Saturday, November 19, 2011

Will Virginia See a Renewed GOP Extremism?

As noted in the previous blog, Russia appears to be heading into an anti-gay jihad with its bans on the "propaganda of homosexuality." Will Virginia see something similar now that the Democrats have lost control of the Virginia senate? Things are already hostile enough for LGBT Virginians, but with Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli and Lt. Governor Bill Bolling headed towards a contest of who can be more batshit crazy and reactionary (which will no doubt include anti-gay rhetoric), things may get even worse. Paul Goldman, a former chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, has a piece in Blue Virginia that looks at the extremism that may well sweep over Virginia as Kookinelli and Bolling launch their personal agendas to appeal to the foulest and most unhinged elements of the Republican Party of Virginia. I hope that Goldman is correct that these agendas will result in a backlash come 2013, if not before. Here are some highlights:

For most of the state's history, the AG's office was part-time, basically issuing legal opinions requested by local officials and taking care that no one in state government, much less the judiciary, might render some form of deed or action which questioned the legality, indeed the morality, of the state's infamous "Black Codes", the statutory basis of segregation.

Except when an AG got crosswise with either the sitting Governor or saw a good political opportunity to boost their future chances of being Governor, they mostly stayed out of the line of political fire, content to do their jobs and concentrate on how to move up the ladder.

Then came Ken [Cuccinelli]. From the moment he took office, KC and his not-so-Sunshine Band decided to go places AG's just had not gone before, even when pushed. Where other AG's had invariably waited to be asked for an opinion, Mr. Cuccinelli decided to skip the middle man and put pen to paper, starting with his letter saying however noble the intention, our colleges and universities didn't have the power to offer gay or other students any more legal protections than authorized by the General Assembly.

Soon his office was in hot pursuit of all things deemed to be Un-Cuccinelli. . . . . In a bold political move never tried, much less contemplated by a Virginia AG, the "Cooch" stiff-armed all the other state's attorneys general by filing his own suit against what he called "Obamacare," or I suppose "Obamaromneycare" in his eyes. KC found a friendly local U.S. District Court Judge, and before long, Mr. Cuccinelli had drawn first blood as Judge Henry Hudson gave Virginia's AG a big legal win, at least headline wise.

For the first time in Virginia's history, the Office of Attorney General had become a mini-governor in the legal realm, seeking out never-ending dragons of liberalism, even worse moderation, to slay. He became a conservative talk show guest icon, seemingly spending more time on the Fox channel and other such broadcasters of the true faith than with his family (or his job).

Given this reality - and Mr. Cuccinelli's attendant popularity in the GOP base - it perhaps was only a matter of time before rival Bill Bolling decided he needed to up the level of his game. . . . Bolling's advisors, Boyd Marcus and Ray Allen, don't scare from a fight. So they have convinced the LG to do something never before tried in state history: turn the LG into the second most powerful person in Virginia politics.

In a flip-flop that would make Mitt Romney blush, Mr. Bolling has gone from crying "foul" to "fair" when it comes to the constitutional power of the LG to....well... be amazingly powerful. Suddenly, contrary to what the GOP said only a few years ago, they now find the constitutional power to treat the LG as effectively a member of the Senate, sort of Super Senator despite direct language of the Constitution and several previous AG opinions.

In terms of practical, raw, political power, this means the 20 GOP Senators, as a block, will vote to give themselves all the power they legally can take and want, knowing such a move will at worst produce a 20-20 tie vote, leaving the matter to the tender mercies of the LG's decision. Presto! Suddenly, Bill Bolling, a man only moments ago with a small gavel like every previous LG, will suddenly wield the Hammer of Thor. As long as the 20 Republican Senators stick together, Bill Bolling gets to decide on the fate of legislation Democrats believe will turn Virginia from mainstream to extreme.

Bill and Kenny - their rivalry has led them to redefine their offices in some measure due to a desire to show the GOP faithful who is the true conservative change maker, willing to break the old rules to establish the new Kingdom. Governor McD has used the old traditions to try to become a new national conservative who can be trusted with the VEEP's job. But his two running buddies have chosen, as Robert Frost might have said, the Road Not Taken.

But you say: "Paul, the GOP will go crazy." If they do, then get ready for the 2013 backlash. Truth is, the first casualty of which could be Governor McDonnell, whose national rep is based on a different approach.

So fear not. Bolling and Cuccinelli might be eating their horses' oats now, feeling like Secretariat. But by 2013, they might be looking like a different part of the equine anatomy.

Yes, it is ironic that "Taliban Bob" McDonnell may end up as a casualty of the Kookinelli-Bolling contest as to who can be the most far right extremist. If extreme batshitery comes out of the 2012 session of the General Assembly, McDonnell may have to think twice about not vetoing some of the crazy stuff that the objective reality detached Republicans will likely push through. If McDonnell doesn't use his veto power, some of the batshitery will clearly attach to him and he may look to extreme for the VP stop he so strongly covets. Perhaps there is a God after all.

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