These days after Election Day are truly the days that Virginia Democrats can celebrate our surprising and gratifying election results. However, I caution my HOD colleagues to moderate their urges to dance in the end zone. Democrats in Virginia certainly have “caught the wind beneath our wings!” But, we need to reject the delusion that we manufactured that wind.
The 2017 Democratic slate of 88 candidates — 41 women! — and their staffs worked furiously in these campaigns, suspending personal lives and accumulating massive sleep deficits. Our thousands of grassroots volunteers – including many from outside Virginia – touched millions of voters on the phone, via email and knocking on doors. Bravo! This work was certainly necessary to achieve our 16 or 17 seat gain in the House, as well as our statewide win. But, we need to be clear that the tempest surrounding the sad Imposter in the White House is the proximate cause of this disastrous result for Virginia Republicans. We needed the hundreds of thousands of “resist” votes.
It is vital that Virginia Democrats across the Commonwealth understand the significant moving parts in this election cycle. Yes, the swing in HOD seats is the largest swing since 1899. But this result should not be interpreted as a mandate for the party to lean in, a la Bernie Sanders, to deliver sweeping change. “Elections have consequences” is a frighteningly simplistic cliché. In Washington, Republicans have used this justification to support the exclusion of Democrats from the legislative process. I’m not sure if the tribal level of partisanship we have reached is a cause or a result of opportunistic power grabs, but the level of hostility belies the argument that the end justifies the means. I suggest to both sides that the Golden Rule is pragmatic as well as idealistic.
For me, one of the most crucial current differences between Democratic and Republican principles is the understanding of the value of community investment. Judging by results, the Republican party sees community as the sum total of individual decisions, free of government’s coercive powers. Cutting taxes is always good. Government’s main role is to keep us safe, inside and outside of the country, and gets in the way of anything else.
The Democratic party sees community as a storehouse of collective values – basically, human rights – as well as physical and institutional infrastructure that is passed on generation to generation.. Remember the Republican fury at President Obama’s comment: You didn’t build that. He meant: on your own. I believe government’s responsibility extends beyond equal opportunity to equal equity. Government makes valuable, independent contributions to the community through efficient investment, including when needed, redistribution of income, e.g. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education.
As a result of advocating a generally larger role for government, Democrats should take on greater accountability for oversight of the government enterprises. We have to enforce transparency, efficiency and effectiveness. This will always be a challenge, though Virginia is fortunate to have a strong foundation of competent governmental operations. Democrats must demonstrate leadership, effective governance and patience to meet the challenge stemming from this philosophical framework.
As effective leaders, we have to reach all Virginians, respecting different views and finding ways to reconcile them. Effective governance in 2017 demands more proactive and interactive communications with a wider range stakeholders than ever before. One of the chief grievances I hear is citizens feel ignored. That burden will be on us, no excuses. Finally, I advise my fellow Democratic Delegates, including the many energetic newcomers, to see patience as a virtue, not as a lack of conviction.
Meaningful change is difficult, no matter how urgent. I believe that the most effective way forward is to pave common ground.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected]