Only time will tell how deep the seeds of distrust have been sown between Virginia’s two main parties after Republicans in the Virginia Senate “rammed through” House Bill 259 in the absence of one crucial Democratic Senator, Henry L. Marsh, who was attending President Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington D.C.
What was the most disturbing aspect of the Republican Party’s underhanded power-grab was the devious and premeditated nature of their move. According to Virginia Sen. Phillip Puckett, “It will wipe out at least four, but maybe as many as six or seven Democratic senators and I’m one of them. It’s obvious to us that it was not something that was drawn up over night.”
Thus, the cynicism and underhandedness of the Republican move in the Senate was unexpected even in these bitterly partisan times when almost any political move seems possible.
The Republicans in Virginia once again demonstrated their willingness to break with the past and use any legislative means necessary to protect and extend their power. That’s just politics, you may be thinking. But it’s not just politics, it’s the Republican brand of politics, the kind of politics that revels in its supposedly Machiavellian worldview, a politics whose only bounds are those of defeat. Rules are just tools to be reworked to your advantage.
But the Democratic Party is foolish if it believes that its political strategy of high-mindedness will defeat Republicans come election time or during the General Assembly. Which isn’t to say that the Democrats should stop playing the role of the ‘pure party’. It is to argue that Democrats should be willing to get into the mud with the Republican Party when the context justifies such a political move.
It is difficult for liberals to take the Republican Party low-road, to be sure. Sometimes, however, you have to fight fire with fire or risk political irrelevancy or total political destruction.