Virginia’s senate Republicans play hardball


Virginia's Capitol Building in Richmond. File photo. Virginia’s Capitol Building in Richmond. File photo.

It says a great deal about the current state of Virginia’s body politic that some idiot with a loaded AR-15 walks into a local Kroger and it barely rates a mention. Indeed, as much as we would like to pen an entire column dedicated to the minuscule size of this particular individual’s brain and manhood, we have bigger fish to fry.

And those fish, if you haven’t been paying attention, all currently reside on the Republican side of the aisle in Virginia’s State Senate.

The latest mishegoss started all the way back on Martin Luther King Day, when Virginia’s Senate Republicans used the absence of Senator (and noted civil rights lawyer) Henry Marsh, who was in Washington, D.C. for President Obama’s inauguration, to ram through a partisan redistricting scheme that cynically used the creation of a new majority black district to tilt the rest of the Commonwealth’s districts even more in the Republicans’ favor.

Now, the last time a state legislature successfully steamrolled the opposition to push through a partisan mid-decade redistricting was in 2003, when Texas Republicans—under the leadership of eventual “Dancing with the Stars” dropout and convicted felon Tom DeLay—redrew the Lone Star state’s districts to heavily favor team red.

But Virginia’s newly frisky Republican senators weren’t content to stop there. Two days after approving the redistricting plan, the elephants advanced a bill that would end Virginia’s winner-take-all electoral voting system and replace it with a scheme that would award one electoral vote for each district won, and then grant the remaining two electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate had carried the most districts.

As many people have noted, this cockamamie plan, combined with the newly drawn district lines, would make it almost impossible for a Democrat to win a majority of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes. In fact, had the proposed system been in place last year, President Obama would have received only four electoral votes despite winning 51 percent of the popular vote. (Incredibly, as pointed out by Paul Bibeau on his blog Goblinbooks, this crazy state of affairs would have resulted in Obama votes being worth approximately 3/5 of their true value. Sound familiar?)

The question is, will any of this extreme legislative action actually make it to Governor McDonnell’s desk? And if it does, will he sign it? As of this writing, things are not looking good for the GOP’s scheming senators. The electoral college reapportionment bill is dead in the water, and the redistricting plan is facing a number of hurdles in the House, where the Republican majority has been continually delaying action as members review the changes.

And even if it does make it out of the House, there’s still no guarantee that McDonnell will sign off on it. He’s already on record calling the shady senate machinations “very troubling,” while his second in command, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, is openly hostile to the legislation.

But the biggest problem may be that Virginia’s legislature doesn’t have a single, larger-than-life figure who can cajole, bully, and threaten his colleagues into passing truly unconscionable bills. Man, where’s Tom DeLay when you need him?

Oh yeah, that’s right: He’s on his way to prison.