Defeating SB 840

IMG_2729In the myriad of bills offered in the 2015 General Assembly session, Senator John Watkins (R-Midlothian) proposed a piece of legislation regarding redistricting.  As the legislative summary states, SB 840 “provides criteria for the General Assembly to observe in drawing districts, including respect for political boundaries, equal population, racial and ethnic fairness, contiguity, compactness, and communities of interest. Use of political data or election results is prohibited unless necessary to determine if racial or ethnic minorities can elect candidates of their choice.”

As it stands now, legislators in the General Assembly have the right to choose who they represent.  Sounds a bit crazy, does it?  In school we’re taught that voters choose their representatives, but, in Virginia, legislators can draw their own districts to include or exclude voters based upon past voting history, race, socioeconomic status, and a whole host of other factors.

As one such example, this year Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) crafted SB 1237 which removed the rather heavily Democratic Georgetown precinct in Albemarle County from his district and exchanged it for the Republican friendly Stone Robinson precinct.  Thinking back to Reeves’ small margin of victory in the 2011 election, one article in yesterday’s Washington Post argued that he made this move in order to bolster his re-election chances.  Given the political ramifications of SB 1237 and the fact that Republicans currently enjoy a mere one seat majority in the Virginia Senate, all Republican senators voted for the measure while all Democrats (except one who did not vote) opposed it.  If the tides were reversed, and the Democrats were in power would the Democrats have favored the bill and the Republicans have stood against it?  Is the idea of right or wrong absolute?  Or does it hinge upon who gains power by a given action?  Is gerrymandering a integral part of the “Virginia Way“?

Watkins’ SB 840 would presumably help curtail gerrymandering, which includes the practice of carving up some counties into as many pieces as possible in order to achieve political advantage, as was done to Rockingham County in the 2011 redistricting.  Perhaps surprisingly, the bill passed the Virginia Senate 38-0.  However, yesterday the legislation was killed in the House subcommittee of elections in privileges and elections, squelched by Republican Delegates Mark Cole, Buddy Fowler, Steve Landes, and Margaret Ransone.  What we need to know is why these four delegates killed this bill, which was passed unanimously by the Virginia Senate.  Are there ramifications that could weaken the ability of Virginians to be fairly represented in the General Assembly?  Or was it simply done to preserve legislators’ control of who can and cannot vote to either re-elect or replace these elected officials?

Allen’s Fatal Flaw

Photo from the George Allen 2012 Campaign

Recently, the Republican Party of Virginia held their third and final Senate debate between the four candidates.  Although, to the best of my knowledge, none of the previous debates were televised statewide, I was appreciative that I was still able to watch them through the blog Bearing Drift.  However, despite my searching, I haven’t been able to find the entire video of the third debate.

Shortly after this last debate, one of my friends shared a rather curious quote from George Allen, one of the four hopefuls vying for the GOP nomination.  Regarding war and U.S. foreign policy, Allen stated, “The concern I have is not whether we have a (congressional) authorization of force, it’s whether or not our military is going to have the equipment, the armament, the up-to-date technology that is paramount as they’re trying to protect our freedoms.”

Given that any conservative should find such a statement troubling, I searched the web in the hopes of finding video of Allen making this comment.  Although I was unsuccessful, I did find a Washington Post article, which confirmed the above quote as accurate.  In addition, I received a video from the Radtke campaign from the debate on this very issue last night.

In response to this matter, I wrote on Facebook was that “anyone who makes such a statement should be declared unfit for federal office”.  Now the average Republican voter might think that my statement is outlandish…at least at first glance, but allow me the opportunity to explain my rationale.  What is George Allen really saying here?

Let’s first focus on the positive aspect.  The second part of his statement is that he wants our military to have the best equipment possible.  I don’t find anything wrong with this line of thinking.  It is actually laudable.  After all, if we ask our brave men and women to risk their lives on behalf of their countrymen, it is only proper that we supply them with the best tools to protect them from harm.

However, the first segment is what is truly damning.  He doesn’t care whether or not Congress authorizes the use of force?  What’s going on here?  Has he ever read the Constitution?  Does he know that only Congress has the power to declare war?  And if he doesn’t care if Congress gives their approval, who does Allen believe should have control of the military?  Should we have an imperial presidency where the executive branch rules unchecked?  Or should these decisions be left up the generals like some sort of South American military junta?  Mr. Allen, how can the military protect our freedoms abroad while they are sent on missions that run contrary to rules that underpin the foundations of both our government and society?

Although George Allen was widely denounced by the media in 2006 for his so-called macaca moment, isn’t his statement here far more troubling?  It is not merely some case of either racism or perceived racism, but rather shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution, the separation of powers, and the proper role of a United States Senator.  It would be one thing if he were merely an ill-informed private citizen with no ties to the government, but it is quite another when he has actually served six years in the Senate and is seeking to do so again in the June 12th GOP primary.

Last I checked, conservatives believe in things like federalism and a government bound by the restraints of the Constitution.  Through his quote in the recent debate, George Allen has shown once again that his philosophy of government does not align with the conservative mindset of actually limiting government.  I don’t know about you, but I’m terrified of the prospect of electing more leaders from either party who will trample upon the rule of law and disregard the Constitution.  I sincerely pray that Mr. Allen recants the statement he made in the above video.

Photo from the Jamie Radtke Campaign

Don’t forget that in just a few short weeks, Virginia voters will go to the polls to select the GOP nominee for Senate.  I just hope that all Virginians will remember Allen’s words here.  After all, we can ill afford to continue an irresponsible foreign policy ruled by a single person or cabal which is all done without congressional approval and oversight.  Given that issue, do you really want to return a man like George Allen to such an important position of power?  Or should we elect someone like Jamie Radtke who understands the proper role of a United States Senator?  Seems like an obvious choice, doesn’t it?

Update:  It seems like the folks at Citizen Tom have a link to the video of the entire third debate.  Check it out here!