by Edwin Santana
The moment of truth had finally arrived. Democrats had been tested previously with Senator Al Franken and Representative John Conyers, but those were relatively easy cases. We had nothing to lose. Al Franken would be replaced by fellow Democrat Tina Smith, who cruised to victory in “blue” Minnesota last November, and no Democrat was going to lose the “deep-blue” seat in Detroit that Rep Conyers held.
But now, here in Virginia, we’ve been faced with a real challenge. What should Democrats do in a fraught time when there could be real electoral consequences? Sad to say, Democrats are doing nothing.
A lot of readers will throw their hands up and say, “Wait! The VA House Dems have called for Justin Fairfax to resign!” Except for one problem: it’s dereliction of duty to limit your actions to issuing statements when you have the ability to do more. Virginia Code clearly gives the House of Delegates the ability to investigate, hold hearings and compel witnesses to testify and provide evidence — yet Virginia House Dems have chosen to do none of those things.
Some Democrats hide behind their interpretation of Virginia Code, that supposedly impeachment is only for crimes committed while in office. In this case, I would say that rape counts as a high crime and misdemeanor, whether committed in office or a decade before, and for those who might think otherwise, let’s let the Virginia Supreme Court decide.
What’s worse is that Virginia Democrats have ceded the moral high ground on this issue. House and Senate Dems could have used their ability as legislators to hold hearings and to prove that we really do “believe women.” But they failed to do so. Instead, it’s gradually come out that behind the scenes, Democratic lawmakers have been stalling and ducking. In doing so, they’ve made a horrible situation worse, by allowing Republicans (of all people!) to claim that they too believe women and are actually going to act on it.
I follow politics closely, so I can easily see past these claims, but to someone not as interested in the goings-on in Richmond, this might be an effective message when all 100 House of Delegates seats and 40 State Senate seats are up for election this November.
Impeachment is not a criminal process, it’s a political one. Virginia Code allows for the impeachment of the Lieutenant Governor and other officers for malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crimes or MISDEMEANORS. The definition of a misdemeanor is a “minor wrongdoing.” I’d say that alleged rape/sexual assault more than meets the threshold for a minor wrongdoing and should be investigated.
As for the argument that this process should be carried out by law enforcement, that is a total cop-out, simply an attempt to punt the ball instead of doing the difficult work elected officials were sent to Richmond to do. On February 5th, I wrote an op-ed that called for Dems to step up and demand an investigation. In the 17 days since then, they have failed to do so and have only made things worse. Today, I renew my call that Virginia House Democrats demand an investigation into the serious allegations against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax and take appropriate actions once all the facts have been made available.