What will happen if Republicans take back the Virginia State Senate on November 8? I’ve thought about this question off and on (mostly off) for the past few months, and I still haven’t reached any firm conclusions. However, with a definite possibility (30%? 40%? higher?) of that actually happening in 5 weeks, I thought it might be worth throwing out a few thoughts and opening it up for discussion.
1. One thing is clear: a Republican takeover of Virginia’s government, with no checks or balances on them to speak of, would be extremely bad news for Virginians. Extremely bad news, that is, unless you’re a wealthy, white, male Virginian (or a big, powerful corporation). But for the remaining 95%-99% of us, it could get really ugly.
2. The only question is how far right wing an agenda the Teapublicans would push, whether on LGBT rights, women’s reproductive freedoms (and you thought shutting down abortion clinics was bad…), gun laws (see here for more on that subject), immigration laws (Arizona and/or Alabama here we come?!?), crazy federalist stuff like teahadist Jim LeMunyon’s radical “REPEAL” amendment, trashing Virginia’s environment, etc., etc. In short, if Republicans win the State Senate on November 8, 2012 and 2013 could truly be horrible years to be a Virginian.
3. Would a far-right-wing lurch by Virginia Republicans tarnish Bob McDonnell’s utterly-false-yet-ubiquitous “moderate” image, potentially making him less appealing as a national figure (although paradoxically making him more appealing among the teahadist base)? Would McDonnell try to rein in a Republican-controlled General Assembly, would he encourage them, would he hide under his desk, or what?
4. Would a far-right-wing lurch by Virginia Republicans cause their approval ratings among Virginia independent voters to plummet (for possible analogies, see Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and other states where something like this has happened), potentially increasing Barack Obama’s and Tim Kaine’s chances of winning Virginia in 2012? Would this effect carry over into 2013, making it more likely that Democrats would make big gains, including possibly taking back the governor’s mansion, that year? In sum, would a far-right-wing lurch by Virginia Republicans next year, if they are not restrained by a Democratic-controlled State Senate any longer, hurt their electoral chances in Virginia and actually help Democrats in 2012 and 2013?
5. The bottom line for me is that, purely as a partisan Democrat, I actually can see upsides to Republicans taking back the State Senate, for the reasons listed above. However, as a Virginian, I only see downsides, at least in the short term. The question is, would the short-term downsides (and possibly longer-lasting damage) be “worth it,” if they were compensated for by the long-term destruction of the Republican “brand” in Virginia, by Barack Obama and Tim Kaine winning in 2012, by Democrats taking back the governor’s mansion (and gaining multiple seats in the House of Delegates) in 2013, etc? That’s a tough call, and it’s highly tempting. In the end, though, I come down to fighting the battle at hand and to avoiding the “known known” disaster in the short term, which a Republican takeover of the State Senate almost certainly would be.
What do you think? Feel free to weigh in. Thanks.