by Robin Beres
Inauguration Day has come and gone, and President Joe Biden is safely ensconced in the White House. For more than a week now, he has been sitting at the Resolute desk, merrily signing one executive order after another. What exactly is in many of them and how they will impact Virginians remains to be seen.
But for now, there is hope that the long, national slugfest we endured during President Donald Trump’s four years in office will end. Biden’s inaugural words calling for unity hit the right tones. It was full-throated and patriotic — and sounded reassuringly like a speech from a well-seasoned statesman rather than a feeble old man. We can only pray his remarks hold true.
And, for now at least, most of the protests that marked 2020 appear to have stopped (except in places like Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, where unrest and rioting have become near-daily occurrences). On Inauguration Day, in a locked-down Washington, D.C. — to all appearances under martial law — there was none of the looting, destruction, or cry-ins we saw during Trump’s 2016 Inauguration.
With nearly 26,000 gun-toting National Guardsmen present, there were no further acts of insurrection such as happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Never has the nation seen such a dreadful exhibition of anarchy and, hopefully, we never will again. The entire episode was repulsive.
Rather than serving to realize the misguided hopes of Trump supporters that Congress could — or would — overturn the results of November’s election, the deadly insurrection served only to severely damage the right’s image.
The riot infuriated Americans and handily ceded the moral high ground to the left. As a result, several progressive voices have suggested it may be necessary to “deprogram” all 74.2 million Americans who supported Trump. In the aftermath of the Capitol calamity, even some conservative commentators such as National Review’s Kevin Williamson dashed off post-mortem columns on the demise of the GOP.
However, it might be a bit premature to count the Republican Party out. On a federal level, the party may be in disarray — in 2021, Democrats control the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House. But Republicans did pick up 11 seats in the U.S. House, leaving Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats with a razor-thin majority. And, unlike the Democrats, not a single incumbent Republican lost a House seat.
On numerous state and local levels, the Republican Party remains on firm footing. Sound conservative policies and fiscal restraint ruled 2020’s state elections. In 24 states the GOP now enjoys full control of legislative and executive branches. Democrats control only 15 states. Republican governors hold the reins in 27 states. In many states, voters wearied of Trump’s antics and wanted a return to a fiscally conservative, more principled GOP.
The Old Dominion is not one of those states. The 2020 elections left Virginia’s government firmly under Democratic control. Political strategist Bob Holsworth says Trump has been albatross for the GOP in Virginia. The former president’s toxicity in Northern Virginia turned that densely populated area a very deep blue.
The gubernatorial race this fall could offer an opportunity for Republicans to reclaim the state’s highest office. However, with the state GOP in disarray, the odds of doing so may be insurmountable. Aside from a growing slate of GOP candidates (at least five at this point) and infighting as to how the party will select its candidate, the question of what to do about state Sen. Amanda Chase continues to bedevil state Republicans.
Does the party select a conventional candidate like Del. Kirk Cox or go with Chase, who describes herself as “Trump in heels” and claims the Capitol assault was justified? She has threatened to start her own Patriot Party if she isn’t given the GOP nomination. But there’s little doubt that if she is the Republican candidate, Virginia will see another Democratic governor in 2022.
Trump is gone now. With Republicans in the minority in Washington, Democrats nearly have carte blanche to enact as many new laws as they can. A similar situation exists in Virginia. Voters are right to be concerned as to how their purse strings will be affected by leftist agendas at both state and federal levels.
Before upending most of Trump’s policies and turning a deaf ear to the wishes of conservative constituents, it might be wise for Democrats and liberal pundits in Washington and Richmond to pay attention to those other state elections where Republicans have won. Love Trump or hate him, it is hard to deny that until COVID-19 forced a national lockdown last March, the U.S. economy was one of the strongest in history.
David Post of the CATO Institute noted recently: “What the Republican Party will look like in the aftermath of this debacle [at the U.S. Capitol] is anybody’s guess. But I do think the rioters may actually have — inadvertently, to be sure — performed a great service for the country. I am among those who believe that the country needs something it has not had for some time: A functioning, principled, conservative Republican Party.”
Given the current economic challenges, it seems most Americans are anxious to embrace conservative fiscal policies and have soundly rejected bombast and ugly rhetoric. The left, the media, and most importantly, the Republican Party of Virginia, would all do well to listen to them