Virginia: Be Forewarned How Quickly and Severely a State Can Go Down the Tubes

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    I didn’t move to North Carolina for its politics. But I must confess it was one of the things that buoyed me as I prepared to leave Virginia after 30 years to be nearer to family. Despite the recent win of the GOP in the General Assembly (GA), North Carolina was still a progressive state.  And we had a Democratic governor. A little over a year ago, it was unthinkable that NC would surrender its entire progressive list of 20th and 21st century accomplishments. But thanks to an extreme Texas-style gerrymander, which suppressed the representation of Democrats, what the majority in North Carolina want no longer matters. The Tea Party took over in 2008 and grabbed even more seats in 2012. And so the North Carolina GA began to march in lock step with states like Wisconsin and Texas.

    Meanwhile, the North Carolina legislature acts daily at the behest of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill mill. Though ALEC-driven look-alike legislation has appeared in numerous states, NC is a new experiment on how quickly and extremely the GA can force a Koch-friendly Tea Party state. How hard can it be with Koch buddy and fellow Americans for Prosperity funder, Art Pope, sitting as the state’s budget director? Pope and the network of state and national PACs and non-profits was the biggest factor in the GOP win.  And now there he sits, pulling the budgetary strings.

    There’s much more below the fold…

    * It drove the first nail in the coffin of its Racial Justice Law, which afforded minorities the chance to prove racial discrimination led to their convictions/sentences in death row cases.

    * It passed vote suppression rules to make it more difficult to vote including the voter ID bill vetoed by former Gov Perdue.

    *But now it didn’t just add voter ID.  It went further and began eliminating early voting, a really progressive approach to voting, which assured that everyone even those working at hourly jobs, or those suddenly unable (sickness, family emergency, etc) to vote on the one day allotted for elections, could find a time to cast his or her vote. Early voting also provided some protection against employers who try to prevent workers from voting. This was a problem in 2012. This issue may seem strange to Virginians, but there is a better way to run elections. It’s just that NC, which was once a leader in election reform, is now eliminating those better ways. More on this in a separate diary.

    *It created a Texas-style gerrymander that assured that when more votes are cast for Democrats than Republicans, Democrats still loose. So the GOP has locked-in the future, unless we fight back and get everyone not currently voting to register and vote for us.

    *It banned gay marriage in NC.

    * It then spitefully forbade even voluntary benefits by companies for gay spouses or partners.

    * It upended the unemployed, cutting their benefits by 1/3 and refusing federal unemployment extensions.

    * It gutted public education by enabling the mass transfer of much more education funding through vouchers to private, religious and for-profit schools.

    *It laid off thousands of teachers.

    *It began the revival of harsh anti-abortion measures.

    *It enabled fracking to start two years hence. Here the shale formations actually protrude into the aquifer, thus almost certainly compromising drinking water, but the GA doesn’t care.

    *They added a provision to a bill upending local control with regard to horizontal fracking or other desires of the state to control localities.

    *It first attempted to gut and then delay the  Jordan Lake rules. It took nine years to put the rules in place and before they can have any effect, the GA wants to dilute them–all to help upstream polluters. Jordan lake is where 500,000 people (including yours truly) get their water.  But the GA wants polluters to have a free pass and pretend to “clean up” the lake after the fact using unproven “technology.”

    *They also want horizontal frackers to be able to take our drinking water from the lake and use it for horizontal fracking. It takes approximately a million gallons of water per frack.

    *The have set up rule writing for horizontal fracking that has no representation by citizen or environmental groups (every single appointment is tied to the industry). The circus of pretend regulation writing is astounding.

    *It forbade the study of rising tides by the state’s scientists.

    *It began an assault on educational curricula (inserting cursive writing rather than, say, science, back into tight school schedules).

    *There was even an attempt by some fundamentalist legislators at establishing a state religion, which was fortunately shot down.

    *More specifically, the GA appropriated the city of Asheville’s water system,

    *The GA forced the city of Durham to not only approve a massive new subdivision in a neighboring county (making one want to follow the money), provide water and sewer, but also to force Durham to annex it.

    *An attempt by the GA to hijack the decision-making power of the Wake County School Board and hand it to the County Commissioners failed.

    I have probably left out something from this list. But you get the idea. Matters of state can turn into a nightmare really fast. And a Cuccinelli governorship is exactly the ticket for Virginia to be North Carolina’d.  Don’t go there.  

    • kindler

      Seriously, NC and VA have more in common than some may realize.  

      When both went for Obama in ’08, it scared the bejeezus out of the good ol’ boys who thought they had these states firmly under their fat, greasy thumbs.  “Haven’t we done enough to keep those uppity minorities, women, young folks and intellectuals down?” they said.  Apparently not — so they had to redouble their efforts.

      Like Virginia, NC is a gorgeous mix of coastline, piedmont and Appalachian mountains — with a sharp divide between the urban and rural areas.  You have the Research Triangle area, where you will find some of the smartest, most progressive people ever, up and coming cities like Charlotte, and wonderfully fun, hip towns dotting the state from Asheville in the mountains to Wilmington on the coast.  

      What’s happening there, and could happen here, is NOT that the state is getting conservative — Obama’s strength there proves the opposite.  Progressives are getting stronger, which is forcing the conservative power barons and their ignorant flock to circle the wagons, throw more Hail Mary passes and do all they can to keep their government rooted in the 19th century while they still have a chance.  

      They’re desperate, and that is the weakness of theirs we must exploit.  We are the future, they are the past, and we need to let everyone we know of the need to make the stark choice between these two paths.

    • Jim B

      Most people are too darned comfortable to be concerned about the wingnuts. Looks to me that most of their extreme stuff hurts the poor a group of people they hate. After all these people have an opportunity to be just like them.  

    • if it turns its fortunes over to the radical right wing. It’s now happening in North Carolina, formerly a model of the “new South,” but not for much longer at this rate. And it could very well happen in Virginia too, if voters are foolish enough to elect Ken Cuccinelli, EW Jackson and Mark Obenshain this November. Let’s hope the (terrible) example of North Carolina will grab the attention of Virginia voters before they head to the polls on Nov. 5, 2013.