Old Dominion, New Dynamics

Editorial: Congressional district maps and candidates remain in limbo | Opinion | dailylocal.comHistory suggests that Virginia was named for the “Virgin Queen” Elizabeth I (d. 1603), while its nomination as “Old Dominion” is said to have arisen from Charles II’s (d. 1685) reign emphasizing a relationship with the English monarchy. Today, Virginia’s or the Old Dominion’s metamorphosis from pre- and post-colonial times can only be measured in light years.

The Commonwealth (also an archaic appellation) is currently a reflection of the economic prosperity and effects of two centuries of immigration as that experienced in virtually every state of the union. While history also painfully records the state’s attachment and fealty to slavery and a civil war, it nonetheless is and has undergone a process of change that mirrors that of allusions to American exceptionalism. From a political perspective, that dynamic change is reflected, in some respects, in the current slate of candidates for election to the House of Delegates of the General Assembly and, to a lesser degree, the candidates for statewide offices.

A record number of candidates from both parties have qualified for election this November for the Virginia House of Delegates. 

The November 2021 contest between Democrats and Republicans also promises to be a bellwether of the choices facing the nation. The political ether is awash with issues related to “election integrity” and the security of the voting process. Hysteria and conspiracy theories have gripped many across the country, leading to questionable legislation to correct alleged deficiencies. A record number of candidates from both parties have qualified for election this November for the Virginia House of Delegates. 

The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) produced the visual image below portraying the dynamics of the contests for the House of Delegates. 

                Line chart showing number of house candidates per year with 2021 having record high numbers of candidates                                               

Every two years since 2015,  as the visual indicates, Virginia Democrats have mounted a significant resurgence of effort to secure a legislative majority.  At the same time, voters are witnessing broad political propaganda and attacks somehow intended to be informative. For the most part, these slings and arrows of outrageous fortune accrue to and are advocated from the right end of the spectrum. A brief snapshot of a few provides a type of visual.

–In Fairfax County, a GOP committee email to its members promotes a “free the political prisoners” rally for individuals arrested in connection with the January 6 incident at the Capitol;

–The state GOP issued a letter of demand that UVA initiate an investigation into Twitter commentary by political analyst Larry Sabato critical of P45;

–County school boards are being inundated with protests against critical race theory (CRT) alleged to be included in curricula and characterized as Communist Political Takeover;

–The GOP candidate for governor declined to debate the Democratic candidate, alleging that the debate moderator had made a $250 donation a decade earlier to the Clinton Foundation’s Haiti relief fund where the Dem candidate had been a board member;

–While the state’s GOP voting base is characterized as pro-life, the gubernatorial candidate on a secretly taped video indicated reluctance to make his views public;

–P45 publicly endorsed the GOP gubernatorial candidate but the endorsement was not widely publicized.

At this point, it is not unfair to describe the VA Republican campaign and candidates for office as surrounded by political currents in the national background that have invaded the state contests. Again, the results of the large number of local contests for the 100 delegate slots is likely to offer a prismatic view of the 2022 and, in part, 2024 elections.

The House of Delegates is presently divided 55 Dems to 45 Republicans. If the Democrats continue their success in capturing statewide offices, the House majority margin is likely to remain Blue. A reversal of the House majority would be stunning and represent a signal of potential GOP success in other states. Further in the background, political fortunes for both parties will be affected by any actions of Congress in adopting voting rights legislation to counter the hysteria and conspiracy effects of the “big lie.”

As one of only two states with elections this year (the other being New Jersey), the Commonwealth of Virginia may be a harbinger of the larger national context beginning in 2022. Up to this point, the Old Dominion has resembled, not only the evolution in Southern political fortunes, but been at the point of the evolution in national politics. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 



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