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General Assembly Week Five:
Bubbles Burst
By Stephen J. Rossie

Square2017 imageRichmond – One of the ironic aspects of working at the General Assembly is that while you are "down there,” as the locals like to say, and in the middle of the annual commotion, you are often the least likely to know what everyone outside the Capitol Square bubble knows. That’s because everyone is working inside his or her own smaller bubbles.

If you’re hustling up votes for an education bill, for example, you are isolated in that domain. The inner details of each policy realm draw you in, pin you down and lock you away. It’s all you know for weeks. Of course, it helps to know the cross-current dynamics — you may be losing a certain senator’s vote because he’s mad at the patron for killing his bill in another committee, or a regional bloc of delegates are trying to extract something for their corner of the commonwealth.

But February 1 was the day the giant bubble, and all the little ones inside of it, burst. The word trickled out, then leaked steadily, then rampantly gushed like the James River after a summer storm, with all the river bottom dirt discoloring the water brown. All of a sudden, everyone’s work was overwhelmed by one variant, and one alone.

Not that there wasn’t trouble only a few days before. The video of a House Courts of Justice Sub-Committee meeting where Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Springfield) admitted her bill repealing all abortion center safety standards would allow for the killing of a baby up to the moment of birth had appalled the nation. Trying to heal the rift, Governor Ralph Northam, M.D., proudly one-upped Tran on Northern Virginia radio when he said that the baby could be killed once delivered.

He said he knew "exactly” how it was done (a comment many have ignored), which is interesting since that is illegal in every state in the union. Exactly how does he know how it’s done — and why? Delegate Tran and Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), the patron of the Senate version, and their numerous co-patrons, quickly went into hiding.

But a day can be a lifetime in politics and the abortion-on-demand crowd soon had what they would deny a newborn — the slimmest of breaths. When the blackface/ klan photo from the governor’s medical school yearbook page emerged, everyone resurfaced, infanticide suddenly ignored, to demand his resignation.

There was no shortage of political oxygen, either. You know national media are in town — even least the typically uninterested state media — when you see people ask the delightful docent at the kiosk asking directions to certain offices.

Rumors immediately surfaced that Northam’s strategy to stave off the pressure was to make fellow Democrat Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax look unpalatable as governor. Mission accomplished there. In fact, every rumor started has been validated at astonishing speed and accuracy.

The news about Democrat Attorney General Mark Herring broke even as House Democrats arrived in House Room 2 for their daily caucus, all of them oblivious to the news even as it was spreading among lobbyists and senior staffers. Laughing and talking as they entered, they emerged several minutes later shell shocked and despondent, many of them walking to the House floor huddled together for protection from the growing media frenzy, shouted questions absolutely ignored, the ultimate blowback on a party that thrives on identity politics and that weaponizes policy differences with opponents to paint them as racists.


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