Column: Peaceful Transfer of Power

A joint session of the Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate met last Saturday for the purpose of inaugurating the 74th governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The event is steeped in tradition. As a member of the Inaugural Committee I was dressed in a formal morning suit of gray with tails. I led the Committee in escorting the Governor-elect from his hotel room to the Capitol and to the Inaugural Stand where he took the oath of office.

Absent from the entire proceeding was any debate of who won the election, any fraud or corruption that may have been committed, or whether the majority should resist giving up the power it held for the past two years. There was no “big lie”! There was a peaceful transfer of power.

At about 6-feet-6-inches tall the new governor is probably the tallest governor of Virginia since Thomas Jefferson held the position. He is new to public service having had a career in business. His position on many issues has not been clear as he had to maneuver past several primary challengers and a strong general election opponent to win the governorship.

The courtesy extended to him as he assumed the office should not be mistaken as any intention on the part of legislators, including myself, to not exercise our responsibilities in the administration of good government. 

Already any lack of clarity that may have existed on his position on issues is quickly being filled in with his actions. His early announcements of persons he intends to appoint to positions in government raise serious questions. His proposed appointment to be Secretary of Natural Resources raises concerns that I addressed last week that we are putting the fox in the chicken coop with a coal industry lobbyist heading natural resource agencies. Equally as concerning are his proposed appointments in the education agencies where the record of his major appointee seems to be mostly anti-public schools.

The new governor showed a lot of zeal as he announced in his inaugural speech that he was going to start to work on day one by signing a number of executive orders. His work on Saturday afternoon after the Inaugural Ceremony made it clear that the next four years are going to be challenging ones. His very first executive order “restores excellence in public education by ending the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, in public education.” No one has been able to show where CRT and these other divisive concepts are being taught in public schools, but it certainly was effective partisan rhetoric in the last political campaign. Clearly there are concerns about public schools in the new administration as the new governor’s call for more parental involvement in the education of their children got the greatest applause to his speech. His second executive order empowers parents to make decisions on whether their children wear masks at school even as new cases of Covid-19 infection soar.

The basics of democratic government require that there be a peaceful transfer of power. The continuation of democratic government requires that there be a vigorous debate of issues!

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