Last week, Republicans won outright control of Virginia’s General
Assembly. Retaining their Senate majority and winning the House of
Delegates is a Republican first in the history of the Commonwealth.
Republican Gov. James S. Gilmore III celebrated the election news
saying: “Free at last. Free at last. Free at long last. Democracy has
finally come to the Commonwealth.”
I’m hoping that Gilmore simply misspoke when he said democracy and
really meant liberty has finally come to the Commonwealth. Democracy and
liberty are not the same. Democracy is little more than mob rule, while
liberty refers to the sovereignty of the individual. The pursuit of
liberty was the goal of Virginia’s most distinguished citizens, such as
Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason and others who descended
upon Philadelphia in 1787 to write a constitution that set the framework
for our nation to become the world’s freest and richest.
Republicans love to blame Democrats for high taxes, regulation and
runaway government saying, “Only if we controlled the legislative and
executive branches of government, things would be different.”
Republicans in the Commonwealth of Virginia now control the legislative
and executive branches of government; what it will mean?
For example, will it mean that Richmond will stop confiscating the
earnings of one Virginian and giving them to another Virginian to whom
they do not belong? Will it mean that Richmond will stop playing
favorites with its different citizens through occupational- and
business-licensing laws? Will it mean that those who benefit from a
Commonwealth-produced service also pay for it?
For the Republicans to provide the kind of moral leadership to answer
those questions in ways Virginia’s most distinguished statesmen would
have answered them will be quite a challenge.
There is another issue far more challenging. I’d raise it in the form
of a question to the governor and General Assembly: Do you believe the
federal government has exceeded its constitutional authority in its
relationship with the Commonwealth? It’s probably not going to take
rocket science for them to agree that Congress has trashed the Ninth and
Then I’d remind them of what their predecessors said in 1788 when
they ratified the U.S. Constitution: “We the delegates of the people of
Virginia … do in the name and on the behalf of the people of Virginia,
declare and make known, that the powers granted under the Constitution
being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by
them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or
oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them,
and at their will. That therefore no right, of any denomination, can be
canceled, abridged, restrained or modified by the Congress, by the
Senate, or House of Representatives, acting in any capacity, by the
President, or any department or officer of the United States, except in
those instances where power is given by the Constitution for those
That’s a crystal-clear message; the Virginia delegates didn’t mince
words. They said the authority granted to the federal government was
derived from the people. When the federal government abused and
perverted that authority, the people of Virginia had the right to take
it back. There’s no question that the federal government has exceeded
its constitutional authority. The question is whether today’s leaders of
the Virginia Commonwealth have the morality, guts and statesmanship of
their predecessors to do anything about it.
Virginia’s going to provide us with a laboratory experiment to test
whether Republican control makes any difference in terms of liberty and
limited government. I wonder how it’s going to turn out.