Virginia’s Stunning Transformation

A disgraced governor is signing a wave of progressive legislation

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam gestures during a news conference at the Capitol Wednesday April 8, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Northam gave an update on his COVID-19 plans. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A little over a year ago, Ralph Northam was in the midst of a scandal over some yearbook photos. Democratic leaders from across the nation, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, were demanding his resignation. He refused to go. The calls continued.

He not only survived the scandal, he has thrived. This happened yesterday:

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Sunday that he signed a series of new measures into law aimed at expanding access to voting in the commonwealth.

The new legislation will establish Election Day as a holiday, remove the requirement that voters show a photo ID prior to casting a ballot and, expand early voting to be allowed 45 days before an election without a stated reason.

“Voting is a fundamental right, and these new laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder,” Northam said in a statement. ”No matter who you are or where you live in Virginia, your voice deserves to be heard. I’m proud to sign these bills into la

Granting that Northam and the legislature that passed this is Democratic and that these measures are widely presumed to benefit their party, it’s a rather sweeping change.

Less substantively important but of great symbolic value:

The new legislation also repeals the current Lee-Jackson day holiday which honored Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson as “defenders of causes.” Both men owned slaves and fought to preserve slavery in the US.

Earlier in the month, this happened:

The governor announced Friday he’d signed bills that include requiring universal background checks on gun purchases, a red flag bill to allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from people deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others, and limited handgun purchases to one a month.

And this:

Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed bills on Friday rolling back multiple abortion restrictions in the state, including some that had been in place for decades.

[…]

The legislation removes longstanding regulations requiring abortion seekers to undergo an ultrasound at least 24 hours prior to receiving an abortion and to get counseling on alternatives to abortion. It also strikes the requirement that facilities providing more than five abortions per year be designated as hospitals.

And this:

Governor Ralph Northam has signed nearly two dozen new laws to support working Virginians, including legislation to combat worker misclassification and wage theft, ban workplace discrimination, and prohibit non-compete covenants for low-wage workers.

Not to mention:

Lawmakers struck a deal late Saturday night to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 over the next three years, with a built-in process for potentially going higher to the $15 wage many Democrats campaigned on.

[….]

Just a few years after marijuana arrests in the state hit a 20-year high, lawmakers voted to decriminalize simple possession.

That means an offense currently punishable by jail time and a $500 penalty could soon be reduced to a $25 civil fine similar to a traffic ticket.

“This means close to 30,000 people a year will no longer be labeled as criminals and no longer will suffer the negative repercussions of a criminal conviction,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, who carried the legislation in the Senate.

[…]

Virginia lawmakers voted Saturday to grant driver privilege cards – but not full-fledged licenses – to undocumented immigrants.

[…]

Lawmakers wrapped up negotiations Friday on a landmark bill designed to make Virginia’s electric grid carbon-free by 2045 while also incorporating stronger protections for electric utility ratepayers.

[…]

Virginia lawmakers on Sunday gave final approvals to a pair of bills legalizing casinos and sports betting after a last-minute fight over whether the state should allow bets on college games involving Virginia teams.

In the end, lawmakers chose to exclude Virginia colleges and universities from the new sports betting market, bowing to concerns raised by higher education leaders who said they wanted to shield student athletics from gambling’s influence.

[…]

Cities and counties around Virginia will be allowed to remove the Confederate monuments they own and maintain under legislation the General Assembly sent to Gov. Ralph Northam on Sunday.

[…]

Local governments will be allowed to engage in collective bargaining with their employees under legislation that passed Sunday.

The bill falls far short of a proposal pushed by labor unions that the House approved last month, which would have mandated both the state and local governments to bargain with employees who organized unions. Virginia is one of three states where collective bargaining with public employees is outlawed.

Regardless of one’s views of the merits of any or all of these measures, it’s a stunning set of achievements for a governor who was dead in the water fourteen months ago.

One presumes Northam’s political career is over after his term ends in 2022. Virginia governors are not allowed to stand for re-election to a second, consecutive term. Traditionally, the next step is the Senate but two young, popular, Democratic gubernatorial predecessors have those seats locked down as long as they want them. It’s also unlikely he’s going to catapult to the White House in 2024.

Still, a hell of a comeback.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    A couple of thoughts. Dems have often been criticized for being timid in pushing their policies when they gain unified government. It appears that the Virginia Dems have heard that criticism.

    This also shows the power of one person, one vote. In state legislatures there is no apportionment by geography, it is all by population. Also there is no filibuster (that I’m aware of) in any state legislature. A unified majority party can move quickly on an agreed upon platform.

    We can expect to see attacks on one person, one vote begin rising from the fetid swamps of the right in the near future.

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  2. senyordave says:

    I had mixed feelings at the time, but ultimately for me the apse of judgment even 35 years earlier was pretty damning. Maybe in 1934 this would have been considered normal fun, but this was 1984, so no reasonable person could have thought this was acceptable. On the other hand, our current president in 1974 was instrumental in setting policy for the Trump Organization which was busy trying like hell to keep blacks from renting in their properties.
    I guess one big difference is that Northram’s behavior was unacceptable and disqualifying for many Democrats, while Trump’s behavior was just business as usual for many Republicans.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I’m jealous.

    7
  4. Tyrell says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’m not. While these “red flag” laws sound good, they could later be extended to many other activities such as driving or playing a sport such as football or ice hockey. What is the standard of proof? Who wants their privacy and medical history made public, including psychologist visits? Will doctors have to give up their records?
    Gun sales in neighboring states probably have increased.
    They have increased around here since the “stay in place” took effect. Why, I don’t know.

    5
  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell:

    While these “red flag” laws sound good, they could later be extended to many other activities such as driving or playing a sport such as football or ice hockey.

