Home Coronavirus Audio: Sen. Chap Petersen Says “People need to work in order to...

Audio: Sen. Chap Petersen Says “People need to work in order to eat”; Rips Chamber of Commerce, “Backlash” to Reopening by People “Prevalent on Social Media”

Petersen: "There's never been a risk-free moment in American history."; "I'm proud to be a Democrat; I see myself as more on the freedom, libertarian side"

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In recent weeks, we’ve posted several times about Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax)’s views regarding Virginia’s response to COVID-19. See, for instance:

Note that, based on recent nationa polling,  Sen. Petersen is definitely in the minority, particularly among Democrats – “only 20% of Democrats and 35% of independents support reopening in the next few weeks, 53% of Republicans do.” Also see this week’s Quinnipiac poll, which finds that “Three-quarters of voters (75 percent) say the country should reopen slowly, even if it makes the economy worse, while 21 percent say the country should reopen quickly, even if it makes the spread of the coronavirus worse.” Also in the Quinnipiac poll, the breakout among Democrats is 95% who believe “the country should reopen slowly, even if it makes the economy worse,” with just 4% believing that “the country should reopen quickly, even if it makes the spread of the coronavirus worse.” So…yeah, Sen. Petersen is really, really in the small minority among his fellow Democrats.

With that background, check out the following exchange between Sen. Petersen and right-wing radio host (and the Trump campaign’s 2016 Virginia chair) John Fredericks, in which Sen. Petersen seems to be getting increasingly frustrated, even angry, at the slow pace of “reopening,” both in Virginia as a whole and specifically in Northern Virginia.  Bolding added by me for emphasis. Needless to say, I don’t agree with Sen. Petersen on almost any of this, although he certainly has a point about “very large, Fortune 500 businesses that are, you know, working just fine and making money just fine” while small businesses are getting hammered. Still…to “reopen” prematurely continues to seem like a self-defeating proposition, because as Gov. Northam and many others have stated repeatedly, there won’t ultimately be a solution to our coronavirus-related economic problem without a solution, or at least a significant amelioration, of our COVID-19 problem. With that, here’s the exchange from earlier today:

Sen. Chap Petersen – “I’m not a medical doctor, but I’m a doctor of common sense. And as a doctor of common sense, I say look, people need to work in order to eat, and we need to eat in order to live. And people have to be working and we have to find a way for that to happen…It’s become darn near impossible to meet the…criteria that have been set out. I mean it’s like we’re programmed to fail

There’s never been a risk-free moment in American history. There’s just never been one. And you know, ironically, if you look at the founding of this country and when momentous events occurred – whether it’s a Revolutionary War, whether it’s Jamestown, whether it’s the Civil War, whether it’s the civil rights movement – these were not risk-free moments. These were moments when people stepped up, oftentimes in situations where you know, the experts would have said don’t step up. And you know that’s just how this country was founded, that’s our DNA as Americans, whether people have been in this country for, you know, several hundred years or just a dozen years, that at some point they decided to take a chance to come here. So, you know, I may be a lonely voice and I’m resigned to the fact that I’m in a sort of unpopular minority. But that’s fine. I just, I’ve been opposed to what I’ve seen going on for the past, certainly at least the last thirty days, and you know I’m trying to do what I can to help out as a private citizen, trying to do what I can to keep my own business going. And as a public official, I have spoken out. I’ve been chastised for speaking out and I’ll keep speaking out”

John Fredericks:  “To the governor’s defense, I mean he does this little teeny Phase 1 opening, little teeny opening…gotta eat outside, can’t play music on the beach, and then he gets a letter from the black legislative caucus accusing him of genocide, eugenics and making people of color economic guinea pigs. So, you know, he’s getting it from, Chap he’s getting it from all sides right.”

Sen. Chap Petersen: Right, and you know what John, it is ironic that, of course, I’m in Fairfax County where we were supposed to open on the 15th and there was this backlash – not by people that owned businesses, I can trust you that, but backlash by basically people that are sort of demanding that we stay shut, that are very prevalent on social media. And, you know, the County Board supervisors, the chairman of the most populous county, basically told the governor no we don’t want to open. And the Chamber of Commerce took zero role in actually advocating for businesses, mainly because the businesses they represent our very large, Fortune 500 businesses that are, you know, working just fine and making money just fine. And the ultimate irony is, John – and this is the part that nobody has been talking about, although I’ve tried to talk about it – is that the winners and the losers are so stark, that the winners are these huge retailers with an online presence  – the Targets, the Walmarts, the Amazons – and the small business, the small independent business, which…in my part of the state are….probably 70%-80% minority-owned, have been absolutely crushed. And they’re the ones that are going out of business and filing bankruptcy. And as a Democrat, I mean, I believe we need to respect people that work for a living and honor their labor and pay them fairly for their labor. But how can we do that if they can’t even open their damn business? So…again, I’m proud to be a Democrat; I see myself as more on the freedom, libertarian side of the Democratic Party, perhaps. That’s fine, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. But I will tell you, it’s frustrating for me as a businessman, and I’ve made a lifetime in representing small businesses and making sure they got a fair shake in the court system, to see them not being able to open or if they can open…for example, I’ve got auto body clients, they don’t have any business right now, because nobody’s on the road. And they just can’t…keep their workforce employed. It’s just not fair.”