Virginia is a state plagued by the perception that it is a politically corrupt quagmire of graft and glad-handing. So when former Clinton political operative Terry McAuliffe ran for governor, many expected more of the same. However, on his first day in office, Governor McAuliffe signed an executive order that bars him and his staff from accepting any gifts worth more than $100. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Virginia received an “F” grade because previously politicians could receive “gifts of unlimited value, [which] are not subject to oversight by an ethics committee and are free to raise vast sums of money under a porous regime of campaign finance laws.”
In a speech to the Virginia Joint Assembly, McAuliffe spoke positively about Virginia’s future and called upon his political allies and opponents to work together in bipartisan ways. However as a former fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton, former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and frequent guest on political talk shows, McAuliffe is certain to face some skepticism.
In an op-ed from The Washington Post, even before his address, McAuliffe was accused of employing “the shrewd strategy of using noncontroversial, mainstream arguments to push for liberal measures.” This suggests that rather than his past, the current state of politics is the largest obstacle the McAuliffe administration faces.
The problem with modern politics—at least the dual-sided, left/right model currently embraced—is that it is severely limiting. The op-ed mentioned above recategorizes McAuliffe’s stated intentions (e.g. bipartisanship, transparency) as doubletalk meant to disguise typically liberal ideas and in order to capitalize on a weakened Republican party. Anyone who wishes to change that left/right paradigm, especially one with a past as partisan as McAuliffe’s, is either labeled a shrewd fraud or sentimental fool.
It remains unclear what McAuliffe’s actual motives may be, but the signs are all positive. In addition to calling for general bipartisanship, he also said that Virginia should adopt a non-partisan redistricting process, something that would certainly make elections more difficult for Democrats as well as Republicans. Only his actions going forward will tell if McAuliffe really means what he says or if he will be another in a long line of political hucksters in Virginia.