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2013’s highlight: Painting Virginia Blue!

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By Rick Howell

Virginia is a blue state now
It’s glorious for Democrats to be able to state that as simply as noting the color of the sky or the sea.
    Yes, with the Democratic sweep of the 2013 statewide elections, the “Old Dominion” is officially transformed. As I’ve said previously, this isn’t your grandaddy’s Virginia.
    With the sweep confirmed last week, state Democrats will now hold both U.S. Senate seats, and all three statewide offices of governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.
    A lot of Democrats across the state have worked hard for a long time for this, but they’ve been helped along the way by a stubborn, ultra-conservative state Republican party that either can’t figure out the new realities or chooses to ignore them.
    New evidence of that was provided last week by state party chair Pat Mullins, who had just led his GOP over an electoral cliff by serving up the extremist likes of Ken Cuccinelli, E. W. Jackson, and, yes, Mark Obenshain, too.
    After the recount that not only confirmed Democrat Mark Herring’s victory, but actually widened his margin, Mullins lectured Herring over his new responsibilities: “You have won by only the barest of margins … make sure you enforce all the laws of Virginia, not just the ones you like.”
    That’s precisely the kind of self-righteous arrogance we’ve come to expect from these extremist Republicans. Mullins should be reminded that if Cuccinelli had run the attorney general’s office the way he should have – not as a “tea party” headquarters – his boy might be the governor-elect now.
    Expect the number of Republicans in this state who want to reform their party to grow; after all, they’re not all wingnuts. Perhaps they should start at the top and send Pat Mullins packing.
    A key component of the Democratic success here has been the political activism of young people, who, with new forms of media, are clued in to political action faster and more effectively.
    Many of these youth are immigrants, or the children of immigrants. They didn’t learn racism, sexism, or religious fanaticism from their elders, the way so many baby boomers did. Thus, they vote Democratic and progressive.
    It’s become a cliché by now, but it’s still true: There is no future for Republicans if their only constituency is “old white guys.”
    My favorite moment of the governor’s race happened in Blacksburg at the last debate, which I attended. Cuccinelli was ranting on about Terry McAuliffe’s “F” rating from the NRA, the blood-drenched gun lobby.
    When it was his turn to respond, McAuliffe looked right at the camera and said, “I don’t care what my NRA rating is.” That was surely a breakthrough moment in Virginia politics, one that bodes well for the future.
    If that was a highlight of the year – and it was – I’m afraid one of the year’s lowlights, as it were, occurred right here in my beloved Bedford County (for which my heart mourns on a regular basis).
    County supervisors voted to request that the state legislature allow teachers here to carry guns in school, a remarkably stupid idea. Such an action is wrong on many levels, with so many unintended consequences that would make schools a very unsafe  place.
    Thankfully, it is highly unlikely such a thing will be allowed. But to even suggest it shows a misguided faith in the idea that the answer to gun violence is more guns, not less.
    There was one supervisor who voted against it, probably dooming her chances at re-election. That’s a tough stance to take in a place where, sadly, gun worship is all the rage.
    So, out with the old and in with the new. Merry Christmas; Happy New Year, God Bless.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at RickDem117@gmail.com.