and Democrats must learn how to be good back
benchers, how to effectively play a minority role.
Neither of them, respectively, have the hang of it
Wilkins brought Virginia Republicans to a majority
in the legislature, and they’ve stumbled ever
since, with little to show for it but a bunch of
knobby, skinned up knees. And Virginia’s
legislative Democrats, bless their hearts, still
confuse good government with good politics—easy to
do when you’ve been in the majority for a hundred
and fifty years.
that line about General Motors? “What’s good for
General Motors is good for the country.” Remember
legislative Democrats think a perversion of that
rational still applies to them. It does not. They
think they’ll somehow be rewarded politically for
"fixing" all the things that the
Republican majority has managed to break to
smithereens over the past few years. It is that
"good government" impulse echoing through
the chambers of their minds But they are
legislative Democrats get no points for pulling
Republican chestnuts out of the ineptitude
fires—no points for capping the foolish car tax
give-back, no points for coercing school
construction out of the lottery proceeds, no points
for raising revenues—or worse, borrowing
them—that the Republican majority simultaneously
disavows with faux anti-tax solemnity and spends
with gleefully drunkenness. Over and over again,
Virginia Democrats just get their fingers burned.
course there is an answer to the "why" of
that. It is because they forget—or worse,
disbelieve—a minority governance truism: No good
deed goes unpunished.
seem fair? The fair leaves in October. The more
Virginia Democrats help Republicans straighten out
Republican messes, the better Republicans look, the
stronger Republicans become.
they understand this, Virginia Democrats may as well
be stand on the capitol steps and bellow to the
heavens, “Whip me harder! Whip me harder! Please!
Use the buckle end!”
2006 will be they learn this lesson. Maybe not. Time
October 3, 2005