    Explain how that would work, buddy.

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tyrell: OH NOES!!! We are sliding down the slippery slope into oblivion!!!

    They have increased around here since the “stay in place” took effect. Why, I don’t know.

    Because people are stupid.

    20
  7. Kari Q says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    We can expect to see attacks on one person, one vote begin rising from the fetid swamps of the right in the near future.

    That’s been going on for a while. They’re trying to start small by saying non-citizens shouldn’t be counted for reappointment. If they get some progress on that front, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them arguing for one acre, one vote next.

    8
  8. Gustopher says:

    @senyordave:

    I had mixed feelings at the time, but ultimately for me the apse of judgment even 35 years earlier was pretty damning. Maybe in 1934 this would have been considered normal fun, but this was 1984, so no reasonable person could have thought this was acceptable.

    Given the number of people who were then discovered to have been in blackface at one point or another in their lives, I’m not sure you’re right about that. Or, perhaps, young men are just going to do something unacceptable, and in Virginia it turns out the common way to transgress is blackface.

    I thought his shifting story when it was revealed was far more damning than what he did when he was a dumb kid.

    If I’m remembering my blackface incidents correctly he was the one who first acknowledged being in the photo but wouldn’t say whether he was dressed as a Klansman or a blackface minstrel, then he said that the photo wasn’t him and had been mysteriously put on his yearbook page, then said he was in blackface at a different time as Micheal Jackson, and then said that he also learned the moonwalk, and then his wife pulled him out of a press conference.

    And white folks outside of Virginia were far more bothered by it than black folks in Virginia, although we have to wonder if there really are black folks in Virginia, or whether they are just white folks in blackface.

    8
  9. Gustopher says:

    Northam has done good since his disgrace. If there are no open Senate seats, I expect he will end up in the next Democratic administration, or will be one of 50,000 Democrats running for president in 2024.

    I hope he figures out a better way to respond to questions about the photo, and that he gets his story straight, before the jump to national politics.

    5
  10. Kari Q says:

    @Gustopher:

    white folks outside of Virginia were far more bothered by it than black folks in Virginia

    In my experience, Black people are more pragmatic about things like that. “White person did something racist? Must be a day ending in y.” They just assume that pretty much all of us have done something so they can’t reject a person based on something so long ago.

    They are more interested in what a politician is doing today; it has far more impact on their lives.

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  11. Scott says:

    @Kari Q: To me the real danger would be to take some purplish states and push through proportional electoral college electors. Example, if Pennsylvania has a presidential election that goes 52-48, the electors would be allocated similarly. Do that to purple states and make solid red states winner take all, then that would be worse than gerrymandering.

    Maine and Nebraska already do this but they are so small it hasn’t had an impact yet. But do that for a couple of states but not all, then you will definitely see a political crisis.

    7
  12. @Sleeping Dog:

    In state legislatures there is no apportionment by geography, it is all by population. Also there is no filibuster (that I’m aware of) in any state legislature. A unified majority party can move quickly on an agreed upon platform.

    FWIW, many of the problems of representation present at the national level (linked to single seat districts and including partisan sorting and gerrymandering) can and do exist at the state level, but you are quite correct that the fact that state Senates can population-based cuts out a major representation problem that exists nationally.

    Some states (Google tells me 14, which is less than I would have guessed, TBH) have filibusters but Virginia isn’t one of them.

    2
  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    Virginia is learning what Californians learned a few years ago. When you deprive Republicans of all power, good things happen.

    The Republican Party is an evil organization. Not mistaken, or off the rails, or any other euphemism, genuinely evil. It is white supremacist, dominionist, misogynist and cruel, a party built on lies, hate, fear and contempt for democracy. When they are erased, things get better for people.

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  14. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Tyrell:

    While these “red flag” laws sound good, they could later be extended to many other activities such as driving or playing a sport such as football or ice hockey. What is the standard of proof? Who wants their privacy and medical history made public, including psychologist visits? Will doctors have to give up their records?

    It seems like the “standard of proof” in some of the the states that have Red Flag laws is “someone said so”.

    In Florida, 95% of E/TRPOs* are granted. Colorado’s legislature assumed the same rate when they enacted their law in January (Florida requires the ERPO be filed by law enforcement, Colorado does not). There’s a nice survey of the data from Florida (PDF). 96.4% of them were granted.

    And of the 17 states that have these laws, only Colorado allows the person to have a public defender.

    *Extreme Risk Protection Order or Temporary Risk Protection Order

    3
  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    The standard should be reversed. You want to own a gun? Prove that you’re capable. Pass an extensive safety class, pass a background check and be interviewed by a psychiatrist.

    It is waaaaay past time to admit that the Founders fucked up with the 2d amendment. People do not need guns except in very limited circumstances. One of the silver linings of the lockdown is that we haven’t had any school shootings.

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  16. R. Dave says:

    @Tyrell: While these “red flag” laws sound good, they could later be extended to many other activities such as driving or playing a sport such as football or ice hockey. What is the standard of proof? Who wants their privacy and medical history made public, including psychologist visits? Will doctors have to give up their records?

    It’s basically like any other personal TRO, so I don’t see why these would be more of a concern or slippery slope risk than TROs in other contexts. In this case, the standard of proof is “probable cause” based on affidavits for the judge to issue the initial 14-day emergency order and then “clear and convincing evidence” via a hearing to convert that to 6-month order. I assume all the usual rights of the subject – including privacy and confidentiality rights – would apply like they do in any other court proceeding. If so, that seems like a reasonable process, though I’m open to the argument that the standard for the initial emergency order should be raised to “preponderance of the evidence” instead of just probable cause and that we need to beef up the privacy rights of defendants in court generally.

