Are Virginians paying attention?

Old_New_VaSenate13My latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Thursday.

It has always bothered me that until a state issue hits the national news, far too many in Virginia were unaware of the issue. Sometimes, like the electoral vote scheme, the state and local media has been covering the topic from the beginning. I wrote about it in the Pilot back in December, an opinion based on the news reports of the filing of the bill. But it wasn’t until the national folks got in on it over the last couple of weeks – saying, I might add, the same thing that I and others had said – that the folks started paying attention.

There is a reason why Virginia’s elected representatives get away with doing so much: voters simply don’t pay attention. And they know it. A rare victory occurred yesterday when the uranium mining bill was pulled by its sponsor. The public has been actively engaged in maintaining the ban. Pressure has been applied to local electeds, the result being council resolutions across the state in favor of keeping the ban.

Redistricting could be an issue like that. It’s not as if the local media isn’t covering it. But for far too many, if it isn’t on Maddow or Colbert, it’s not news.

You get the government you deserve when you don’t pay attention. Unfortunately, I get the same government.

My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot.


19 thoughts on “Are Virginians paying attention?

  1. I agree with you to the extent that it’s true that a lot of people don’t pay attention to state-level politics which frequently have a much more direct impact on their lives than things going on in Washington.

    At the same time, I think the blanket statement “There is a reason why Virginia’s elected representatives get away with doing so much: voters simply don’t pay attention” goes a bit too far. Republican politicians have been making a version of that same oversimplification a lot recently “Why are we losing elections? It must be because of demographic shifts, messaging, [insert excuse here].” What they fail to realize, of course, is that a lot of people just don’t agree with them on the issues. I think the blanket statement you’re making is equally myopic. If legislators are doing things you don’t care for in Richmond, it’s likely they’re doing things that other people DO want them to do. Sometimes what you might perceive as people not paying attention is actually people paying very close attention and simply coming to a different conclusion about what ought to be done.

    1. I’ve watched what the legislators do for far too long. It’s not a matter of them doing what other people want them to do. They do what they want to do. Just today, one of my conservative friends pointed out on Twitter that the voters rejected a meals tax but the “representatives” asked for one anyway.

      I’ve built a case over a long period, on this blog and elsewhere, that Virginia voters check out when it comes to state and local elections. It is not an oversimplification to say that the reason legislators continue to get away with their dismissal of the voters is because the voters don’t pay attention nor is it myopic. It’s the truth.

      And it’s a damn shame.

        1. Why do folks like you always think that you know me? You don’t – and don’t presume that you do. In fact, if you read what I have written, you wouldn’t have made the comment that you did. Just because everything is partisan to you doesn’t make it true for me or for others,.

          1. I’ve read quite a bit of what you’ve written over the past 8 1/2 years that I’ve lived here, enough that I think I can read between the lines and pick up on the subtext from your choice of topics, choice of words, and timing. You obviously have come to the same conclusion about me, albeit on far, far less written evidence.

            As an example from elsewhere on your sight, take the post and comments here: You made the remark “Passing along information as it is happening is a part of what we do here.” I pointed out that the remark that “the Virginia Constitution appears to prohibit this” wasn’t just “passing along information” as it was happening. That was your opinion, not mere reporting. You never responded, and I realize you have better things to do than respond to all of my comments, but I think your comments there demonstrate that you don’t always succeed in staying out of the partisan fray.

            It seems disingenuous to me for you to take offense at assumptions made by others while making quite similar assumptions about those by whom you claim to be offended. When you say things such as “folks like you” or “Just because everything is partisan to you” that seems, at least to my mind, to seriously undercut your point about making unfair assumptions about others. I don’t comment on all of your posts and accuse you of partisanship in everything, do I? That’s what you seem to be saying. When I think I’ve seen partisanship, however, I’ve tried to point it out.

          2. Joseph,
            First this blog does put forth a lot of stuff that is not known because it is not followed by the local papers. I personally would want to thank Vivian for that.

            A couple points on what you have said.I agree with the statement Vivian made that the Constitution prohibits this redistricting where you imply that is just an opinion. The law now requires a census and then the next year the redistricting plans have to be passed. Now we have passed the time frame set by the Constitution by a year and the majority that day of the General Assembly wants to make a change due to a “technicality”.

