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Howell: Democrats can’t let Virginia become Texas

Howell: Democrats can’t let Virginia become Texas


With early voting well underway and the Nov. 2 election getting very close, Virginia Democrats must commit ourselves to getting out the vote and keeping Virginia Blue.

National Republicans who want something to brag about prior to next year’s midterm elections would love to see Glenn Youngkin win the governor’s race. Mainstream media would then interpret that to mean Democrats, and President Joe Biden, are in trouble for the 2022 midterms.

But not so fast. There’s every reason to believe that Virginia truly is a blue state. Through changing demographics that have made us more diverse, and in reaction to the horrors of Donald Trump, Democrats took control of the legislature in 2019, after impressive gains in 2017.

The benefits have been clear: We’ve raised the minimum wage, expanded Medicaid for thousands of Virginians, eliminated the death penalty, and stopped the “culture wars” so loved by Republicans.

Too many Republicans, even here in Virginia, are still beholden to the corrupt and seditious Trump, our worst president ever. They’ve attacked voting rights, mostly based on his “The Big Lie.” He did nothing less than try to steal an election he clearly lost. There was no widespread fraud.

Also, the party has simply not kept up with the changes in our country. Democrats look like America, with a wide array of racial and cultural diversity. Republicans? They look white and old; in danger of becoming a “rural only” party.

But if you want the most extreme and backward version of what the GOP stands for today, you only need to look at Texas.

Under Gov. Greg Abbott, who wants to be the next Trumpster president, Texas is passing mean-spirited, ultraconservative legislation that would probably even embarrass Barry Goldwater.

It started with a vicious assault on voting rights. If you see someone in Texas standing in line to vote, it’s against the law to offer them food or water. Mail-in balloting, ballot drop boxes, and even the days when you can vote early have all been curtailed.

Texas Republicans know that these laws are aimed at reducing the number of Democratic votes, especially in African-American communities. They know, too, that it has nothing to do with “election integrity,” and everything to do with the fear they have of minority voters in a state that may soon tip blue.

Then there’s the blatantly unconstitutional abortion law, a ban on abortion after just six weeks. The punitive law also empowers citizen “bounty hunters” who can sue anyone they believe has enabled an abortion in the state.

Again, it’s obviously unconstitutional, and may yet be thrown out by the Supreme Court. Abortion has long been a “culture war” obsession, even while opinion surveys have shown for decades that a majority of American favor legal abortion rights.

Yes, Texas today is the face of far-right extremism. But if Republicans could again take control of the legislature in Virginia, does anyone believe their agenda would be any different?

For example, their lieutenant governor nominee, Winsome Sears, has said that she’d favor the Texas abortion ban here. Democrats, by contrast, will protect that legal right.

Youngkin has tried to walk a political razor’s edge in his race for governor, currying favor with Trumpsters but trying not to turn off suburban women voters who helped turn this state blue.

But he can’t escape his statement that Trump “represents so many of the reasons I’m running for governor.” He also let it slip that he’d “go on the offensive” about abortion after he’s elected. Texas style?

Meanwhile, Terry McAuliffe is ready to be the governor he was before, when his veto pen stopped so much extreme GOP legislation. We have at least two Trumpster House candidates in our region, one of whom has said that she’d like to “privatize everything.”

Senior citizens on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security ought to be alarmed by that. They should also be comforted by the fact that Democrats in Virginia will work to protect the social safety net, and not turn it over to businessmen.

Yes, this election will be close for various reasons. But I exhort my fellow Democrats to close the enthusiasm gap and get excited about this campaign.

Vote early or vote on Nov. 2. But vote. Remember what we learned over the last few years: When we actually go to the polls, we win. Let’s keep it true in 2021.

Howell is a lifelong Democrat and labor activist. He lives in Roanoke.

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