My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

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The results are in….

First things first: congratulations to the winners.  To the losers: thank you for being involved, it matters.  To the incumbents (win or lose): thanks for your service.  Our democracy doesn't work if people don't come forward to stand for election and challenge incumbents.  Keeping politicians honest and holding them accountable is crucial.

No doubt you'll hear alot about how Trump is responsible for the Republicans problems and, to a large degree that is true.  If this had happened in Iowa I might simply shrug my shoulders and agree – I don't know a lot about politics in Iowa but I do about Virginia.  This is a devastating turn of events for Republicans in Virginia.  

For the state-wide races, Governor, Lt. Governor and AG, I believe Trump was the determining factor.  Trump drove turnout against Gillespie.  In addition, Gillespie ran on a Trump platform but never really embraced Trump himself.  That half-measure didn't help nail down his base because they didn't believe his new-found Trump-ism……although I expect that if he had done a full-on Trump campaign the results would have been even worse.

But at the local level I think it's a different story.  Trump isn't entirely responsible for the Republicans loss at this level and, indeed, this wipeout was some years in coming.  The first time I ran for office, our area was already trending blue.  I ran as a moderate republican who was mainly interested in taxes, economic growth and immigration (which was a budget and crime issue at the time).  The first time I ran I was the top vote-getter.  The second time I was unopposed.  The further right candidates had trouble, cycle after cycle, getting higher than third place.  The same was becoming true of the House of Delegates and Senate elections.  Despite the gerrymandered nature of their districts, it was getting harder and harder for right-wing Republicans to hold on to power – even when they mounted vicious oppo-driven campaigns.

Why?  Well, I believe that Republicans failed to modulate their policy and messaging to reflect a changing electorate.  Bob Marshall is about as far right as one can get and he was crushed by the first transgender candidate in VA.  Bob, and many other republicans, insisted on calling Danica "it" or "he" and that dog whistle crap didn't work.  Danica stuck mostly to illustrating a lack of results on Mr. Marshall's part and it was the right tactic.  Mr. Lingamfelter, who barely won reelection last time, really didn't try anything different and the result was predictable.  Mr. Miller, well, he got thumped by a guy who I didn't think fits the district but the margin was decisive. 

Now, no doubt some of these marginal candidates who won election will get rolled in the next cycle – that happens with some regularity.  However, I would urge my friends in the Republican party to do some soul-searching and come up with new policy initiatives, messaging and candidates that reflect the reality of the electorate present in their districts.  This electoral result will generate more credible candidates on the democrat side and republicans are going to have to work hard to win.  A new approach to policy would be good – or even having a policy approach that candidates are able to articulate would be a good start……I'm always here to help.

Guns and People

We have reached what must be the apex of the mass-shooting scale – a gunman firing from a prepared, elevated position into a crowd of people.   Utilizing weapons modified to, more or less, fire as though they were fully automatic.  Really, to one up that the next guy is going to have to use a belt-fed machine gun.  I guess he could cheat and use a second shooter.  That would be effective.  Firing at right angles would probably be the best.

Do I sound jaded?  caustic?  Do I not mourn the dead and pray for the injured?  Of course I do.  I hope they all recover but, friends, this is the country we've chosen.  There can't be a fundraiser, moral outrage and national mourning every time this happens.  I mean, didn't we cross that line when a crazy man shot up an elementary school?  If there was a time when our leaders were going to take clear action, it seems like it would have been then.

It just isn't intellectually honest for us to mope around when this happens.  We, as a nation, long ago shrugged our collective shoulders and chose to do nothing.  This is the reality we have selected.  

Seriously, if everyone in that crowd would have had a pistol….well….the entire side of the Mandalay Bay would have riddled with bullets and the body count would have been four times higher.  The notion that a guy with a pistol is the answer has been put to bed several times.  Yes, every now and then an armed civilian stops some nuttiness and I've no fight with that but, time and again, a guy with a semi-automatic rifle wins that argument.  In the Florida night club shooting the first responders had to initially retreat as they were outgunned.  

Did you know that only 22% of Americans own guns?  That number stuns me.

I'm conflicted about the thing.  On the one hand, I own a bunch of guns.  Most of them lay around gathering dust but a couple I do shoot regularly.  I enjoy shooting and having a gun to defend your house and family with is no bad thing.  If I'm being honest, my go-to gun is my 9mm.  I train with it.  I can operate it in complete darkness – and nearly silently.  The "big dog" is the M4 but that thing is a handful to shoot and, in a house, a bit unwieldy.  That's the same gun that has been used in many of the mass-casualty shootings.  It's ridiculously powerful.  An average handgun is cute and cuddly compared to most rifles – a rifle round will carry about 3 times as much energy as your average handgun – and the bullet used by the M4 is designed to cause wounds that belie its small size.  In fact, adjustments have been made to that bullet over the years to make the wounds worse.  That's alot of power for just anyone on the street to carry around.

And yet we have this Second Amendment thing.  My more left-leaning friends will decry that what republicans secretly want is for "everyone to have a nuclear weapon".  The republicans will point out that gun control doesn't work in Chicago and we'll be back to crazy people murdering dozens of our fellow citizens.  The "gun control doesn't work in <insert city here>" argument is ridiculous.  Of course it doesn't work – you can buy all the guns you want pretty much everywhere else in the United States.  In New York they found that so many of the guns used in crimes were purchased in Virginia that they shamed VA into passing the one gun a month law…..that was later repealed.  

I don't know what the answer is but I do know it includes a reasoned discussion and debate amongst the country's leadership.  Why can't that happen?  Why do none of our leaders have the stones to pick up the phone and call the leaders from the other party and make something happen?  On gun control.  or the budget. or health care.  or deficit reduction.  or education……funny, now that I put it like that it seems pretty clear what our problems are: we have lousy, weak leaders who care about one thing – getting reelected so they can stay on the gravy train in Congress.  It's at least a little ironic the only person to have actually done this is Mr. Trump.  Yeah, didn't see that coming.  Maybe he'll do it again.  I could get past his idiotic tweeting if he obtained some results.

I mean, outlawing bump stocks seems like the lowest-hanging fruit in history….

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