            The reason that our state law and most state laws restrict redistricting in this fashion is so it is not redrawn after every election or every time the majority changes. I was at a speech hearing Supreme Court Justice Scalia and he said that France changes their Constitution with party changes where as the United States does not. To change the French Constitution it only takes 3/5 of the voting group. That is why the France government has had many of Constitutions. The same principle applies here. The party that wants it to change will always argue for redistricting while the party that it hurts will always argue against it. However, it should be what is good for the people of the whole state not a tool to get party officials elected to office. So this redistricting bill was definitely partisan issue.

            As far as the Uranium I would say it is not even partisan. However, I know many disagree with that. The reason I feel that is most people in our area I heard speak were against it at hearings. The only people I heard speaking for the mining had a specific interest in the project itself. However, NC governor said if Virginia allows the drilling and it contaminates their water supply they would sue the state of Virginia. Then it would be absolutely non-partisan as the taxpayers would pay that bill and it would not matter what party they belonged to.

  2. Well said Vivian. I appreciate your overwatch and view on our democratic process and system. Of course everyone’s opinion is tainted by our/their values, beliefs and life experiences but I appreciate your thoughts and opinions. I do agree from my short experience in governance, that there is a greater need for constituent involvement in what is known as a “representative government.” I would hope that consistent accountability (among other things) would tie political representation (I’d like to use the term “leadership” but I now understand the two terms don’t necessarily equate) and constituency together. Thanks.

  3. While I agree that as a Virginian we must be fully engaged with the issues it is dificult to know at times what the issues are. As a reader of the Virginian Pilot for over 30 years I can tell you that local and State news that has not made it to National news is religated to the inside of the back page of the Hampton Roads section in print so small that its dificult to read even with a magnifing glass.

    1. The front page has been taking some of this on. Yes, sometimes it ends up in the summary section inside. But I rarely see that stuff linked up on Facebook, where one can quickly be overwhelmed with cute cat pictures.

  4. I’ve read quite a bit of what you’ve written over the past 8 1/2 years that I’ve lived here, enough that I think I can read between the lines and pick up on the subtext from your choice of topics, choice of words, and timing. You obviously have come to the same conclusion about me, albeit on far, far less written evidence.

    Reading between the lines requires that you make certain assumptions, not that you know me. Your only comments have been to make partisan statements about everything. I don’t have to read between the lines – you have made it quite clear that you see everything thru a partisan lens.

    As for the very specific example you mention, there was quite a bit of chatter over the internet that the move was unconstitutional. Yes, I passed that along. That’s what a quick blog post is about.

    I make no claims of “staying out of the partisan fray.” Again, that’s an assumption you are making.

    Disingenuous is the assumption that you know me and what I think.

  5. What I cannot figure is how you reconcile your seeing so much bad government (at all levels) and your wanting government to control more of our lives.

  6. Carol,

    I think we’re a few too many comments deep for me to reply directly to your comment here:

    On the Constitution, it just doesn’t say what you seem to think it says. It definitely does not say “redistricting only happens once every ten years after the census.” It has to happen at least that often, but there’s nothing prohibiting the GA from doing it more often. There might be policy reasons why the GA shouldn’t, but the Constitution doesn’t say redistricting more often than once every ten years is prohibited.

    Believe it or not, I appreciate when people draw attention to local issues that might not otherwise get a lot of air time. That includes this blog.

    1. I do believe you when you say you appreciate items not in the news brought forward and I am glad. To many people have not idea who their state officials are much less what is going on.

      As far as the Constitution wording you might be right it might be just implied which is why all 50 states have followed it for all these years for the reason I stated. Are you saying you support redistricting at anytime. If so would you support it when what ever party you see yourself in is not the majority?

      1. Actually, no the infamous redistricting case to reach the United States Supreme Court (League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, found here: also involved mid-decade redistricting (you might remember in 2003 Texas lawmakers literally fleeing across the border to Oklahoma to try to deprive their legislature of a quorum). The vast majority of that plan was upheld and the Supreme Court found no problem under the US Constitution with redistricting in between census years. Colorado’s legislature also redrew lines in 2003 although that was later overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court based on the Constitution of Colorado. Of course, both of those case are different from the Virginia Constitution, but it’s not as if redistricting mid-decade is something novel to Virginia.

        I’m not saying I support redistricting at any time. As you point out, there are good policy reasons not to do so (there are also political considerations which I tend to think were not considered in this situations). I’m merely saying that there is not necessarily a constitutional issue here.

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