Virginia Capitol Connections Winter 2022

Virginia Capitol Connections, Winter 2022 15 Opinion: Our Stormy Election By SCOTT LINGAMFELTER Last week I was at our river place—pronounced “riv’ah if you hail from Virginia’s Northern Neck — when a nor’easter struck with a vengeance. I stood by watching helplessly as the waves and wind whipsawed our pier, tearing away most of its decking, tossing it into the waiting swells of the Potomac River. The “river of swans”—as translated in the Algonquian tongue—had become a roiling river of swells. When the storm passed, the river was serene again, permitting me to see the damage clearly and to begin assessing the next steps. That’s the lot of pier owners, who must anticipate the day when they will survey the skeletal remains of a structure on which a grandchild fished or an old man sat reflecting on life while watching the days come and go. It strikes me that this is no different from watching an election. Elections can be storms, political ones where emotions, promises, half-truths, and accusations combine in a tempest before people go to the polls and settle the matter, once and for all. At least for a season. And once the election is concluded, the losers are left to lick their wounds while the victors lick their chops in anticipation of attaining power. The rest of us are then left wondering, “how long will the calm last?” It won’t last long. In a flash, political sides will divide and draw up in ranks to do battle over this or that policy. After all, we are a very divided nation and political battles will pierce the calm as surely as a storm can rise out of nowhere to float a pier away. Nonetheless, the calm is good, no matter how short-lived. It provides time for reckoning and reconsideration. Maybe even reforming. The fortunes of political parties rise and fall like the tides. But unlike the tides that are a function of nature, the ebb and flow of political tides are a function of temperaments and actions. If a party in power fails to do what people believe is in the best interest of all, it will be turned out and dispatched to the sidelines. We saw that in Virginia this week. Democrat James Carville diagnosed his party’s problem aptly. “What went wrong is stupid wokeness. Don’t just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island, Buffalo, look at Minneapolis, even look at Seattle, Washington. I mean this ‘defund the police’ lunacy, this takes Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools, people see that. And it really has a suppressive effect all across the country on Democrats. Some of these people need to go to a woke detox center or something.” Virginia voters are sending them there. They revolted against what they found to be revolting. There are few mistakes a political party can make that are worse than assuming that, when in power, they have the right to cement that power by any means. That’s not how republics work. The people will have their say, regardless of rogue school boards that insist on silencing the voices of outraged parents. The result? In Virginia, voters ushered in a new Governor and flipped control of the House of Delegates. It was a political tempest. Republicans are the latest beneficiary of changing political fortunes havingwon impressively thisweek across theCommonwealth of Virginia. Once thought a certified “blue” state controlled by Democrats, Virginia flashed “red” this week, signaling that change has arrived as suddenly as a pier swept from its moorings. But there are storms ahead, ones that could threaten this new Republican majority as certainly as they dislodged Democrats. Every party thinks that with victory they have the power to govern as they see fit. But therein lies the challenge. While parties must be mindful of what they have promised to do, they must do so wisely. In that regard, both the victor and vanquished should take the time to enjoy the calm and dispassionately survey the damage done in the most recent gale. In doing so, they will likely find a poignant lesson in avoiding the overreach that sets aflame the passions of voters against those in power. John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, also known as Lord Acton, put it best in 1887. “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The same is true of political parties that overreach. The art, therefore, is to keep one’s promises without being washed away by a storm of one’s own making. How? First, continue to dialogue with voters. Second, check in with them, humbly asking “do we have this right?” Third, avoid self-righteous actions that come with the power to settle political scores. If it feels really good, beware. You are about to be swept to sea or at least referred to a detox center. Scott Lingamfelter is a retired Virginia delegate who represented the 31st District from 2002-2018. He was an officer in the U.S. Army, reaching the rank of colonel. BERNIE HENDERSON President Emeritus Funeral Celebrant Phone: (804) 840-8586 Parking available adjacent to building Phone: 804-644-1702 FAX: 804-644-1703 E-Mail: Web Site: V