2019 election marks

change for Virginia

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

I was frustrated by the mix of items on the RTD’s Nov. 7 Opinions pages. To publish pieces that both celebrate high turnout and caution the leaders elected by a majority of voters to be “careful of overreach” perpetuates undemocratic narratives. People voted for lots of different things, but they didn’t vote for appeasement.

At a fundamental level, either you believe that more participation in civic processes, more people making decisions about society and resources is good, or you don’t. If you don’t, you’re probably sympathetic to correspondent H.V. Traywick, who opined that “universal suffrage ... has opened the field to demogogues.” Don’t smear popularly elected leaders or those building majorities as cynical rabble-rousers.

As a historian and public servant, I deeply resent the use of history and traditional rhetoric to obscure the exact nature of people’s ideas and desires. To say that Virginia was, as correspondent Harold Landis wrote, a “conservative bastion of liberty” until this week is fully embracing the 17th-century definition of “liberty.” Let’s not use fancy words to say some really hateful stuff. If you think Virginia’s long legacies of racial and working class oppression, patriarchal domination and minority rule are “grand,” so be it. But just say so.

The 2019 elections do mark a material shift in the political economy of Virginia. But will that shift simply smooth the sharp edges off an agenda sponsored by Amazon, Dominion Energy and the 1% that venerates the power of wealthy elites over most of us? Or will we see the majority controlling the fruits of their labor through unions and collective bargaining, people having control over their own bodies and health care, people living free from fear of gun violence or state-sponsored terror? In short, will we move toward the fairer, safer, less polluted, freer society voters demand?

Ben Himmelfarb.


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