In the fall of 1969, I started my first job as a caseworker on Capitol Hill. Over the next 7½ years, some days were terrible, like the ones when I worked to return home for funeral services the bodies of loved ones who had died in Vietnam. Other days were memorable; I once flew to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to see the launch of an Apollo mission to the moon. And then there was the day I stood with other staffers in the back of a Senate Watergate hearing and realized Richard Nixon would not likely survive as president. I was not afraid. I was confident the country would weather the storm.
Public policy discussions were important. History was something people talked about. Collaboration was not a dirty word. Members on both sides of the aisle worked together to get things done for constituents back home.
Over the last five years, politics in this country has had almost nothing in common with what I experienced during my years as a congressional staffer. While it’s true that one political party — the Democrats — continues to pursue meaningful public policy, their efforts are blocked at every turn. The Republicans, on the other hand, don’t even pretend to have legislative solutions (unless you count tax cuts for the rich). In fact, they didn’t even bother to update the party platform for their presidential candidate in 2020.
In the Virginia governor’s race, we are seeing this dynamic play out in rather predictable ways. Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate, has focused on health care, education, good-paying jobs and clean energy opportunities. Months ago, Mr. McAuliffe told us exactly how he planned to accomplish his goals. Meanwhile, Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate, has bobbed and weaved his way through this election process, pretending to be a man of the people and refusing to acknowledge his tight connection with, and fealty to, Donald Trump. He talks about creating great schools, fighting crime and tackling inflation, but his campaign website has produced no plans to accomplish anything. Adding insult to injury, at a recent Youngkin rally with Donald Trump, attendees applauded an American flag flown during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and it became the backdrop for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
In recent years, Virginia has moved out of the Dark Ages and into the light. Installing Glenn Youngkin as Virginia’s governor would take us back in time and substitute progress on real people’s issues with a lot of dog whistles and very little meaningful action.
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