I was saddened to hear that former Governor Jerry Baliles, a moderate, pro-business Democrat, passed earlier this week. Man, oh, man, I miss him.
Virginia Democrats have begun fantasizing about the left-wing agenda they will pursue if, as they expect, they take control of both houses of the General Assembly. Guns, abortion, and the Equal Rights Amendment are high on the list of priorities, reports the Virginia Mercury.
I’ll let others fight the culture-war battles. What most worries me are the economic issues — $15-per-hour minimum wage and a repeal of the Right-to-Work law. If enacted, those two proposals would eviscerate the economy of rural Virginia. You could package them as the Rural Virginia Job Destruction Initiative.
What a long road the Democratic Party of Virginia has traveled in the three decades or so since Baliles was governor. A Richmond attorney who was born and raised in Patrick County, he had a foot in both urban and rural Virginia. As a Democrat, he was comfortable using the power of the state to pursue his agenda, but it was a pro-growth, pro-business agenda. He raised taxes to bolster transportation spending. He championed K-12 education and, recognizing Virginia’s role in a globalizing economy, emphasized global studies in the schools. He also led numerous overseas missions — more than any other governor before him, if I recall correctly — in the quest to bring foreign investment to Virginia.
The unifying theme behind Baliles’ thinking was to make Virginia and America more economically competitive. He championed the building of infrastructure — roads, highways and, after he left office, aviation — as well as workforce development. His vision was inclusive: He sought to benefit all Virginians. But I don’t recall him ever advancing the narrative of racial grievance and victimhood. Baliles never thought to improve the lot of the working man and woman by waving magic wands like $15 minimum wages or ditching the Right-to-Work law. He knew that prosperity was built on economic productivity. He knew there are no short cuts.
Making Virginia “economically competitive” is not a priority in Virginia’s 2019 election. The big themes I hear in the campaign ads are culture wars and campaign-financing dirt. Democrats live in a fairy land where prosperity materializes magically. By appealing to their electoral base with culture-war issues, Republicans have offered no economic-policy alternative beyond saying, “no,” to Democrats. Yeah, I’m really missing Jerry Baliles.There are currently no comments highlighted.