Del. Ken Plum: After the Elections

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

As I write this column the final votes of this election year will not have been cast and hence not tallied. The winners and losers are not yet known. Whether voters in my district took the recommendations in my Voter Guide 2016 or made different judgments will only be known as the final votes are counted the day before this column appears in print.

Regardless of who the new president is and who controls the Congress there is much work to be done. Suddenly the realities of significant issues become clearer than the simplistic slogans of campaigns might suggest. There are no easy answers to ever-increasing tensions in many parts of the world, to the rising cost of health care and its lack of availability to too many people, to major inequities in wealth and opportunity among the people of our country and among the nations of the world, to crumbling infrastructure–to name just a few!

The greatest challenge of all may be the sharp division of opinion apparent during the election season on the role government should play in responding to these needs. Complicating any reasonable discussion of the differences of opinion is the lack of trust of governmental institutions and politicians felt even more strongly after the rough and tumble of this election season.

While the only state-level elections this year were special elections to fill vacancies, the tenor and outcomes of federal elections are likely to have an impact on how business is conducted in the 2017 session of the General Assembly beginning in January. If the extreme right is successful in this year’s elections, those that are in the General Assembly may feel emboldened to continue to oppose taking federal health care monies, to adopt additional restrictions on abortions, and to pass laws that discriminate against LGBTQ citizens. While Governor McAuliffe will still be around to wield his veto pen, there could be many protracted debates on social issues.

On the other hand, if Democrats are successful in capturing the presidency and one or both houses of Congress, moderate Republicans in Virginia may feel less need to insist on hard lines on many issues as we have seen in the past. After all, Virginia will elect a new governor and House of Delegates in 2017, and both parties will want to side with the prevailing political winds.

It is essential that all political leaders learn from this election cycle and do what we can to help mend divisions in our state and in the nation. One thing we can do is listen. Senator Janet Howell and I will have our annual pubic meeting to talk with voters on Monday, Dec. 19, 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne Plaza. Come and tell us what is on your mind and offer your suggestions as to what we should do in the upcoming General Assembly session.

Also, my constituent survey is on my website and I encourage you to complete it. After all, the elections are over – time to get back to work.


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