The Weekender: post-election edition

Eileen Helgesen votes with her sons Ben (left) and Owen (center) at Quioccasin Middle School in Henrico November 5, 2019. (Parker Michels-Boyce/Virginia Mercury)

The Weekender: a round-up of opinion and commentary across Virginia

The aftermath: Tuesday saw a seismic election for Virginia, giving Democrats full control of state government for the first time since 1993. Commentary on what it means and what comes next dominated opinion pages in the ensuing days.

From the Mercury: My thoughts on the big reversal of circumstances for Gov. Ralph Northam, who was facing calls for his resignation less than a year ago and now finds himself in the driver’s seat of the party’s agenda. Roger Chesley brought you the voices of voters in Virginia Beach and Suffolk from Election Day.

From around Virginia: There was a good bit of admonishment to jubilant Dems about overreach.  “Welcome to the Blue Dominion,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote. “We urge caution on moving too swiftly to enact economic promises such as raising Virginia’s minimum wage.” The Roanoke Times posed some questions, including “when and how will the Democratic trifecta in Richmond overreach? Parties flush with victory tend to get overcome by hubris and do something that backfires on them politically.”

The Virginian-Pilot noted that the “blue wave” was more like a ripple in Hampton Roads:  “A funny thing happened on the way to the majority.”

Blame Trump, the RTD’s Jeff Schapiro wrote, adding that the president’s unpopularity “magnified distaste for Republican policies on guns, immigration, health care and abortion rights that had frustrated the state’s dominant suburban voter bloc even before Trump’s win.”

The Daily Progress theorized that the GOP’s abrupt adjournment on the gun control special session was a key factor. “We suspect that the terminated gun control session became the final straw for liberals who had watched most of their legislative proposals come to grief in the GOP-dominated legislature,” the paper wrote.

The Pilot’s Gordon C. Morse also saw a link there: “Now, amidst the Republican wreckage, come the Democrats, in thunder and in earthquake (Henry V), and the population should rightly brace itself, for the Democrats may do things because they can.”

Writing in the Staunton News Leader, David Fritz says redistricting reform “should be a sure thing, unless Democrats get greedy.”

Other opinions:

• The Daily Progress said UVA made a mistake in canceling a traditional Veteran’s Day 21-gun salute. “The decision sends an insulting message to veterans and other patriots,” the paper wrote in an editorial. “It also, ironically, sends an unfortunate message about students: That they are too fragile, too delicate, too distractible to deal with the ‘interruption’ of the salute.”

• RTD columnist Michael Paul Williams chronicles the long military career of a local man: “I was ready to kill, and report back to my people,” he told him. “Now that’s what you call war.”

• The Roanoke Times recounts some “history we weren’t taught” of a Virginia man whose legal battle for freedom after escaping slavery to Boston “helped send the nation down the divided path to civil war,” though the story doesn’t end there.

• The Mercury’s indefatigable Ivy Main had two pieces on renewable energy development, including an in-depth look at Dominion Energy’s proposed offshore wind project and a program the company got past the State Corporation Commission she called “green power for suckers.”

• Writing in the RTD, Roanoke College professor Todd Peppers questions resistance to televising executions. “It’s often death penalty supporters who blanch at the idea of public executions, dismissing such ideas as barbaric and crude. We can kill, but it must be discrete and behind closed doors,” he wrote. “Let’s watch the final walk into the death chamber. Let’s see if the condemned man shakes as he is tied to the gurney. Let’s listen to his final words. Let’s observe his final breath. And then let’s ask ourselves if we still support state-sanctioned killing.”

Letter of the week: Cathie Cummins, of Union Hall, blasts the Franklin County School Board for getting cold feet on a Confederate flag ban. “The Confederate flag represents a time in the South’s history which does not merit flaunting in this century,” she wrote to The Roanoke Times. “I want so desperately for America to move past bigotry and hatred, that I find display of the Confederate flag truly offensive.”

— Robert Zullo, editor