    2
  17. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: Wait — you mean if some hysterical broad starts whining because her husband gave her what was coming and crying to the government to protect her now that he’s been spending all his days polishing his gun collection, they’re going to order him to stay away from her just because she says so? I can see why you’re so unhappy about that!

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  18. Barry says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Virginia is learning what Californians learned a few years ago. When you deprive Republicans of all power, good things happen. ”

    Also, they’ve learned to do what the right always complains of: ram it down their throats. There is no use trying to play nice, because they will never respect your legitimacy. Also, ramming voting rights down their throats tilts the playing field towards the Democratic Party, in a totally ethical and moral manner. The longer that the GOP can be kept out of power in a state, the less able they are to cheat.

    20
  19. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “It is waaaaay past time to admit that the Founders fucked up with the 2d amendment. People do not need guns except in very limited circumstances.”

    The Founders provided exactly those limited standards — “A well-regulated militia being necessary to a free state.” It was a few right wing hacks on the Supreme Court who decided that those words were just there for decoration, not meaning.

    14
  20. MarkedMan says:

    @senyordave:

    this was 1984, so no reasonable person could have thought this was acceptable

    I disagree. I remember a Carol Burnett Show skit (I’m pretty sure it was that show) that took place in the South that had a joke about how they still had a slave hidden away up in the attic. Blackface has been retconned to being beyond the pale, but it would not be unusual for two white guys at a halloween party, even in the north, to go as say, Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder in one of their buddy movies. It would not have been considered deliberately racist by any stretch. That’s no longer true today, because it has become a cultural touchstone, and any white person darkening their skin is sticking a finger in the eye.

    12
  21. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    FWIW, many of the problems of representation present at the national level (linked to single seat districts and including partisan sorting and gerrymandering) can and do exist at the state level, but you are quite correct that the fact that state Senates can population-based cuts out a major representation problem that exists nationally.

    There are still things that are often done at the population level to skew representation. The biggest one is using prisons to prop up the populations of rural areas (counting them as residents of that location versus where they originated from).

    Thankfully there seems to be a (slow) trend away from the prison gerrrymandering practice.

    https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2019/12/31/761932806/your-body-being-used-where-prisoners-who-can-t-vote-fill-voting-districts

    https://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/

    BTW, I personally would have less of an issue with this practice if – and only if – people were allowed to vote in prison.

    4
  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    It seems like the “standard of proof” in some of the the states that have Red Flag laws is “someone said so”.

    For a 2 week temporary order of protection? Yes that is all that is required. For a longer one (here in Misery it is 6 months and then needs to be extended every 6 months) a hearing is held and evidence and testimony is taken from both sides. Quite often one side just doesn’t show up.

    I have been on all sides of this.

    I had a TPO served on me (she said I told her I would do whatever it took while holding a knife, neglecting to state that I was doing the dishes and it was a table knife) that was dropped after my lawyer and her lawyer hashed out a separation agreement. Did it suck massively to not see my sons for 2 weeks? Yes. But I lived thru it.

    I got a restraining order between my sons and my ex’s violent drunk husband after he almost ran over my oldest with his truck. I had it extended 6 times (iirc) and only lost it after the rural county court clerk “lost” some paperwork. Did I mention that the asshole’s grandfather’s picture was on the court wall? Ooooold family, well connected.

    My wife got one between her and her ex after she started getting threatening phone calls from him again. This was a man who did in fact try to kill her once.

    In all of the above, a removal of firearms from the equation would have been at worst a small inconvenience for the 2 week TPO. In the latter 2 of the above it would have allowed me to sleep a lot easier and at the very least I wouldn’t have felt the need to carry a gun whenever I knew I was going to see the ex’s violent fucked up idiot husband.

    13
  23. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I’m not sure why you think this is a bad thing? What’s the evidence that these orders are mistaken?

    7
  24. dmichael says:

    So “these measures are widely presumed to benefit their party [Democratic].” Why is that James? Maybe because a majority of those allowed to vote will vote for the candidates that support measures to help them? So, an effort to allow the free exercise of a constitutional right is a partisan move? Maybe you should admit that the Republican party is now the Anti-Constitution party. Those who disagree could always just move to Wisconsin where democracy is being crushed. See https://weeklysift.com/2020/04/13/the-republican-shenanigans-in-wisconsin/

    4
  25. An Interested Party says:

    Granting that Northam and the legislature that passed this is Democratic and that these measures are widely presumed to benefit their party, it’s a rather sweeping change.

    Much like reality having a liberal bias, ensuring fairness in elections and making sure that the franchise is available to as many eligible people as possible benefits Democrats…

    9
  26. Tyrell says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Someone with a grudge, such as an ex-wife or ex-husband, a former employee or employer, or team coach could make up stuff and go to some judge. They would prevent a person from being hired or playing on an opposing team. That may sound far fetched, but look how technology is being used to spy on people and get all our private records. Now in one area the police are using drones to spy on people who are too close to each other!
    Freedom of assembly

    1
  27. DrDaveT says:

    @Tyrell:

    Someone with a grudge, such as an ex-wife or ex-husband, a former employee or employer, or team coach could make up stuff and go to some judge.

    This is already true. It’s part of why we have judges. Also, why do you think that doing such a thing would be free of consequences for the liar?

    7
  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:
    A rational gun owner would have no serious objection to losing his gun for 2 weeks. If it’s for hunting, delay the hunting trip. If it’s for protection the odds of one needing a gun in any two week period is about like the odds of getting hit by a meteorite. If it’s target practice, again, wait two weeks.

