Del. Ken Plum: From Polarization to Compromise

by Del. Ken Plum November 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm 17 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThe outcome of the most recent elections demonstrates once again how divided we are as a nation and as a state.

The clearest winner is gridlock, as it is hard to see how progress can be made by Congress on important issues that await resolution. The Senate has not moved closer to a balance where a meaningful debate can occur and issues can be resolved. Rather, the Senate is polarized between opposing points of view with a willingness to compromise being seen as a sign of weakness.

The current circumstance is much more complex than simply Democrats versus Republicans. There are at least three parties in the Congress: the Democratic, Republican and Tea Parties.

On the Democratic side, the number of old-time liberals can be counted on your fingers. There are some Democrats who gravitate to the middle leaving themselves neither fish nor fowl in the eyes of their constituents. The “damn the torpedoes” Tea Partiers run the Congress. Old-time moderate Republicans defer to them for fear of a primary challenge from the right in the next election cycle. The goal of the Tea Party leaders is to stall the operation of government functions which they do not support.

My concern is that the same kind of election results we have seen at the federal level has permeated Virginia state elections as well. I am convinced that there are enough Democrats in the House of Delegates and enough moderate Republicans to pass Medicaid expansion in Virginia if it were not for the influence and threat of Tea Party primary challenges.

Rather than realizing the fate of two Republican committee chairs that were defeated in primaries last election cycle, moderate Republicans are playing it safe and going along with Tea Party priorities as absurd as some turn out to be. The consequence is that Virginia leaves $5 million in federal money on the table each day just so that some politicians can continue to be elected. It seems like a high price to pay!

The other major factor affecting federal and state election outcomes is the incredible amount of money poured into campaigns. Americans for Prosperity, funded in part by the Libertarian Koch brothers, are active in Virginia and were major players in refusing Medicaid expansion. They will keep the pressure on their Republican charges in next year’s Virginia General Assembly elections.

I recently attended a workshop featuring one of my greatest heroes — Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus fame. Sister Simone is one of the most effective spokespersons for the poor and those in need of medical services. She is harsh in her criticism of Congress for not raising the minimum wage and reforming immigration laws and of Virginia for not expanding Medicaid. She is insistent, however, that both sides must engage in a conversation in order to find common ground and reach compromises that are so important for the public.

As tough as it seems, I am going to take her advice and get myself in that frame of mind for the General Assembly session starting in January to help it be productive.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. His opinions do not necessarily represent those of Reston Now.

  • Mike M

    Ken, thanks for your take on matters in Washington. It’s a bit partisan, but it sounds like so many other personal “assessments.” How about you tell us about that job in Richmond that Reston elected you to do?

  • HP

    Kenny, your pie-hole is calling….

  • east297

    Are you saying there was “meaningful debate” while the dems controlled the senate under tyrant Harry Reid? PLEASE!!!!!

  • Give me a break

    Good points to the commenters. Thanks for the continued partisan rhetoric Mr Plum. The election is over. You must think people are really stupid. Write about something positive you are trying to do for the people in Reston.

  • Didn’t vote for Plum

    I enjoy how Mr. Plum implies that members of the Tea Party can’t hold valid political beliefs. Very noble of you to dismiss them as if their concerns don’t matter…

  • Dave

    Kenny: Maybe you are the one that is out of touch. Apparently the citizens of VA thru the election of their representatives believe that Medicare expansion and other liberal programs are not what they want. Why is it that they are lesser representatives of the will of the people than you are? Who are you to decide that they are wrong? Who are you to determine what is best for all of Virginia? I hope that you are truly willing to compromise, which BTW may mean that you need to realize that Medicaid expansion is dead in VA and search for an alternate solution.

  • Rich H

    Thanks for all your service, Ken. When the dems take back the Virginia legislature prior to the next election, will you please re-write the rules for re-districting so they don’t create these polarized voting districts? If you have candidates who need to run to the middle to win their seats, they’re likely to legislate that way. Of course, I find it hard to believe that either party would give up the enormous political advantage of gerrymandering.

    • Rich H

      I meant prior to the next census

  • Rational Reston

    Del. Plumb is correct that the political environment is splintered into three sides, but not as how he sees, it’s the Extreme Left, Moderates and the Extreme Right. With the Moderate camp increasingly shrinking. Either extreme will not listen to either of the other two camps. Delegate Plum does not see this as he is firmly entrenched within the Extreme Left as evidenced by his columns and voting history. He’d rather lambaste opposing views as opposed to generally listening and actually working together.

  • Bill Kotraba

    What a partisan hand wringing. First off tea party oriented republicans are for
    limiting our spending to what we bring (the horror) and to push back the ever increasing federal government largess and over reach. Secondedly I wish the rhino republicans listened to the tea party but that’s hardly the case.

    • Power of love

      Oh please….maybe most Americans want an opposition party that is willing to compromise. Not a party that says no to anything that has any connection to the President. Compromise oh the horror.

  • Power of Love

    Great Article….thank you for a very factual portrayal of what is going on in Washington. We now live in a country where facts don’t mean anything………… The Tea party is nothing but a party of hate. (E.g. We must take our country back…..the president is really not an American citizen) I have never seen so much hate, and disrespect shown to any of our previous presidents. I have never seen so much disrespect for the office of the President. We still have so very far to go in this country when it comes to issues on race.

  • HP

    What’s up with the deleting of posts?????

    • HP

      Voices are silenced for calling a spade a spade. Way to go RN, now I know where your sympathies lie.

      • Karen Goff

        What are you taking about? Nothing’s been deleted except for one post yesterday on another thread that used the F-word 18 times, violating our terms of service.

    • Karen Goff

      Nothing’s been deleted, though some of these are “just” on the border of our terms of service.

  • Power of Love

    Im just calling a spade a spade but yes I know …………racism doesn’t exist. America is devoid of racism and the attacks on the president have nothing to do with a sizable portion of our country not happy about a biracial man being elected to the office of president.


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