Think tomorrow’s election is a referendum on the Trump presidency? Hell yes it is! Virginia isn’t the bellwether state for nothing. Just as the massive wins for Virginia Democrats in 2017 predicted (or, as I believe, inspired and in part caused) the 2018 Congressional pickups by Democrats, a big win for Virginia Democrats tomorrow will send a signal heard all over the country that the power of people is greater than any person in power.
That’s important, but perhaps just as important is what tomorrow’s election means for hard-working Virginians. Richmond has seen the same kind of obstruction to progress on issues of vital importance that voters overwhelmingly agree with regardless of party. Here’s a short list off the top of my head of a few things that are at stake tomorrow:
- Universal Background Checks: 94% of Virginians support universal background checks—NINETY-FOUR PERCENT! That includes 90% of Republicans! They had two chances this year to give any serious consideration to this and other gun violence preventative legislation. First, during the regular session they quickly dismissed every single bill to protect Virginians from gun violence. Then, in a special session called by Governor Northam, the Republicans shut down the meetings in less than 90 minutes, without even taking up a single piece of legislation for consideration. This has clearly become a 100% partisan issue for the General Assembly. No amount of negotiating, or “working across the aisle” is going to lead to results.
- Reproductive Freedom: According to the criminal code of Virginia, Virginia restricts legal access to abortions by requiring “informed written consent,” and requiring women to undergo an ultrasound at least 24 hours before an abortion is performed. Additionally, there are restrictions on whether the ACA will cover the procedure, whether the insurance of public employees will cover it, whether public funding will cover it; and lastly, abortion access is especially restricted by regulations making it more difficult for clinics to stay open. And Republicans want to make it even harder: Republican Delegate Bob Thomas (R-28) stated on the John Fredericks radio show earlier this year that he doesn’t think the Alabama “heartbeat bill” goes too far, and that if Republicans take control of the Governor’s mansion and the General Assembly, he’d bring just such a bill here. Despite that 73% of Americans thinking Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, and 67% thinking that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. The best way to protect your choice, your freedom to control your own health care decisions, is to vote in pro-choice legislators.
- Voting Rights: Why is it so hard to vote in Virginia? Because we have restrictive voting laws! Things like the number of days prior to an election that voters can register, restrictions on voter registration, voter ID laws, restricting absentee voting, and limiting the number of polling stations make it hard—and expensive for low-income folks—to vote in Virginia. What’s at stake this election is not just what legislation the upcoming General Assembly will pass, it’s how fair the 2020 national elections will be, how easy it will be to vote for our next Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General in 2021, etc. Voting November 5th is like wishing for more wishes!
- Equal Rights for Women (ERA): 81% of Virginians support ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. EIGHTY-ONE PERCENT. Yet, in the 2018 session, Senate Republicans, killing the resolution, didn’t even have the courage to have their vote on whether women should be guaranteed equal rights in the constitution recorded! And again in 2019, House Republicans fought to keep from having a floor vote on it.
- Stopping Climate Destruction: The time for action on climate change is yesterday! So here in Virginia we…can’t seem to pass any kind of mandatory renewables portfolio standard to force utilities to commit to some sort of goal for how much energy is from renewable sources like solar and wind. Or pass an energy efficiency standard forcing utilities to meet goals for energy saving. Or pass a bill that loosens up regulatory obstacles to encourage greater use of rooftop solar, let alone a bill to incentivize rooftop solar. We can’t pass a bill to stop building more fossil fuel projects! Why? Because the Virginia GOP would rather fear monger about huddling around in darkness than engage in any serious conversation about how to address climate change.
- A Welcoming Virginia: Last session, a bill to create a new driver’s privilege card that would allow undocumented immigrants to legally drive in Virginia, impacting the lives of over 250,000 estimated immigrants, improving public safety (since legal drivers will have insurance and pass driver’s tests) and adding to the budget of Virginia (the driver’s privilege card would only be available to those who are paying income tax in Virginia), died on a party-line vote, with no explanation whatsoever, in front of a room full of supporters. Meanwhile, year after year they push forward dog whistle sanctuary city legislation that “prevents localities from enacting laws that restrict enforcement of federal immigration laws.” Which anyone can tell you localities are already prevented from doing. This is not how to create a welcoming Virginia.
- Fight for $15: Virginia’s minimum wage is set at the federal minimum–$7.25 an hour. By comparison, a living wage for a single adult with no children is estimated to be over $14 an hour. Democrats in the legislature have repeatedly sponsored bills to raise the minimum a little, raise the minimum a lot, raise the minimum gradually, raise it quickly, allow locality-adjusted minimum wages. Republicans have blocked every one of these bills. It is beyond time we elected legislators who will fight for hard-working Virginians, to make sure they can put food on the table, pay their bills, and not work three jobs just to pay rent.
- LGBTQ Rights: 70% of the population supports explicitly writing in protections for LGBTQ persons from discrimination into law. That includes 55% of Virginia Republicans who think it should be illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ persons in housing, and 59% who think it should be illegal in public employment. But in the 2019 session, Speaker Cox (R-66) first let bills to ban such discrimination languish in his Rules Committee, and then referred them to the General Laws Committee, chaired by Delegate Chris Peace (R-97), where they… sat. The committee met, considered a number of other bills, but left bills to ban public employers and landlords from discriminating against LGBTQ persons sitting on the table without a discussion, without a vote. Don’t forget, Virginia is only a few years removed from its “bathroom bill” that would have discriminated against transgender people by letting the government tell people which bathroom they were permitted use, and requiring school principals to notify parents if a student wanted to be called by particular pronouns or use a different bathroom. We’ve tried working across the aisle to produce bipartisan results on issues that Virginians agree on, regardless of party affiliation. But the Virginia GOP isn’t interested in that. So now it’s time to vote them out of office.
Not one of these issues is some crazy, radical policy idea. Rather, these are things that large majorities of voters, even often Republican voters, agree with. VAGOP legislators have adopted the most extreme policy positions, and have used the tool of the majority as a weapon to ignore the will of the Virginia voters! It is time to vote them out and show Virginia what Democrats will do with the majority! Vote tomorrow like the rights and well-being of yourself, your children, your friends and family, your neighbors, and even those of somebody in the Commonwealth who you don’t even know, are at stake, because they are.