    The hysteria comes from insecure men who feel a gun is a signifier of masculinity. A penis. Missing your penis for two weeks, sure, I can see getting upset over that. But then admit that’s the issue, stand up (like a man) and admit that your fear of losing your gun is because without it you feel weak and emasculated. Then face the reality that most men are too secure to need a gun in the first place. Own your psychological issues.

    Republicans are simultaneously pushing for old people to accept the risk of death from coronavirus, while terrified of facing a day without a gun for the coming race war.

    Gun nuts are sick in the head. It’s vaguely a Catch-22: if you’re so pathetic you can’t go two weeks without a gun you obviously should not be owning a gun.

    10
  29. Mu Yixiao says:

    @wr:

    @Mu Yixiao: Wait — you mean if some hysterical broad starts whining because her husband gave her what was coming and crying to the government to protect her now that he’s been spending all his days polishing his gun collection, they’re going to order him to stay away from her just because she says so?

    I believe in restraining orders. I know several people who’ve had to get them, and I’ve had one situation where I considered asking for one. So your snarky “Oh! You don’t mind domestic abuse” reply is both childish and beneath the level of conversation one expects here.

    Red Flag laws aren’t just restraining orders. They don’t just say “You’re not allowed to be within N feet of person X”. They empower the police to enter a home, confiscate guns, and/or place the alleged “dangerous person” into psychiatric detention until they get a chance to prove they’re not actually dangerous.

    Under most of these laws, the person who files the complaint doesn’t even need to feel threatened.

    Look up the case of Kevin Morgan in Florida (it’s an outlier, but shows what can happen). His ex-wife accused him of violating his TRO (it was the pool guy), “stockpiling weapons” (he bought an antique black-powder pistol), threatening her with a paralytic agent (she brought it into her house after he had moved out), “performing satanic rituals” and anointing their children (which she allowed to stay with him), and “speaking with demons”.

    The Deputy that submitted the request for a ERPO didn’t check on any of this. She admitted that.

    He was arrested by the Sheriff’s department and taken for “involuntary psychiatric evaluation”.

    When he finally got a hearing, the lawyer for the Sheriff’s Department said (in more polite words) “this is all bullshit–the ex-wife made it up, and we just believed her.”

    I have zero problem with TROs being put into place immediately–as long as there’s a prompt review to assure that they’re valid.

    I have serious problems with ERPOs that allow someone to be arrested, detained, and required to prove their innocence/sanity–with little to no due process or fact-checking before-hand.

    1
  30. Kathy says:

    In the early days of the Roman Republic, and through much of its existence, the poor were exempt from military service, because they could not provide their own weapons and armor.

    In the days before interchangeable parts, and standardized ammunition, when flintlock muskets were the state of the art, it made sense for a government to have each soldier provide their own gun, rather than expending money acquiring them. Especially if the country in question was deep in debt.

    Add a largely rural population which might need weapons at the ready to defend their livestock from predators and thieves, defend their homestead, and go hunting from time to time. Add further a large slave population which must be kept under control, and who might rebel at any moment. Add finally a native population which has been mistreated and dispossessed, and which fought on the other side of a recent war.

    Add all that up, and the 2nd amendment makes some kind of sense.

    The country’s debt is still large. Other than that, I fail to see any similarities with the present situation.

    3
  31. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I agree with you that people who file false reports can really F up the life of the victim. A school teacher who is falsely accused of child molestation will be immediately suspended with pay, pending investigation, and even if found entirely innocent will have a cloud over their head. Ditto a school bus driver who is accused of drinking during his break will be immediately suspended with pay, pending investigation. Or a surgeon accused of abusing drugs.

    The damage is real and horribly unfair, but as a society we recognize that the harm these people can do is so catastrophic that we have to err on taking away their ability to do that harm while the investigation is ongoing. I think someone accused of violence and threats falls into the same category. And, just as in all the others, if the accusation turns out to be deliberately false the accuser should be charged.

    5
  32. MarkedMan says:

    People who read these comments regularly might remember my contention that the difference between a Trump State and a decent State might be as littles as 5% of the electorate. Virginia is a demonstration that it can be even less. The difference in the Virginia 0f 10 years ago and the Virginia of today is probably 2-3% more Progressives. 10 years ago the things the state legislature worked on were making sure gays couldn’t marry, making sure tobacco workers couldn’t unionize, making sure that the “minorities” had their noses rubbed in the fact that the Slavers might not have won the Civil War but they still had the power to wreck lives, keeping the poor of all colors from getting above themselves, and, well, I could go on and on and on, but basically a Republican legislator typically gets and retains votes by causing and exploiting social strife and gets and retains funding by kowtowing to the wealthy and powerful.

    It didn’t used to be true. Lord knows the Dixiecrats were vile, vile Democrats, every bit as nasty and Trumpian as the Republicans of today. In fact, they are the Republicans of today. The Republican Southern Strategy worked beyond their wildest expectations and today there are simply no decent Republicans left at the national level and darn few at the state.

    It’s good to know that a few percentage tip in the votes of the people can have such a profound effect on what a State government will fight for.

    11
  33. Monala says:

    I wonder if this can be used to help Sanders supporters realize that it really is possible to get progressive legislation passed when you have a Democratic executive and legislature, even if many of those Democrats are – gasp! – moderates.

    Washington Monthly had a very interesting article recently, exploring why Sanders lost, even as many of his ideas have gained in popularity across the Democratic electorate. The article argued that progressive policy ideas are very popular among Democrats, such as universal healthcare, affordable college, reducing or eliminating student loan debt, living wages, and climate mitigation. However, leftist philosophy is not. And Sanders and many of his strongest supporters are informed by leftist philosophy that most Democrats don’t agree with.

