That was very neighborly of Mr. Justice, a Republican, and the GOP-dominated Senate in Charleston, which passed a resolution making its invitation official. That the offer was received by guffaws in Richmond, and elsewhere, didn’t dampen the governor’s boosterish enthusiasm. “We’ve got four incredible seasons,” he said.
Those must include a Season of Silliness. Localities in the United States don’t typically bed down with neighbors like subjects in a spouse-swapping drama. Besides, Republicans in Richmond (and even some Democrats) might object if Frederick County (pop. 88,000) tried to decamp to West Virginia — and take with it a heavily Republican electorate, as well as several GOP lawmakers.
The more concerning thing is that the Democrats’ victory in last fall’s Virginia legislative elections is indeed regarded by many Republicans in Richmond as akin to the invasion of a horde intent on expropriating their way of life. Hyperbole that would have been regarded as unhinged not long ago is now the stuff of quotidian sound bites. Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, an evangelical campus with 15,000 students, said he wished his college town of Lynchburg, Va., would secede to West Virginia to escape the “barbaric, totalitarian and corrupt Democratic regime in Richmond.” At the time he spoke, Democrats had held power for less than three weeks.
In fact, Republicans have been badly out of step with Virginia voters for years. No GOP candidate has been elected to statewide office since 2009; the party managed to hold control of the legislature until this year mainly thanks to elaborately gerrymandered voting districts. Rather than moderating its positions to appeal to centrist voters in Northern Virginia and other Democratic-trending parts of the state, Republicans enacted measures restricting abortion availability and refusing even broadly popular gun-control legislation, such as tougher background checks for purchasers.
Virginia Democrats, who before their recent triumph had not held majorities in both houses of the General Assembly in more than two decades, surely did not revel in their prolonged political impotence. But they didn’t whine about wanting to secede and join another state.
Election victories in a democracy typically confer the power to enact legislation the other side opposes. That seems a novel concept to some Republicans in Richmond, who have been howling as though aliens have breached the city gates to pursue a “radical” agenda.
Memo to the GOP: Those aliens are your neighbors and every bit as Virginian as you are.