Yesterday, Governor Terry McAuliffe bowed to political reality, and recent election results, when he announced a paltry effort at expanding Medicare in Virginia. The announcement came three months and one state Senate defeat after his defiant temper tantrum last June:
“[l]et me be crystal clear: I am moving forward to get Virginians health care.” He then “directed Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel to give him a plan by September 1 on ‘how we can move Virginia health care forward even in the face of the demagoguery, lies, fear and cowardice that have gripped this debate for too long.’”
The enormous backward step is reminiscent of the early days of the administration of former Governor Mark Warner, when he too overreached and pursued major tax hikes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, spent millions of dollars on the referendum, put his entire political legacy on the line - and was promptly defeated in both regions by wide margins primarily through an underfunded but strategic grassroots uprising.
But Warner deftly went back to the drawing board, slowly courted what was then a Republican controlled legislature, and just two years later passed an enormous statewide tax hike with the support of some of the same legislators who helped defeat his 2002 plan.
Does McAuliffe's monumental slap down by the General Assembly on Medicaid expansion and consequential reversal of "I am moving forward even in the face of ... fear and cowardice" indicate a Clinton/Warner like politician, or just a temporary set back while he and AG Herring try to figure out a way around the law? Time will tell, but it's good to remember that in 2003, Mark Warner's political future appeared dim, having just lost a major policy battle, Republicans controlled the legislature, and even the media was questioning Warner's viability.
The question for Virginians now is, will we repeat the past, or learn from it?