    In other words, most Democrats don’t think capitalism needs to be destroyed, just regulated and with a stronger safety net. Most Democrats don’t think that people are unified by class consciousness, and reality bears this out. Hence why middle class suburbanites might support liberal economic policies, and working class rural whites might not. Most Democrats don’t think cultural identity is just a distraction. Etc.

    Oh, and one other thing: he argued that if leftists really want to make a dent in promoting their ideas, they need to do it at the local level. This gets at my point in one of yesterday’s threads, about how the Green party is fundamentally unserious because they don’t field candidates for state and local races even in a liberal state like Washington.

    Link: https://washingtonmonthly.com/2020/04/11/leftist-policy-didnt-lose-marxist-electoral-theory-did/

    5
  34. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    A rational gun owner would have no serious objection to losing his gun for 2 weeks.

    And how should a rational gun owner react to being forceably detained by police and required to submit to involuntary psychiatric evaluation? Because that’s part of what these “red flag” laws involve.

    And it should be noted: These laws don’t restrict themselves to gun owners. In the case of Kevin Morgan (above), there was no threat of a shooting. The only violence the ex-wife talked about was “dismembering” (did the police confiscate his kitchen knives, gardening equipment, or carpentry tools?) and drugging. Morgan’s guns were already in the possession of the police.

    I know I’m the “punching bag” around here because I don’t “bleed progressive blue” (which is funny, since at least one of the hosts of this site talks about being a strong Republican in the past), and I have the audacity to suggest that there are situations where Washington should get out of the way and let free markets and federalism find solutions that meet the regional and local needs. I’m willing to look at all sides and admit that what I’d like isn’t always the best solution.

    But you’re a “true believer”–you are to the blue what the people you hate are to the red. There is nothing I–or anyone else–could possibly say that would make you reconsider your position on anything. So there’s no point in discussion.

    And I find that to be rather disappointing.

    https://youtu.be/VEgCp6qqxik

    2
  35. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “(it’s an outlier, but shows what can happen)”

    And for every law ever created in any society, we can dig up one case where its use led to a terrible injustice. You may not have appreciated my snark, but argument by anecdote isn’t any better.

    9
  36. An Interested Party says:

    Washington Monthly had a very interesting article recently, exploring why Sanders lost, even as many of his ideas have gained in popularity across the Democratic electorate. The article argued that progressive policy ideas are very popular among Democrats, such as universal healthcare, affordable college, reducing or eliminating student loan debt, living wages, and climate mitigation. However, leftist philosophy is not. And Sanders and many of his strongest supporters are informed by leftist philosophy that most Democrats don’t agree with.

    That goes along well with the argument that a lot of people dislike government in the abstract but like very much a lot of particular government programs…

  37. Andy says:

    Red Flag laws are an interesting experiment that many, including me, will be watching closely. (I live in Colorado, which has one)

    Unfortunately, it seems most analyses about these laws come down to where people stand on guns and not the merits of the law itself. Too often, laws are evaluated on perceptions of whose ox is gored and not on the merits.

    It would be wrong, for example, to assume that only white gun-loving men with small penises will be affected by Red Flag laws.

    There are other important principles and issues at stake. The fact is that there is a long history of government – especially law enforcement – using laws in “creative” ways or just outright abusing the system and the intent of the law. We’ve seen this most recently with FISA warrants, which the FBI has been consistently abusing, and not just with the most famous Carter Page warrant.

    It remains to be seen whether Red Flag laws have sufficient restraints to prevent similar abuse. The record so far is mixed.

    @mattbernius:

    BTW, I personally would have less of an issue with this practice if – and only if – people were allowed to vote in prison.

    Prisoners need to be counted somewhere, and where they reside when the census is taken makes the most sense and is consistent with the relevant law. This is the way the census has been done since the beginning of the country.

    And this is consistent with how other groups are counted, including the homeless and those who choose nomadic lifestyles and don’t have a fixed address.

    I don’t think that voting matters as a factor since the census counts anyone residing in the US regardless of their ability to vote.

  38. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:
    I think this is a matter of theory versus practice. The reality is that this practice has historically been under to essentially disenfranchise certain (often majority minority) areas of states while effectively transferring control to more sparsely populated (without prisons) areas of states. Its also effectively allowed typically more rural aligned forces (at this point almost always Republicans) to maintain out-sized control in State Governing bodies.

    As for why I think voting is critical, I think the reality remains that representation is fundamentally tied to enfranchisement and the exercise there in. If you have a significant population within your district that you know cannot vote for you, then there is little need to want to respond to their needs. Perversely there’s a bias to being even tougher on crime in order to ensure that population remains high, if not, increases in order to sustain your power. That’s before we also get to the issue that while the Prisoners cannot vote, the Prison Guards can and that sets up additional perverse incentives.

    4
  39. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    But you’re a “true believer”–you are to the blue what the people you hate are to the red. There is nothing I–or anyone else–could possibly say that would make you reconsider your position on anything. So there’s no point in discussion.

    Horse shit. I doubt anyone here has admitted error as often, or thanked someone for presenting a new perspective as often, as I have. I am entirely a prisoner of reason. I have no internal mechanism allowing for cognitive dissonance, every single thing I believe – every single goddamn belief – I can support with rational argument. If I can’t support a belief rationally, I will label it clearly as a sense or a guess or even a hope. But I do not believe b.s.

    You on the other hand start with the logically unsupportable idea that private individuals should as a default be allowed to own guns. That is an a priori assumption you cannot justify rationally. Go ahead, try.

    I was raised with all the assumptions of good, god-fearing Americans of my era. It took work to decathect – separate from – that set of assumptions. It took discipline to at least try for a state of presuppositionlessness. When your ‘logic’ is predicated on untested and potentially false assumptions, you don’t have logic, you have rationalization.

