The Weekender: our round-up of Virginia opinion

Gov. Ralph Northam is proposing eliminating a requirement that all vehicles undergo an annual safety inspection. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Mercury commentary ICYMI: Roger Chesley noted that statesmen like former Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner are in short supply in the modern GOP of Trump. In a guest column, Northwestern University professor Steven Lubet reminds us that senators aren’t really jurors in impeachment trials. Bob Lewis bids good riddance to a Virginia law likely to see its demise in the coming General Assembly session: one that mandates license suspensions for delinquent court debts.

Vehicle inspections: The Richmond Times-Dispatch says Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposal to get rid of vehicle inspections is a bad idea.  “Just because other states don’t put a premium on safety doesn’t mean that Virginia should follow suit.

“What?” was the reaction from The Daily Progress: “The proposal to drop inspections requires more discussion in Virginia — if not a study of our own — to make sure it does not endanger the public. Before they allow their legislators to approve any such change, Virginians should be fully confident that it will not put them at increased risk of death, injury and costly property damage.”

Impeachment: A “bellicose personality, disdain for political decorum and inclination to use divisive and profane language.” Not Trump, though. Historian Charles Bryan looks at the administration of Andrew Johnson, the first president to be impeached, in the RTD. The Richmond Free Press commended people who stood in the rain for pro-impeachment rallies last week: “We believe that the president must be removed from office before he causes further damage and irreparable harm to our nation’s democracy.” In an editorial, the RTD says impeachment has laid bare two “ugly realities.”

Higher ed: The Free Lance-Star says professors focused on income inequality should consider their bosses first. “Of the top 25 highest-paid state employees, 18 are employed by Virginia’s state colleges and universities. So academics who bemoan economic inequality in our society should take a harder look at their own state-supported institutions.”

Statues: RTD columnist Michael Paul Williams has spot in mind for a new statue on Richmond’s Monument Avenue honoring U.S. Colored Troops who fought at the Battle of New Market Heights: the site currently occupied by the Jeff Davis monument. “Replacing the Davis monument would be a powerful nod toward reconciliation and historical balance,” he wrote.

Virginia politics: How did the GOP fall so far so fast? “Part of the answer rests in the GOP going ‘Super Rural’ with its messaging and white male culture while Virginia trends ‘Super Suburban’ with more women and minorities taking active political roles in growing suburbs,” wrote UVA’s Bob Gibson in The Roanoke Times.  The Virginian-Pilot and the Daily Press call Northam’s proposed budget “an ambitious blueprint,” writing that “it would be a miracle were the legislature to change party control and survive this session without some huge controversy involving taxes and/or spending.”

The Roanoke Times itself has concerns about the accelerating rural-urban division in Virginia politics. “We worry that in the current political environment neither side really understands where the other is coming from. We are becoming strangers to one another. That can’t be good.” The Winchester Star says the gun control agenda could put some rural Democrats in a tough spot: “Could an intransigent insistence on gun control spell a short majority status for state Democrats who have just emerged from the political wilderness?”

The News & Advance says it’s time to “tone it down,” particularly the rhetoric around Second Amendment sanctuaries: “Fellow Americans — and that is what we all are … fellow Americans — we are on a dangerous path at this moment in history,” the paper wrote. The Register & Bee penned a strong call for campaign finance reform: “Anyone who believes Virginia politics are as pure as the driven snow is deluding himself. A pretty facade known for decades as ‘The Virginia Way’ creates the perception that politics is done differently in the Old Dominion.”

‘Twas the night before session: RTD columnist Jeff Schapiro reworks the old poem with Gov. Ralph Northam as the main character: “Democratic majorities meant Republicans were done/ Still, Northam worried that January wouldn’t be fun/ After all, he was a centrist, a Democrat neither left nor right/ And as a politico, Northam liked to get things done, not get in a fight.”

The carol that saved Christmas: Writing at, VCU instructor and former Stafford School Board member David Kerr says Charles Dickens’ famous story may have saved Christmas from the Industrial Revolution. “He had tapped a longing in his readers that most people didn’t even know was there. It was a desire to reestablish a tie to another time, to find some of the connection to the past, and some of the joy of the Christmas season that had faded away.”

Death penalty: Writing in the RTD, Keith Harward, wrongfully convicted of rape and murder, says mistakes made in cases like his are reason enough to get rid of capital punishment. “If I had been sentenced to death back in 1986, the commonwealth would have executed me in the 1990s along with 65 other men. And no one would have ever known that I was innocent.”

LETTER OF THE WEEK: It’s getting scary out there. “If law enforcement officers try to enforce the new gun laws, a large force of patriots in Virginia and from other states will meet law enforcement officers with this threat,” David Curtis of Culpeper wrote to the Star-Exponent, calling for gun owners to pray for no new restrictions. “1861 was the last time a tyrannical government threatened with force the patriots of Virginia. Have we learned anything since then?”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: The Weekender will go on a holiday hiatus, resuming on Jan. 5. See you in the new year.