Some of those changes are symbolic. Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment made headlines, but a legal fight over whether the amendment is still viable is inevitable and could go on for years.
Others are more concrete.
Whether it’s passing no-excuse absentee voting, expanding and strengthening LGBT rights or banning the discredited practice of “conversion therapy,” Democrats are belatedly pushing the commonwealth into the 21st century.
And there’s nothing Virginia Republicans can do about it.
In that light, Monday’s massive crowd of 22,000 gun rights supporters can be seen both as a high water mark for the groups who’ve long organized the annual event and as a final bow for the policies they lobbied for.
Yes, thousands of people came to protest — peacefully (and cleanly). But General Assembly Democrats went back to work, spiking GOP bills to loosen gun regulations, while advancing their own proposals to further tighten them.
This is going to be the state of affairs at least until after the 2021 elections — assuming, of course, Virginia Republicans are able to stop the bleeding in their former suburban strongholds. That would be an exceedingly tall order for any political party, and that’s doubly so for Virginia Republicans, who continue to suffer under the burden of an unpopular president and a bizarre insistence on defending the indefensible.
Consider the Senate’s vote Tuesday to eliminate the Lee-Jackson state holiday and make Election Day a state holiday, instead.
A bill co-patroned by Sens. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) eliminates Lee-Jackson Day, created, according to the existing law’s text, “to honor Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870) and Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall) Jackson (1824-1863), defenders of causes.”
The “defenders of causes,” in this case, were heroes of a mythological Lost Cause that sought to destroy the union to perpetuate chattel slavery. Their holiday was slowly dying before the bill won Senate approval and may have disappeared on its own over time.
But Democrats are hastening its demise, passing the bill through the Senate on a 22-18 vote.
One Republican, Siobhan S. Dunnavant (Henrico), voted in favor of the bill. That should have been a huge statement from a suburban GOP lawmaker to her colleagues. But let’s not get too excited. In the fine print under the vote total, we read this:
“Senator Dunnavant stated that she voted yea on the question of the passage of S.B. 601, whereas she intended to vote nay.”
No profile in courage for you, senator.
Nor for her colleagues, either, who managed once again chose to embrace mythology over inconvenient reality.
Though, to be fair, the new GOP argument against the bill could be the one Del. David A. LaRock (R-Loudoun) made to the Winchester Star’s Josh Janney. When asked whether he would oppose the House version of the Lucas-Ebbin bill, LaRock said the measure was just an attempt to boost Democratic turnout on Election Day:
[LaRock] said he believes more Democrats work in the public sector than Republicans and that Democrats would likely benefit at the polls from having Election Day off. He said he believes the bill is an attempt by Democrats to mobilize their base and get them to vote in higher numbers.
It’s a novel argument, and one that will probably salve a few Republican consciences.
But LaRock also said the bills were an attempt to “erase a part of history.”
No, but in those few words, we get a real taste of just how much Virginia Republicans still don’t get about what’s happening around them and to them.