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Del. Mark Levine: Democrats’ “Naivete Can Be Deadly,” in This Case on Amendment 1

"Is that why some of you are considering voting yes? Because you have blind faith in the inerrant goodness of today’s Republican Party?"


by Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria/Arlington)

How is it that Democrats always seem to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

The reason is simple: we trust people. Most of the people around us are good. We trust in democracy and believe our government can work. So we just don’t want to believe that some of our political opponents actually can be quite as malevolent as they are.

In sum, some of us so want to believe in good that we see good all around us, even when the evidence is overwhelming to the contrary. We think every judge is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, even though we know Ginsburg assuredly did not share the view that every judge was just like her.

Our naivete can be deadly. Nowhere should that be more clear than in the Trump Era of voter suppression, rigged-election schemes, lawlessness, poll taxes, and state violence.

Are you aware of Amendment 1? The constitutional amendment on your ballot to restrict to four party leaders and their appointees full power to draw all of Virginia’s districts and to give Republicans (and only Republicans!) the absolute power to redraw all of Virginia’s district lines with no standards and no review and no appeal? Those who support it say they do so because they always trust right-wing partisan conservative judges to do the right thing. And while some yes supporters are paid lobbyists, some of the yes voters are legitimately Democrats: good Democrats with infinite trust in others.

They just believe that people like Antonin Scalia or Roy Moore of Alabama put on a black robe and “poof”, like magic, suddenly all of their past partisan biases are dissolved into the ether. So they believe that among Virginia Supreme Court justices, a sister won’t favor her brother or that Ken Cuccinelli’s right-hand man won’t favor his boss. They hope that very conservative justices on the Virginia Supreme Court will magically transform themselves into fair umpires. They close their eyes and click their heels three times and pray, like Dorothy, everything will be OK.

Is that why some of you are considering voting yes? Because you have blind faith in the inerrant goodness of today’s Republican Party?

I truly hope the yes supporters are right to blindly trust Republicans and judges with the lives of 8 and a half million Virginians. I guess no one really minds a benevolent dictator that much.

But some of us just don’t trust enough in benevolent dictators to permanently give up our democratic rights. We prefer checks and balances. And we’re not willing to bet our entire future as Virginians on trusting a scorpion with a long history of always biting in the hope he won’t bite this time.

To be clear, I hope and pray the confidence the Yes voters have in Republican judges and politicians to always do good with the absolute and unchallengeable power Amendment 1 gives them (and only them) is correct. I, like them, wish all judges fairly called balls and strikes. I wish no judge ever undercut the basic pillars of our democracy. I wish likewise that Trump and McConnell are looking for “fair, impartial” justices. But do I believe it?

No. No, I don’t one bit. Do you?

I realize some Democrats must believe that moderate, middle-of-the-road judges like Merrick Garland or, in Virginia, Jane Marum Roush, were monsters, while Bill Barr is just an Attorney General trying to be fair. These are probably the same “Democrats” who promised us Trump would be “presidential” after he became president.

I would hope no one is still that naïve, though. Particularly after Republican judges stopped vote counting in Florida to select Bush as President, upheld poll taxes and other Jim Crow laws, fought hard to prevent restoration of ex-felons’ rights, suppressed mail-in voting, and, above all, always did and do their utmost to prevent Black people from ever casting a legal ballot.
Just understand, if you vote for Amendment 1:

— you give up the prospect of ever allowing an independent nonpartisan citizens’ commission that is not handpicked by legislative leaders, and
— you allow pure partisan ruthless political gerrymandering.
Maybe you’re fine with moving Virginia so far backwards and uprooting our new anti-gerrymandering law (HB1255) passed just this year just so long as it’s called “reform”?

But if you vote for Amendment 1 and Republicans permanently disenfranchise Virginia’s Democrats and Independents in a perpetual rule that can never be undone, don’t come to me and ask me what to do next. I will tell you that, as with Turkey and Russia, it is terribly difficult to bring back democracy once it is freely given away.

And when folks ask you why you’ve done it, you’ll know the person at fault is staring you in the mirror. If that happens, you will likely feel great shame. But don’t apologize then. Vote NO now!

I think we’ve worked far too long and too hard to give away our power as voters out of a pure, blind trust for people who’ve consistently violated our pure, blind trust in the past.
Democrats don’t let fellow Democrats vote to enshrine gerrymandering in the Virginia Constitution.

Democrats don’t let their fellow Democrats be tricked by the “lipstick on a pig” into giving Republicans permanent absolute power.

Democrats believe in fair districts. We don’t want Democratic gerrymandering. But even more so, we certainly don’t want the Republican gerrymandering that Amendment 1 systemically provides.

Democrats also are tired of systemic racism and believe that yet another system that does not guarantee Black Virginians a seat at the table can never be the right permanent solution.

P.S. A new poll shows that support for Amendment 1 has fallen below 50%. The more people know about it — and how it enshrines party control and gerrymandering and prevents reform – the more people dislike it. All we have to do is convince enough Democrats to vote no and we have the votes to stop this thing.

So if you agree with me, please spread the word on social media and in emails. And if you want to help in the effort to defeat Amendment 1, contact me. We could use your help at the polls!


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