Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Virginia GOP Remains Obsessed with God, Guns, Gays and Social Issues

While the Virginia General Assembly did manage to confirm the judicial appointment of an openly gay judge - without much GOP support it should be noted - yesterday, that may have been the high water point for the Virginia GOP in terms of any future looking policies and actions.  Instead, and despite promises that it would not repeat last year's circus like extravaganza of batshitery, the Virginia GOP seems headed right back into the social issues swamp as it again swears fealty to the far right and religious extremists.  Virginia's real needs will again be ignored as the Virginia GOP seeks to drag Virginia back to the 1950's if not the 1850's.  A column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch - one of Virginia's more reactionary newspapers - looks at the unfolding asylum that is today's Virginia GOP. Here are highlights:

On the first day of the first full week of the 2013 General Assembly — in a span of about eight hours — Virginia Republicans juggled, shuffled and bungled their way through three issues that are aligning to further damage the party’s brand: gays, guns and the state’s changing demographics.

This from the same party whose legislative leaders, among them House Speaker Bill Howell of Stafford, predicted that Republicans would avoid this year the hot-button stuff that last year reduced them to a punch line.

With apologies to Marx — Karl, not Groucho — history is repeating itself. First, it was a tragedy. Now, it’s a farce. 

The more Republicans say they want to talk about issues of concern to all Virginians, such as transportation, education and the economy, the more they get bogged down on issues of concern to their Virginians: conservatives whose voting power is magnified by partisan redistricting and low-turnout elections.

Though Tracy Thorne-Begland would be approved Tuesday for a Richmond judgeship by a House that had rejected the openly gay former prosecutor last year, some GOP delegates insisted Monday on reprising their claim that his sexual orientation would somehow color his conduct in deciding traffic cases, shoplifting and other misdemeanors.

“Advocating for homosexual behavior, which violates at least four millennia of Western moral teaching, undermines the natural traditional family and does not serve the public good,” Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William, the legislature’s pre-eminent gay-basher, said in an email urging the House to again turn down Thorne-Begland.

Some Republicans, in particular those running statewide, were more than happy to oblige Marshall. After all, hostility for homosexuals is a non-negotiable demand among the activists who control the GOP’s caucus-and-convention nominating process.

Then, there is the GOP attempt at catch-up in the post-Newtown gun debate.  On Monday, Gov. Bob McDonnell convened for the first time a 45-member task force to consider ways to strengthen school safety and mental health care. It has barely two weeks to craft recommendations that McDonnell might press the General Assembly to adopt before the session’s close.  McDonnell may have had the best of intentions in initiating the study, but the panel’s work is likely to be overshadowed by the conversation Republicans can’t have: that because of the composition of the GOP coalition, even a modest tightening of Virginia’s firearms laws is out of the question.

Legislative Republicans are resisting the mildest effort by McDonnell to protect them from themselves: specifically, accelerating the process for restoring voting rights of nonviolent felons who have completed their penalties. McDonnell wants to make it automatic, ending an autocratic practice under which the governor decides to whom the vote is re-extended.  Republicans killed the McDonnell-backed proposal in a House subcommittee. They opposed it in a Senate panel.

On both sides of the state Capitol, Republicans refuse to concede what President Barack Obama’s repeat here in November made clear: that a state where political tensions were once black-white is now multihued; that in acknowledging Virginia’s diversity at its polls and in its prisons, there are friends to be made.  And maybe votes to be gained.

The GOP in its current incarnation needs to die because it now comprises the biggest obstacle to the future of Virginia and the nation's future, both economically and socially.  Gays, women, minorities and those who value logic and reason should hope that this death comes sooner rather than later.

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