Sunday, January 12, 2014

McAuliffe Maneuvers to Cast the GOP as the "Party of No"

Despite the good feelings - at least among rational, equality supporting people - from yesterday's inaugural events in Richmond, the newly sworn in Democrat leaders will face a huge obstacle: the House of Delegates controlled by GOP extremists who take their marching orders from the theocrats and racists at The Family Foundation.  Some of the GOP delegates are so extreme that it's a wonder they do not come to the General Assembly garbed in KKK sheets and hoods.  Understanding this reality, Terry McAuliffe has begun to frame the debate to depict the Virginia GOP as the "party of no."  The Washington Post looks at McAuliffe's positioning.  Here are excerpts:

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s emphasis on bipartisanship in his inaugural address Saturday had the convenient, partisan effect of giving him the upper hand, at least temporarily, over his Republican adversaries in Richmond.

The speech, not soaring but smartly written, included more than a dozen appeals to finding “common ground” or otherwise setting politics aside for the greater good. It reinforced the message sent with McAuliffe’s selection of a moderate, diverse Cabinet, in which he retained his Republican predecessor’s secretaries of health, agriculture and finance.

In addition, McAuliffe (D) adopted the shrewd strategy of using noncontroversial, mainstream arguments to push for liberal measures. For him, expanding Medicaid and guaranteeing equal rights for gays aren’t ideological causes. They’re necessary to attract business and create jobs.

The net result is to create headaches for the Virginia GOP. If McAuliffe can avoid overreaching, then the Republicans would risk being labeled obstructionists if they resist his agenda.

The GOP can easily block him if it chooses, because it enjoys a large majority in the House of Delegates. But gridlock would surely alienate Virginia voters, who don’t want Richmond to resemble Washington.

“We definitely understand we don’t want to be the ‘party of no,’ ” said a Republican legislative source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because relations with the new governor are delicate.

McAuliffe has been remarkably quick to seize an advantage, at least stylistically. Who would have thought a former Democratic National Committee chairman with no experience in Richmond would need only a few weeks to lay claim to standing for “the Virginia Way” of civility and bipartisanship?

[L]ooking at three main issues likely to dominate the session, McAuliffe starts with advantages on each.

Everybody seems to agree that the two parties will agree this session on tightening state ethics laws and improving mental-health services.

[T]he Democrats have an edge here because the issue arose owing to the scandal over gifts to former governor Bob McDonnell (R) and his family.

The Democrats also have the No. 1 advocate for mental-health reforms in Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath). He suffered a horrible personal tragedy when he was stabbed by his mentally disturbed son, who then committed suicide.

The GOP is determined to draw the line against accepting about $2 billion a year in federal money under President Obama’s health-care law to extend insurance to about 400,000 low-income Virginians.

McAuliffe is equally determined to push the issue, partly because it was a core promise of his campaign.
Although Obama’s health reforms are generally unpopular now, the governor has powerful allies. The state’s chambers of commerce and hospitals favor Medicaid expansion, because they don’t want to turn away money there for the asking.  McAuliffe was careful in the inaugural to back Medicaid expansion as a plus for economic development, saying twice it would help create jobs.

A major mystery now is how much energy McAuliffe will commit to seeking advances for immigrants, gay equality and women’s reproductive rights. He hinted in the speech that he’d be pushing on all those fronts, but how far will he go?  . . . . But public sentiment in Virginia has been moving in McAuliffe’s direction on such issues, and the Republican legislative leadership would prefer to avoid stirring up interest in some of them.

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