    3
  40. @Andy:

    Prisoners need to be counted somewhere, and where they reside when the census is taken makes the most sense and is consistent with the relevant law. This is the way the census has been done since the beginning of the country.

    To clarify, he is looking at the way in which prison populations can be exploited in gerrymandering.

    2
  41. MarkedMan says:

    @Monala:

    This gets at my point in one of yesterday’s threads, about how the Green party is fundamentally unserious because they don’t field candidates for state and local races even in a liberal state like Washington.

    Nothing to add, just thought it worth emphasizing. Especially since the “Green” parts of their platform could have the largest impact at the local level. Manufacturing plant not complying with anti-dumping laws? Township failing to keep lead out of the water? This has a huge impact on everyone in a community.

    3
  42. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    To clarify, he is looking at the way in which prison populations can be exploited in gerrymandering.

    Thanks Steven. I should have been more clear about that.

    From a census perspective, it makes sense to count them where they are. From a representation perspective, it doesn’t (unless you are willing to allow them to vote where they are).

    2
  43. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    All laws can be abused. Some laws are worth the risk (if carefully managed), some are not.

    The law against murder can be misused and has been. But we cannot allow murder. So we accept the potential for misuse. OTOH, drug laws are widely misused (SWATing for ex.) and mostly unnecessary to boot. Laws against spousal abusers owning guns are necessary. So we accept the risk of misuse because the potential harm of a nutcase with a gun is infinitely greater than the risk of a guy temporarily losing his gun.

    4
  44. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I don’t consider you a punching bag, and I don’t devalue your posts in any way. I often, but not always, disagree with you, but you present your arguments in reasonable (if passionate) ways, and do not argue with whattaboutism or magical reality. In fact, the whole reason I started coming here so many years ago (Iraq War!) was to get reasoned debate from people I disagreed with in one way or another. So I’m glad you are here.

    9
  45. Just nutha ignint crackerd says:

    @MarkedMan: It’s a variation on “innocent people don’t get arrested” I would assume. When ever there is what is perceived as an inordinate number of approvals or denials, some tend to assume bias at work. The catch is what constitutes an “inordinate number.” Most generally, the standard is “whatever I say is inordinate”–same as “because somebody said so.”

  46. Monala says:

    @An Interested Party: I’m not quite sure the analogy is the same. I would imagine that most Democrats don’t think about it (not agreeing with leftist philosophy) explicitly, but some of Sanders’ pronouncements and his followers rub them the wrong way (whereas a lot of people on the right are quite explicit about their dislike of government, even as they like specific programs that help them).

    So your typical Democrat doesn’t say they disagree with Sanders’ leftist philosophy. Instead, many average Democrats don’t dislike capitalism per se, just its exploitative excesses, so they don’t agree when Sanders rails against billionaires and banksters. Many African-Americans dislike it when Sanders seems to prioritize the white working class over the needs and concerns of people affected by racism, especially when many of the former are often the perpetrators of racism. Likewise, a lot of women dislike how Sanders doesn’t call out the misogyny among his team and followers, or ignores their concerns about how reproductive health would be protected in a M4A system.

    I think Atkins’ article was getting at why Sanders does these things — because he is informed by leftist philosophy, which dictates that class consciousness is far more important than any other identity or consciousness, and that if you identify the common concerns of people of the working class, then working class people of all stripes will support you. But that’s not actually what happens in this country (and sometimes others — he cited the UK as an example). The reality is that a) other forms of identity are often far more salient in the U.S., and b) due to a), many middle and upper class people have liberal politics, and many working class people, especially if they are white, do not.

    3
  47. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    When he finally got a hearing, the lawyer for the Sheriff’s Department said (in more polite words) “this is all bullshit–the ex-wife made it up, and we just believed her.”

    The problem here isn’t Red Flag ordinances; the problem is that Florida (??? really, Florida is your negative example???) needs better laws protecting its citizens from abuse under the cover of authority. That Florida and Floridians seem to believe that “stand your ground” is a one-size-fits-all solution to problems between individuals somehow seems less surprising when you add your worst case scenario to the debate.

    7
  48. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Even so, at the time of the “War of Northern Agression,” one of the inducements for settlers in the Oregon and Washington Territories to join the reserve army for the territory was the promise that each reservist would be given a Springfield rifle as part of his compensation for service. Of course even then, the government was better at promising stuff than they were at delivering, and many volunteers discovered that their promised rifle was “on back order.”

    It turns out that the citizenry was not nearly as “armed” as we like to imagine it was.

    2
  49. Blue Galangal says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The damage is real and horribly unfair, but as a society we recognize that the harm these people can do is so catastrophic that we have to err on taking away their ability to do that harm while the investigation is ongoing. I think someone accused of violence and threats falls into the same category.

    By the time the police assess a threat (and often, in the absence of red flag laws, find there is nothing they can do), the partner – very often a woman – is already dead. By the time the police assess a threat the school is already shot up – very often by a man who abused women in his life. (And if the woman is in Florida and stands her ground against an abusive partner, she gets put in jail.)

    Two weeks without a weapon and an involuntary psych eval are not too much to require to help prevent the deaths of women at the hands of their partners or even another Parkland.

    8
  50. Gustopher says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    And how should a rational gun owner react to being forceably detained by police and required to submit to involuntary psychiatric evaluation? Because that’s part of what these “red flag” laws involve.

    Are they being forcibly detained?

    They are having to surrender their guns, but they aren’t being detained anywhere I know of. And, if you don’t want to take the psychiatric evaluation then don’t… you just won’t get your guns back.

    If you want to make a case that this is bad, then do so, but don’t pretend it’s worse than it is. Some property is held in escrow.

    I think the Kelso decision might allow the state to keep the property, so long as they compensate you for it.

