All eyes turn to Richmond this week as the newly-configured state legislature is convened and, this week, the inauguration of Terry McAuliffe as the new governor of the commonwealth ushers in what may signal the next important stage of a genuine shift of Virginia from a red to a purple to a blue state.
Although some Democratic Party loyalists are unhappy with the appointments and other moves that McAuliffe has made to date, evidencing a commitment to bipartisan leadership, we detect a method in McAuliffe’s “madness” that is aimed at isolating and marginalizing the hard right wing of the state’s GOP. McAuliffe’s robust pro-business profile will play a big role in achieving this result.
But in the coming period, his best tactic will be to aggressively push for the expansion of Medicaid as provided under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to extend health care benefits to 400,000 Virginians who currently have no health care.
The Republicans in Virginia, especially that neanderthal right wing element, will be making a massive strategic blunder if they go, as expected, to the wall against the Medicaid expansion that McAuliffe, his Democratic colleagues and some Republicans, want.
This is because, at the level of the grass roots that the legislators are far closer to than even a U.S. congressman, the issue of health care for the uninsured is a bread and butter matter, touching real lives of real constituents and not some distant ideological clash of values.
It becomes further evident when the multiplier effect of 400,000 uninsured Virginians is calculated in. When an uninsured grandmother is confronted with the pressing need for relief, her situation is not felt by her alone, but by her entire extended family, most of whom face economic realities not much better than her own.
Also not lost on this equation is the fact that the most stubborn ideological right wing Republican state legislators represent some of the poorest sectors of the state. Be reminded that the contrast between the relatively affluent areas of Virginia and some in the central, southern and southeastern areas is remarkably pronounced.
So, ironically, those legislators most likely to oppose the Medicaid expansion with the greatest vehemency are those whose constituencies need it the most.
This irony will become more and more clear and evident the more McAuliffe and his allies on this issue loudly and aggressively push to get the Medicaid expansion through. McAuliffe should be in no hurry to compromise in any significant way on this one, because the more obvious the contrast between the resistance of unrelenting right wingers and the needs of their own constituents becomes, the greater the chances for a grass roots revolt against this right wing.