Professional Democracy-watchers — that group of people who yell from the top of every bell-tower in America that President Trump has eroded nearly every civic norm holding our country together — have been silent about what’s going on in Richmond, Virginia, where the Democrat-led House of Delegates recently voted to conduct their legislative affairs “virtually.” As in over the Internet, not in person and not even in Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol.
Virginia, the home of Washington, Madison and Jefferson, men who deliberately designed a political system which prized open, transparent execution of public affairs, is now online-only. COVID-19 seems to be just too much of a risk for modern-day statesmen.
Businesses and schools are open in Virginia, so it’s a mystery why House politicians have made this choice. It wasn’t so long ago that the Virginia Senate met at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond.
The first thing Virginia Democrats did once in session was vote for holding virtual sessions. The second order of business was to vote in favor of their per diem, you know, for all those expenses incurred traveling to and from the State Capitol in pajamas.
More worrisome is, as Rusty E. McGuire, the commonwealth’s attorney for Louisa County, detailed in an op-ed (“Virtually Turning Virginia’s Justice System Upside Down”) for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is the “radical legislative agenda” Virginia Democrats are about to embark on under the cover of a virtual session.
Mr. McGuire uses the example of the Virginia State Crime Commission, which gave a paltry three day’s notice of a virtual public hearing that Mr. McGuire “with a few other members of the public” were “arbitrarily allowed to participate.”
At stake in the hearings was Democrat-sponsored HB 5146, which would grant “automatic expungement for certain convictions,” like, involuntary manslaughter, arson, threats to bomb buildings, pointing laser pointers at police, destroying firefighter equipment, failure of a member of the National Guard to respond to a riot after the order of the governor, etc.
However shocking this legislation may be, it managed to win the chamber vote 59-37.
Since Virginia Democrats have a trifecta in state politics at the moment, it must be conceded that aspects of their radical agenda would be passed, virtual session or no. But public participation in politics, an opportunity owed every American, should at least be more available. As things stand, if some Virginians don’t have access to the Internet, or only intermittent access, their voices are effectively silenced.
And all of this arrives thanks to the supposedly civic-loving Virginia Democrats, who don’t like innovation unless it suits their purposes. Expect more radical legislation to come.
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