The futility of political discourse?

What a civil political forum looks like

What a civil political forum looks like

Has our political discourse grown futile?

The combination of misdirection, false statements, exaggerations, misplaced emphasis, character attacks, slander, lies, and too little time to research all of the above for anyone but political obsessives (like myself) makes an intelligent vote a somewhat elusive outcome in what passes for our modern political campaigning.

That said, I had an opportunity this past Saturday to participate in a civil, disciplined, even enlightened political process that just might serve as an antidote to the modern campaign.

This past Saturday, two seasoned political journalists asked each of our partisan gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Edward Gillespie, who they are, why they are running, and what hopes they may harbor for the Commonwealth if elected this November.

Among the “hard questions” posed, Dale Peskin asked Mr. Gillespie about his “attack ad” charging that Mr. Northam was indifferent to MS 13 gang crime, that he’d release gang members to the streets, and that he favored “sanctuary cities.”  No matter that there are no sanctuary cities in Virginia, that Mr. Northam opposes the creation of any, and that Mr. Northam supports prosecuting any and all crime, whether it’s the MS-13 gang or any other kind.  Mr. Northam said the ad was “despicable and inaccurate” and nothing less than “fear mongering.”  Later that day Mr. Gillespie campaigned with Mr. Trump’s Vice President.  Mr. Northam compared how Mr. Trump campaigned last year with how Mr. Gillespie was campaigning this year.

I’m inclined by background to favor Mr. Gillespie.  He was the son of a janitor.  My Dad was a janitor before he worked his trade as a carpenter, electrician and plumber.  Mr. Gillespie was the first of his family to go to college.  So was I.

But Mr. Gillespie, a man of friendly and easy expression, made choices I could never embrace – his role as an Enron lobbyist, a climate denier, an opponent of the Paris Climate Change Accords, an enthusiastic advocate for fossil fuel, favoring coal tax credits, Big Oil, offshore drilling, a past opponent of the moratorium on oil drilling after the BP oil spill in the Gulf, favoring fracking, and proposing oil and gas exploration for the Commonwealth.

Mr. Gillespie is just fine that we’ve lost Medicaid funds to other states, has a vague proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but no remedy for those now in danger of losing their medical coverage because Mr. Trump’s recent executive order refused the subsidies critical to the ACA.

In a time of intolerance and division, Mr. Gillespie has shown himself slow to the mark after the armed Charlottesville demonstrations by white Supremacists, has no respect for a woman’s constitutional right to be let alone, supports faith-based initiatives, announced he would stand by his religious beliefs in public office, refuses any assurance he will respect diversity, offers no reliable program to avoid more gun violence, in a state that has become the illegal supplier of guns for New York and elsewhere.

After the “interviews” including the written questions of those attending, the collective panel of attendees voiced their observations from the floor.

That’s when I spoke – as did others in agreement and dissent.  Mr. Northam emphasized that our state’s economy is strong with 215,000 new jobs, a drop in unemployment from 5.4 percent to 3.8 percent, and 17.5 Billion dollars in new investment.

Mr. Northam supports a tax code that is simpler but only if it’s fiscally responsible and does not put our bond rating at risk.

Mr. Northam said, “if we cut 10% off the top, we put a hole in our budget to deliver services, and that’s irresponsible.  Kansas did this.  It almost bankrupted the state, forcing them to go from a 5 day to a 4 day school week and, in the end, to repair what they’d done, they had to raise taxes.”

A prominent Loudoun businesswoman cautioned that any social agenda, like has been followed in North Carolina, and seemingly supported by Mr. Gillespie, discourages new business.

Mr. Northam, our current Lieutenant Governor and a doctor believes – “health care is a right, not a privilege.”  Mr. Northam said it was crucial that a pre-existing condition not prompt the denial of medical coverage.  But he was also concerned that 30 million Americans could lose coverage because of Mr. Trump’s recent executive order.  Without the subsidies, many will not be able to afford the premiums.  He’s concerned that 40,000 Virginias were denied Medicaid.

In his military service, Mr. Northam said he saw what assault weapons can do to human beings, and asked why we need a weapon in private life that can only kill people.

Mr. Northam asked why the torch-bearing, gunslinging, stick-wielding ruffians in Charlottesville were not called what they were – “White Supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis.”  Mr. Northam said, “That’s not Virginia, that’s not our country.”

Mr. Northam has served in the military, as a physician, as a member of the General Assembly, and as our Lieutenant Governor; Ralph should be our next Governor because he cares for Virginia, and rightly recoils from the politics of hate and division.