Dictator_charlie3315 By Peter Galuszka

One of the serious problems in this state that has been called the “Mother of Presidents” is that its electoral process is in many ways anything but a democracy.

In far too many districts, especially rural and suburban ones, gerrymandering and autocratic party diktat mean that the races are utterly non-competitive and devoid of much debate on issues essential for the state’s well-being.

In 2013, for instance, only 12 or 14 of the 100 races for the House of Delegates were actually competitive, according to the Sorenson Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia. That’s an odd fact to ponder.

And that is why you get unneeded legislative sessions such as the one starting today to try and sort out Medicaid expansion and a $96 billion, two year budget. My view is that both the expansion and the budget are being held hostage by hard-line social and fiscal conservatives who are unwilling to consider the needs of moderates or even their own constituents, many of whom are receiving Medicaid or who benefit by its expansion. Indeed, polls show that more Virginians are in favor of expanding Medicaid. A broad coalition of activists, Democrats, business executives and moderate Republicans favors it.

For more, check this opinion piece I wrote this Sunday in The Washington Post.

The bottom line is that Virginia is changing but how fast is held in check by engineered voting districts. More people from other states or countries are moving here and that is certain to shake up the old ways of doing business. More millennials are leaving rural areas for cities where there are more jobs and progressive ideas. Eventually, their voices will be heard but not until there’s a level playing field.

According to Leigh Middleditch, a Charlottesville lawyer and Sorenson founder, a crucial task for the Old Dominion is to address redistricting issues. He’s part of the bipartisan Virginia Redistricting Reform Coalition, to bring elections back into balance. As he notes, they’re getting the money and haven’t given themselves six years to complete the job.

I wish them well. If that happens you won’t have a tiny, hard-right cadre representing maybe three percent of the eligible electorate dictating who the candidate is because they only have to worry about a primary in a rigged district.

It’s become “the Virginia Way.”

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7 responses to “Is Virginia Now the “Mother of Dictators?””

  1. Good article Peter – dead on point and appreciated!

    but the House has to run every two years and one would presume that when rural Virginians vote 60-70% for the “hard right” – that they do know what they want – and what they’re getting and from whom they are getting it – but they don’t… they’re mostly clueless.. just like their elected like them.

    and it’s ironic because their schools, their roads and their medical care is not paid for by themselves but instead heavily subsidized by others.

    so they’re voting ‘hard right’ and those elected are fire-breathing anti-tax, anti-govt types who make sure they protect the subsidies their constituencies take for granted but totally depend on.

    By opposing MedicAid expansion though, they may not escape without some accountability because the disproportionate share subsidies paid to hospitals, many rural, – with larger numbers of charity clients.. is going away – no matter whether the state approves the MedicAid expansion or not.

    the replacement for the loss of the disproportionate share subsidy – is MedicAid for the uninsured. funded largely from earmarked taxes on goods and services paid for by those who are more well off as opposed to regular MedicAid which is funded from general revenues.

    some rural hospitals are saying they may not be able to stay open or maintain services, if they lose those subsidies and the “hard right” folks in the GA are fully aware of the problem even as they essentially support denying access to medicare care for the folks who vote for them while the people who voted for them – are clueless about it and just assume their elected will take care of them – “the Virginia Way”.

    what will the rural red-Virginia elected do?

    my suspects are that they will, at some point downstream, quietly advocate for Virginia to pick up those subsidies and try to figure out how to get NoVa and richer Virginia to pay for it – then they’ll return as heroes to their right-voting rural constituents.


    the right likes to talk about “low information voters”. I agree but I think I think the right very much LIKES their own constituents to be low information voters themselves and the loss of disproportionate funding is an example … most rural folks who go to their local hospitals – have no idea what disproportionate subsidies are much less who is paying them, they just know if they go to the ER, they’ll get care.. until the ER closes.

  2. Peter,

    Back a couple years ago, I had coffee with my friend, Senator Chap Petersen. I asked what was going to happen with redistricting for the GA. He told me that the Democrats would gerrymander the Senate, and the Republicans would do the same for the House. But I guess it’s only wrong when Republicans do it.

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I never said it is right for Democrats to gerrymander. It’s wrong for both parties. Period. It’s sort of like Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill dividing up Europe at Yalta. Please forgive the analogy.

    1. Peter, agreed.

      1. that’s 3. let’s do computer generated redistricting.

  4. Breckinridge Avatar

    I guess when the Byrd Machine hand picked all the legislators, and the Republicans were so badly outnumber and ignored that they didn’t even have committee assignments — those were the good old days, Peter?

    The heart of the gerrymander process these days is the Voting Right Act. Once you gerrymander those districts to pre-determine a particular outcome, then the surrounding districts fall into place for the Republican Party. I will probably get the same treatment as Paul Ryan for saying so, but do the math — draw that many guaranteed Democratic/Minority districts and pack them so the result is not in doubt (which arguably the law requires) and presto — the surrounding districts lean Republican. That doesn’t explain the current situation completely, but it is a major factor. Pathetic, absolutely pathetic candidate recruitment on the part of the Democrats is another factor. Their process is also owned by the ideological crazies and moderates have little chance to get nominated.

    But when people are serious about redistricting reform the Voting Rights Act district requirements need to be part of the discussion, and anybody who ignores that should not be taken seriously.

    1. actually speaking of crazies and voting.. the current tactic of running far right wackos against moderate GOP in the primaries seems to be pretty successful sometimes!


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