    2
  51. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If it’s for protection the odds of one needing a gun in any two week period is about like the odds of getting hit by a meteorite.

    Good luck getting them to agree to that. Accepting that one could live safely for two weeks without a gun would destroy their whole worldview.

    1
  52. gVOR08 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    It turns out that the citizenry was not nearly as “armed” as we like to imagine it was.

    I’m old enough to have, as a little kid, gone to western movies regularly. There seemed to be dozens of Wyatt Earp movies, and others, in which the Marshall banned carrying guns in town. There were various objections, but I don’t remember a single one where a drover said anything about the Second Amendment. That says little about the old west, where few people actually carried guns, a little bit about old west mythology, and a lot about attitudes in the fifties and sixties. This whole idea that any American has a right to carry a gun anytime, anywhere, is quite new. An example of conservatives rewriting history.

    3
  53. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    I understand the gerrymandering argument – but my question is why should we make an exception for prisoners and not other groups?

    If you have a significant population within your district that you know cannot vote for you, then there is little need to want to respond to their needs.

    How much more political influence does LA county, for example, get from its very large population of non-citizens who can’t vote? Same for the ~20 metro areas where the bulk of the 10-11 million undocumented immigrants in this country live.

    The reality is that this practice has historically been under to essentially disenfranchise certain (often majority minority) areas of states while effectively transferring control to more sparsely populated (without prisons) areas of states.

    Many communities and states made the explicit choice to build large, centralized prisons in rural areas for a variety of reasons, mostly because of NIMBY. I don’t see why communities should be able to offload their prison populations to rural areas but still be able to count them as local for census and apportionment purposes. To do so will only incentivize cities to offload even more of their prison populations – they get the benefit of counting a population for their own local benefit while not having to provide services for that population.

    It seems to me that if communities want the political power that comes from the prison population, then they should house their prisoners locally.

    And then there are other problems, like people with life or multi-decade sentences. I can see – maybe – excepting those with short prison terms, but even that would be a carve-out for that one specific group.

    I’m fundamentally skeptical of carving out exceptions to long-standing census law and policy for what appear to be partisan reasons. Furthermore, I think that making an exception for prisoners would open the door to other exceptions that would result in de facto outcomes that would be transparently partisan.

    As for representation, the problems are inherent in the census and apportionment since it counts residents and not voting citizens. The census even includes foreign diplomatic staff when it comes to apportionment. There are many rural areas (not as many this year) that have migrant and seasonal workers for agriculture and they are counted as residents for the purpose of the census. There have even been proposals over the years to move the census date from April 1st to sometime in the summer so that more migrant workers can be counted, benefiting certain states and communities, possibly at the expense of others.

    So, I am not convinced that there needs to be or should be an exception specifically for prisoners.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    All laws can be abused. Some laws are worth the risk (if carefully managed), some are not.

    I agree, which is why I think that it remains to be seen whether red flag laws can work in the real world and we should consider how they might be used against people who aren’t political enemies.

    1
  54. Tyrell says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Those are good points. I do not own a working gun and am not some gun “nut”. The only one I own is somewhere out in the garage – a 1917 Mauser. It does not have a firing pin. I would like to get a flintlock and try my hand at it.
    Most people around here have guns for hunting, target practice, and antique collectors. My high school used to have a competition team. One student would often bring his rifle on the school bus and leave it up front. No one thought a thing about it. Things have changed since then.

    2
  55. An Interested Party says:

    @Monala: The analogy I was trying to make is that people like something real and tangible that actually helps them as opposed to abstract concepts, like leftist philosophy…but I do agree with you that Sanders and his supporters rub a lot of Democrats the wrong way…hell, I think it’s ridiculous that someone would try to get the nomination of a party that he isn’t even a member of…now that’s bullshit…

    3
  56. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I have serious problems with ERPOs that allow someone to be arrested, detained, and required to prove their innocence/sanity–with little to no due process or fact-checking before-hand.

    OK, look, I don’t know who you have been talking to or wtf you have been reading but the above animal you describe is the abominal snowman of jurisprudence. IT DOES NOT EXIST.

    Point. Period. Paragraph.

    5
  57. @Andy:

    I understand the gerrymandering argument – but my question is why should we make an exception for prisoners and not other groups?

    Prisons are unique: high concentrations of persons that are nonmobile in a 100% identifiable geographic space. It adds in gerrymandering in ways that no other non-voting bloc can.

    As such, the issue isn’t about exceptions, but about how non-represented people can be used to manipulate district lines (and people who are mostly citizens).

    3
  58. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Prisons are unique: high concentrations of persons that are nonmobile in a 100% identifiable geographic space. It adds in gerrymandering in ways that no other non-voting bloc can.

    They are not unique. Military personnel are also nonmobile and in a 100% identifiable geographic space. In many cases, the census gets numbers directly from the DoD and military members don’t have to fill anything out to get counted.

    As such, the issue isn’t about exceptions, but about how non-represented people can be used to manipulate district lines (and people who are mostly citizens).

    The issue is exactly about exceptions since that is explicitly what is being asked – an exception for prisoners and no other group, such as military personnel, or migrant/temporary workers, or full-time nomads, or anyone else. Why can’t any of these groups use their home community for census purposes too?

    Policy choices have consequences. If communities want the political power and federal money that comes from their incarcerated citizens, then they should not outsource them to other communities. That is a choice they made because of NIMBY and not being willing to spend the money to incarcerate prisoners locally. They should not be immunized from the consequences of that choice.

    1
  59. de stijl says:

    Why is this stunning?

    It is predictable.

    Virginia is purple trending blue.
    It was expected.

    1
  60. de stijl says:

    It is stunning that it took the author that long to acknowledge it.

