Tag: Virginia

Bad Night for the GOP

I try not to read too much into off-year elections but last night’s was a debacle for the GOP. The Virginia governor’s race was a wipeout and, as of this morning, the state legislature may tip to the Democrats. At minimum, Virginia Democrats will now have veto power for the first time in over 25 years and had their biggest night in four decades. The New Jersey governorship and New York mayoral race went against the GOP. Other state legislative races and mayoral races went against the GOP. It was bad night for them, a clean sweep by the Democrats.

Trump’s popularity hasn’t changed that much since election day. He’s still got most of the GOP behind him and most of the Democrats against him. Moderates have shifted against him but he’s still polling in the high 30’s, lower than election day but not drastically so. I’ve noted before that Trump’s performance in 2016 was terrible. It was the worst performance in a post-incumbent election in American history (i.e., an election where a two-term incumbent President is retiring). Now we’re seeing what would have happened had his opponent not been almost equally despised. With a meh candidate, Virginia shifted almost five points to the Democrats, enough for the gubernatorial election to become a rout and the legislature to tip. The Democrats won young people by nearly 40 points, a huge shift from 2012 and even 2016. An advantage of even a tenth that size would have given Clinton the election.

Here’s another thing: the Democrats are not popular. Their approval rating is the lowest in their history. So this was not a stampede toward Democrats, much as they’d like it to be. This was a backlash against Trump without the tempering influence of Clinton hate.

The implications of this for the GOP have to be frightening. Without Clinton as a foil, Trump’s unpopularity could completely sink the party. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen solid conservatives like McCain and Flake leave the party. Now we’re seeing decent Republicans run out of office because people hate Trump so much.

If this keeps up, the Republicans will be dead in the cities, dead in the suburbs and only alive because of rural support. We will see a shriveled husk of a party devoid of conservatives, devoid of moderates and comprised entirely of Trumpist populism. This would be a party unable to stop the Democrats from going Full Metal Socialist. Their only accomplishment would be ranting on raving on Sean Hannity’s show, which is apparently now the apotheosis of political achievement for Republicans these days.

Trump is not going to change course in response to this election. His response to the election was to immediately stab Gillespie in the back and I’m sure he’ll stab every Republican if he feels the need. He’s not a Republican. He only used them to vault into office. If the Democrats take Congress, he’ll claim credit then happily sign off on single payer healthcare as long as it had his name on it (as shown by his spineless deal on DACA).

Yeah, it’s just one election. We’ll see what happens next year. And, come 2020, the Democrats are going to need an actual Presidential candidate, who might be a fiasco in his or her own right. But you can’t help but be alarmed by where this is going. In 2016, Warren Meyer said the Republicans had chained themselves to a suicide bomber. It may turn out that it just took a bit longer for the bomb to go off.

The Democrats Open the Gubernatorial Clown Car

One thing I’ve mentioned in this space before is that while I frequently despair of Republicans on the national level, there has been a surge of Republican governors who are competent, conservative and effective. This can not, however, be said of their Democratic counterparts. Last week, I countered the assertion that Jerry Brown is the Best. Governor. Ever. But two more races are drawing attention to the complete dearth of ideas that is the Democratic Party.

The first is in New Jersey, where Chris Christie looks ready to easily win a second term. Christie is winning because of his first term performance and popularity in the state. But if I were a Democrat, I would be embarrassed by the opposition. I showed last week how Buono completely muffed a softball question in the debate. Her performance has been so bad, however, that the Star-Ledger spends half of its governor endorsement slamming Christie as a fraud only to endorse him because Buono is so awful:

Begin with education. Buono’s close alliance with the teachers union is a threat to the progress Christie is making in cities such as Newark and Camden. She is hostile to charter schools, which now educate nearly 1 in 4 kids in Newark.

Buono opposes the Newark teacher contract, which freezes the pay of the worst teachers and grants bonuses to the best. She wants a traditional union deal, in which no distinction is made. She would return control of the schools to Newark, which would spell the end of Superintendent Cami Anderson’s promising stewardship.

Her critique of Christie centers on property taxes and jobs, but she lacks a convincing strategy to do any better herself. She has a long list of expensive plans, from universal preschool to more aid for public colleges. But she can’t name a single spending cut beyond the traditional promise to attack “fraud and abuse.”

(I think it’s hilarious that the Star-Ledger, in criticizing Buono, inadvertently highlights Christie’s achievements. It’s like they can’t quite bring themselves to admit he’s been pretty good.)

But it’s worse. The other race is in Virginia. This should be a gimme for the Democrats. The McDonnell Administration has been hit by scandals and the state, thanks to the exploding public sector in the DC/NoVa area, has been trending blue. The Republican nominee is Ken Cuccinelli, a deeply divisive attorney general who only won the nomination by changing the rules. So the Democrats looked around and nominated … you won’t believe this … Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe is such an awful candidate that the Richmond Times-Dispatch decided to endorse … no one:

The Democrat stumbles when he proposes major spending hikes, which he claims can be financed by the federal dollars the state would receive by expanding Medicaid. He offers an easy answer to a tough question … On energy generally, McAuliffe has spun like a top and now supports items he once opposed, such as the exploration for energy sources off Virginia’s shores … McAuliffe styles himself a businessman and entrepreneur. He inhabits the crossroads where the public and private sectors intersect and sometimes collide. His experience with GreenTech does not generate confidence. He located the plant in Mississippi, which is not known for its social enlightenment. The company has not lived up to expectations. If it eventually does, no credit will accrue to McAuliffe, for he has, he says, stepped away from it. He is not the reincarnation of Henry Ford. His ignorance of state government is laughable and makes Rick Perry, the notorious governor of Texas, look like a Founding Father.

