In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey.
I’m a loser by disposition.
I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan. I’m a Democrat in Virginia. I don’t know what to do with success, with victory. It’s utterly alien. I’m suspicious of it. It’s a trap. I’ll just squander it.
So, yes, Democrats took over the Virginia senate last night. It’s a one-seat advantage. And Democrats took back four seats in the house, continuing the steady five-year march to the majority. There are no surprises here. Nobody with any sense expected an outcome much different from this one. I should be giddy. I know it’s not a trap. But I’m less confident that Democrats won’t squander it.
My biggest concern is that senate Democrats will become vindictive. That given a bare majority, they’ll toss Republicans out of every last leadership position, kill their bills in subcommittee, and generally treat them like house Republicans treat house Democrats. The fact is that the senate is populated by some pretty good people on both sides of the aisle. While Democrats and Republicans may disagree fundamentally on some important issues, many Republicans have experience and knowledge that should not be ignored. William Wampler, Ken Stolle and Emmett Hanger all spring to mind as guys with whom I agree about virtually nothing, at least on the contentious issues, but who I know to be smart and capable, and ought to have a seat at the table. To the extent to which they’re more qualified in their areas then any senate Democrats, they should be given more than a mere seat at the table.
There’s no telling what could happen to the senate makeup. A Democrat’s seat could come open at any time, and a tough race could see the senate flip, 20/20 with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling casting the tie breaking votes. That’s not a crazy scenario — it’s utterly plausible. If Democrats burn Republicans, Republicans will turn around and burn Democrats right back. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
Senate Democrats have an opportunity to set an example for House Democrats, to show how to transition back into power as a humbler, fairer Democratic Party. Maybe we’ll spend another century in power, a return to how things were until 1998. I think we will. But we might not. And if for no other reason than to avoid payback, we should establish standards that are higher than Republicans’ in the past decade and, indeed, Democrats’ for the hundred years before that.
It’s not a trap. But I think we’ll squander it. I hope I’m wrong.