My So-Called Campaign for the State Legislature (House of Delegates) of Virginia
This is my case for a campaign for the Virginia House of Delegates, District 30 (“HD30”) in 2023. It doesn’t necessarily have to be my campaign. I do think it is one worth waging by somebody. Feel free to weigh in with suggestions or wet blankets. Others are invited to use these ideas.
The abiding political issue in Virginia, and obviously in parts beyond, is the rise in bigotry fueling the assault led by Donald Trump’s Republican Party on our democratic institutions. It has been suggested that Trump did not make the G.O.P. as much as reveal it, and that his passing from the scene does not change the fundamental political problem for the U.S.: the enduring anti-democratic movement. founded on rampant bigotry.
The prejudice is full-spectrum, touching race, religion, sexual preference, gender orientation, and politics itself. In past years, people would use the word “intolerance,” but that term has become unsuitable. People deserve more than tolerance.
My apprehensions are partly direct and personal, in light of the national rise of antisemitism. They are also personal because racism directly pertains to my ‘blended’ family. And the assault on reproductive rights and misogyny must concern anyone with daughters and nieces, also me.
The underlying, long-standing problem in Virginia was signaled by an outburst of transphobia. I wrote about it here. Now you might not care about the plight of transgender people, but we should, and not only because it is the right thing to do.
My claim is that transphobia has become the gateway drug for the full spectrum of biases plaguing the nation: bias against Jews, Muslims, non-white immigrants, every category of LGBTQI, women who refuse to stay home and bake cookies, and women who do stay home and bake cookies.
The political problem for the bigots is that they may have bitten off more than they can chew, at least where I live. Loudoun County hasn’t too many black folks, but it has an active NAACP chapter, and it is stocked with immigrants from Latin America and South Asia, among other places.
The rise in trans- and homophobia has mobilized white parents of children who don’t fit the standard “CIS” mold. These kids have gotten support from their peers in the form of walk-outs at area high schools. My guess is that students don’t welcome random, self-appointed authorities barging into their schools with ignorant criticisms of their friends, or the way their schools and libraries are run.
It's not enough, or it shouldn’t be, to run solely against something. A campaign needs to be for something as well.
First and foremost, I want to campaign to defend and elevate our public schools. People move here and pay a premium for real estate because of the quality of the schools. They are here for their children. Schools must be adequately funded, and their orderly systems of decision-making – management and school boards – should be shielded from the rude mobs of ignorant bigots who are harassing them here. I also want to prevent the use of tax-based subsidies for private schools and home-schooling that drain resources from public schools.
Virginia state universities and community colleges are also public schools. Declines in state aid to these institutions puts post-secondary education out of reach of too many families. I would increase state aid to the point where public university and college tuition can be driven down to zero. We can make “free college” a reality in Virginia.
Supporting public schools requires good-faith bargaining with all the labor unions relevant to their employees. In the same vein but more generally, I would work to eliminate so-called right-to-work laws and related regulations in Virginia, to secure labor rights in the state.
A campaign needs focus. I’m for many more things than I could campaign on, but I must settle on priorities. These are my additional, proposed platform items:
· Establish universal mail-in voting for all state and local elective offices;
· Legalize weed, and investigate enabling its sale at the Virginia state ‘ABC’ stores that now sell alcoholic beverages. (Use the proceeds to fund ‘free college.’)
· Find ways to extend fast, reliable broadband to under-served areas of the state, including the possible establishment of public municipal broadband.
· Reduce the voting age from 18 to 16 for state and local elections.
If you have better ideas, let me know. Just remember, I want to maintain a short list that the average person can remember, and one that is relevant to voters in HD30. Ask people what Bernie stands for, and many will answer “Free College” and “Medicare for all.” I want that kind of recognition for my campaign: Defend our schools. Vote by mail. Legal weed. Broadband for all.
It will become known that I am a member of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), have been since 2017. While I would welcome their support, DSA’s main concerns are not those of HD 30. There are few if any other DSA members in my district. DSA’s ideal, by the way, is not Venezuela or North Korea, but the systems that work so well in the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland). Virginia may not be ready for that, but those countries provide models worthy of scrutiny.
For my priorities, we need not look as far away as Scandinavia. Free or discounted tuition at public universities is available in many states in the U.S. Eight states already allow vote by mail: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. In over twenty states, recreational use of marijuana has been legalized, including Virginia. Public municipal broadband is a reality in a number of localities in the U.S. And in some states, 17-year-olds can vote in Federal elections, and 16-year-olds can vote in state and local elections.
While DSA’s platform is a bridge too far for Virginia, on at least one relevant count it is crucial. In the matter of combatting transphobia and all other types of sex and gender bias, DSA has no fear, unlike many Democrats. There is a parallel to the struggle for civil rights in the 1930s, when organizations of mostly white folks were thin on the ground. The big exceptions were the Socialist Party of Norman Thomas, and the Communist Party (CP). DSA has never had much in common with the CP, but it is very much in the mold of the old SP.
Virginia is among the top ten states in per capita income, unlike all of its neighboring states other than Maryland. It is close to the top ten in education. (12th). Its population is increasingly diverse, reflecting the growth of our tech industries. It is time for Virginia's public sector to follow the lead of other states in meeting the needs and values of its dynamic, multicultural, cosmopolitan communities.
The more I look at the precinct map and vote totals, the more remote the likelihood of electoral victory for a Democrat in HD30 seems to be. I don’t mind being the sacrificial lamb if some enduring, positive organization can result. It would have to be much broader than DSA, along the lines of my “What Is the Left” piece, though ideally DSA would feel encouraged to participate.
If you think these ideas have merit, my donation link is here. As I’ve said in the past, if I choose not to run, I will transfer any funds raised to the actual candidate. And until an alternative candidate is determined, I will transfer the money to other Virginia campaigns to win back the state legislature’s House of Delegates in 2023.
I found your comment that "transphobia has become the gateway drug for the full spectrum of biases plaguing the nation" unexpected and especially illuminating. It helps me balance what I hadn't understood.
As so often happens between generations, I've been educated about trans by the way the kids aren't bothered (as you note). It's nothing special for them; quite different from my own youth half a century ago. Thanks once again.
Dr. Sawicky, if someone wanted to chat with you about potentially working with you and your campaign, where might they send an email to discuss how they (me) could work with you and talk to you a bit about the race?