I’ve watched this race for a while and McAuliffe crosses me as someone who thinks it is basically his turn. He’s been involved in politics for a while, dammit, and he thinks he deserves this. He doesn’t know the issues and doesn’t seem terribly interested in learning about them. He doesn’t know Virginia government and doesn’t seem terribly interested in learning about it. And he’s the best the Virginia Democrats could come up with. Seriously.

The T-D comes close to endorsing Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis but shies away because of his lack of experience. I find that spineless. I endorse Sarvis and if I still lived in Virginia, would vote for him. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in not being a buffoon. As it is, McAuliffe is leading in the polls. Whatever failings Sarvis may have, he’s got be better than McAullife. If you think McDonnell has had scandals, just wait until that jackanapes is in the Governor’s mansion.

Next year may even more amazing. The Democrats want to run Wendy Davis for governor of Texas. You may remember her from the abortion filibuster earlier this year as well as … well, nothing. Davis’s only real claim to fame is filibustering a bill that had the support of two-thirds of Texans. Whatever you may think about abortion, this is not an issue that is going to win Democrat the Texas state house. In my own state, Tom Corbett has become deeply unpopular but it’s not clear that the Democrats will nominate anyone in 2014 who has more credibility than Shakes the Clown.

The Republicans at the national level have been criticized for being out of ideas. But I think that applies even doubly so to Democrats at the state level. They seem to think that because they see Republicans as evil monsters, everyone else does too and all they need to is prop someone up who can spew liberal bullshit long enough to win. They’re in for a rude shock in the next year.

ABC On the Prowl

Three months ago, a 20-year old college student named Elizabeth Daly was leaving the Harris Teeter in Charlottesville, Virginia with some bottled water. Suddenly, a bunch of men in plain clothes jumped out, yelling and waving guns. Daly tried to drive away and called 9/11, who realized these were agents of Virginia’s Alcohol Beverage Control. They thought she had done some underage alcohol purchasing. Once that was sorted out, they let her go.

Haha! I’m just kidding. They actually tossed her in jail for the night and charged her with assaulting an officer because she grazed one of the plainclothes gun-waving ABC agents with her car. The charges were finally dropped last week about the time the story went viral. And today, 911 calls were released that confirm that she thought she was being attacked by God-knows-whom and another from a bystander who thought she was being attacked by thugs. So far, everything confirms her version of events. And so far, the ABC thinks their agents acted properly.

It tells you a lot about where we are in this country that if a bunch of armed men in plain clothes are running toward you and screaming, you should assume they are cops even if you’ve done nothing wrong. It tells you a lot that, in the shadow of Mr. Jefferson’s University, this would be considered a reasonable conversation:

Martha: “We should call the police! Some guy is running down the road, brandishing a gun and yelling about booze!”

Tom: “Don’t worry, Martha, that’s just an ABC agent. Someone may have sipped some wine.”

More from national treasure Radley Balko (whose book I just bought):

– Is it standard procedure for ABC agents to jump out on college students in the parking lots of stores that sell alcohol? (According to the local paper the Daily Progress, several other students were apprehended the same way.) Is it standard procedure for them to draw their weapons?

I lived in Charlottesville for six years and frequented the Harris Teeter late at night. To my recollection, they only sell beer and wine so mistaking bottled water for booze is kind of hard to do. Harris Teeter is just off campus in a strip mall with a very large parking lot. At night, it’s pretty quiet. It’s not exactly the streets of LA or something. There was no reason, no reason on Earth, why — even if we assume busting 20-year-olds for drinking is a good idea — this couldn’t have been handled two agents in uniform walking up to her and asking for ID. In fact, I’ve seen ABC agents do it that way.

This is only the latest incident in the creeping use of more police force to enforce increasingly petty crimes. In fact, just a couple weeks ago, a dozen government officials — some of them armed police officers — raided the Family Wash bar in Nashville in what police claim was an inspection to be sure the business was complying with the state’s alcohol regulations. Owner Jamie Rubin told the Tennessean, “They may want to call it a ‘spot check.’ But you can talk to anybody that was in there – employees, patrons – it was a raid. That’s what it was.”

Balko lists a few more episodes. You really should read the whole thing.

Several thoughts emerge and I’ll coalesce them into what I would do were I a state legislator in Virginia.

First, I would cut ABC’s enforcement budget by two-thirds. Busting underage purchasers requires one agent, maybe two. If they had six for this, they clearly have three times as many agents as they need. Oh Hal!, you wail, it’s unfair of me to tar an agency based on one incident (even though this isn’t an isolated incident)? Well, that’s the same logic the bluenoses used when they justified raising the drinking age to 21 in the first place. And, as I have argued before, we clearly have a surplus of law in this country.

Second, I would move to lower the drinking age back to 18 or abolish it altogether. The federal government has been allowed to get away with its highway money blackmail for far too long. Abolish the drinking age and let them sue. Encourage other states to do the same. There has never been any evidence that the 21-year drinking age does anything other than create criminals. The federal government doesn’t have the stones to back down; maybe a rebellion by the states could do it.

None of that will happen, of course. As I’ll argue in tonight’s post, America has become a nation of sheep led by sheep. Cuts to ABC won’t happen because “OMG! Kids!” And the drinking age won’t be lowered because “OMG! Kids!!!” And I doubt the paramilitary tactics used will be reigned in because, “OMG! Criminals!”

So listen to that 911 call. Because eventually, we will all be experiencing it. Unless we wake the hell up.