    3
  61. de stijl says:

    Check Wisconsin SC results for a stunning outcome.

    Folks will remember what they were required to do to vote in Milwaukee for decades, perhaps forever.

    The RNC and Wisconsin R’s really misread the room to their future detriment.

    I could not be more glad.

    3
  62. de stijl says:

    @Andy:
    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If prisoners were allowed to vote, it would certainly change how prisons were allocated amongst the states.

    2
  63. @Andy:

    Military personnel are also nonmobile and in a 100% identifiable geographic space.

    There is, above all else, the fact that military bases are full of people who can vote. Military bases are not groups of persons that can be used for gerrymandering with zero risk of influencing electoral outcomes. Prisoners are.

    Military bases are also full of people who can use the resources of the given district in which they live. (Again, prisons aren’t). Military bases are, for the sake of this discussion, like a specialized kind of neighborhood (like the one I live in, which is roughly the same population for the 2020 census as it was for the 2010–and therefore potentially useful for districting also).

    I think you are missing my point or I am missing yours. I am addressing the way in which prison populations become useful pawns in distracting–I am not talking about NIMBY issues, etc.

    Of course, some service members vote absentee back to their home states and others register and vote locally. Exactly how all of that plays out in the census (i.e., where one is counted as “home”) is likely also variable.

    There are people who work at Maxwell AFB (which is in ALo2) who live in my neighborhood (which is in AL03). The state prison a couple of miles from hear are all in one district (I am not sure if it is 02 or 03–the lines are right around here). As such, if during redistricting the state legislature needs to influence 02 or 03 population quite easily, with zero impact on partisan mix, it has a game piece to move on the board (this becomes more relevant with local districts, as the mathematical effects would be increased with, say, state legislative districts).

    1
  64. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:

    Military personnel are also nonmobile and in a 100% identifiable geographic space.

    Agreed. But they also have the ability to vote in local elections where they are stationed. Which gets back to my original comment that:

    “I personally would have less of an issue with this practice if – and only if – people were allowed to vote in prison.”

    My issue with this again has more to do with the disenfranchisement and the use of prisoners to prop up the political power of less populated communities without them having any functional say in application of said power.

    That leads me to:

    If communities want the political power and federal money that comes from their incarcerated citizens, then they should not outsource them to other communities. That is a choice they made because of NIMBY and not being willing to spend the money to incarcerate prisoners locally.

    In the modern US, correction decisions — where prisoners are incarcerated post-conviction and where prisons are built — are made at the State Level. Not the local or County level (with the exception of lower level misdemeanors and municipal crimes whose sentences are often carried out in County Jails). So I’m not sure where NIMBY comes into play here. Even if a county want to build a prison, they would need permission from the State BoC. And at this point there’s a general moratorium on construction prisons because they are bankrupting states.

    Anyway, I see where you are coming from but I don’t think we’re going to reach any additional agreement.

    1
  65. @Steven L. Taylor: My part of this conversation is solely about problems of representation within single seat districts and the ways by which they can be manipulated.

  66. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think you are missing my point or I am missing yours. I am addressing the way in which prison populations become useful pawns in distracting–I am not talking about NIMBY issues, etc.

    I understand that – my point is that making an exception to the way the census works is not the appropriate remedy unless you are also going to make exceptions for everyone who gets counted somewhere other than their home community.

    If accurate representation is the concern, then the census should count everyone in their home community and not where they happen to temporarily be in April on census years.

    If we seek to normalize representation via how the census counts, then it must be done equally and systemically, not by singular exceptions that seem specifically designed to benefit some communities at the expense of others.

    @mattbernius:

    My issue with this again has more to do with the disenfranchisement and the use of prisoners to prop up the political power of less populated communities without them having any functional say in application of said power.

    I don’t have any philosophical opposition to states giving prisoners voting rights. Vermont and Maine are, I think, the only two states that do this and it doesn’t seem to make much difference because prisoners there generally don’t vote.

    I’m not as concerned about prisoners propping up the political power of some communities because that happens with other groups and communities with high populations of people who can’t vote, not just prisoners. Singling out the benefits to rural communities is not correct in my view.

    Again, there are remedies available beyond making a singular exception to how the census works just for prisoners.

    In the modern US, correction decisions — where prisoners are incarcerated post-conviction and where prisons are built — are made at the State Level. Not the local or County level (with the exception of lower level misdemeanors and municipal crimes whose sentences are often carried out in County Jails). So I’m not sure where NIMBY comes into play here.

    NIMBY plays a huge role in state politics, I think you are just incorrect here.

    And at this point there’s a general moratorium on construction prisons because they are bankrupting states.

    This suggests another remedy – reducing the prison population through criminal justice reform and ending the stupid war on drugs.

    Anyway, I see where you are coming from but I don’t think we’re going to reach any additional agreement.

    And that’s fine, I don’t come here expecting to convince anyone and am happy to agree to disagree.

  67. Tyrell says:

    @gVOR08: I loved “Gunsmoke”. You didn’t mess with Dillon.
    “You can go home pig or pork. Make your choice”

  68. @Andy: I am poinitng out a problem with single seat districts and my solution would be to do away with them (which would eliminate the gerrymandering problem). I didn’t express an opinion about how to count prisoners.

    1
  69. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am poinitng out a problem with single seat districts and my solution would be to do away with them (which would eliminate the gerrymandering problem). I didn’t express an opinion about how to count prisoners.

    After reviewing the thread I see now that is the case – my apologies for straw-manning you.

    2
  70. HelloWorld! says:

    I know conservatives are afraid of a changing world, but in 10 years conservatives will be OK with all these changes, and be equally upset with whatever progresses in humanity are being made at the time.