Local Commentary

Editorial: GOP Obstruction & Virginia Elections




President Obama’s State of the Union message Tuesday night focused directly on the interests of the American people in a way that hasn’t been heard in such an address this entire decade to date.

As the polls indicate, the president earned solid support from the vast majority of average Americans for his remarks, and for his focus on both short and long-term remedies to fix eight years of devastating excesses and malfeasance under the Bush administration. As state and local budget cuts, layoffs and letters announcing precipitous declines in real estate assessed values arrive on doorsteps across the land, to hear a president acknowledge such pain and to propose bold and ambitious steps to address it quickly is the best possible balm to mend raw nerves. He convinced most Americans that, indeed, help is on the way.

It is highly regrettable that most Republicans and Wall Street interests are setting themselves up, by their current obstructionism, for a level of political irrelevancy that could sink their fortunes for decades. In Virginia, it could drive the GOP out of any effective control of Richmond in this November’s state elections.

For now, the Republicans simply don’t get it that standing in the way of aid to people whose lives are on the brink of ruin will only turn new legions of former sympathizers against them. For some Republican governors to threaten to reject the administration’s stimulus funds is the height of brutal insensitivity to the plights of their own populations, especially those at the lower, more vulnerable end of the income scale. The polls, again, report that most Americans agree that the Republicans are being obstructionist for simply partisan reasons, and for one GOP lawmaker to dismiss this by quipping that the perception is “laughable” on national TV this week only underscores how out of touch they are.

This year, Virginia is one of only two states in the union, the other being New Jersey, where significant elections will be held. The races for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, all state delegates and half of state senate seats could shift the balance of power in Richmond mightily, determining the combination that will, among other things, redraw the state’s U.S. Congressional and state legislative boundaries that will remain in place for the next decade.

The current obstructionist behavior of the GOP nationally could be a major factor in November’s Virginia state elections. The GOP is calculating that if the Obama stimulus efforts fail, then they’ll cash in. But, in general, a hurting American public would far rather see their leaders at least trying to help, rather than sitting on their hands, no matter how effective the efforts turn out to be. Nonetheless, by this November, the jury will still be out on the president’s stimulus efforts, just as the GOP nay-sayers will still be seen standing in the way of its aid from getting to areas like rural Virginia that need it the most.

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