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Northam is going to do something: Meh, probably just more COVID-19 theater

ralph northam
Ralph Northam

Gov. Ralph Northam told CNBC on Monday that he was considering additional public health restrictions, and now, we get word that he’s going to rev up his COVID-19 Facebook talk show tomorrow at 2 p.m.

Cue up the run on the toilet paper aisle at the grocery store.

Actually: I’m not so sure the governor is going to be as aggressive as others assume.

The reason: the reason for anything, politics.

It’s Virginia, and because we have off-year state elections, there’s literally always another election just around the corner.

The one around the next corner just happens to be the big one – the quadrennial election in which we elect a new governor.

Northam, you could presume, wants to be succeeded by a Democrat.

We can concede that, right?

If we can, then, we could also presume he doesn’t want to give the Republican nominee a recession to use against whoever the Democratic nominee ends up being.

Especially because, to this point, Virginia has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic minefield as well as anybody.

The number of people with jobs is down 4.1 percent from mid-March, but the Commonwealth is a point and a half ahead of the national number there – and our current 5.3 percent unemployment rate (from most recent data, in October) is an order of magnitude better than the 7 percent-plus unemployment that we saw during the 2008-2010 recession.

The dramatic actions taken by Northam back in mid-March – keep in mind, I use that word carefully, and maybe not for the reasons you’d think – pushed the unemployment rate from 2.6 percent pre-pandemic all the way to 10.6 percent in April.

Anything resembling that kind of upheaval would be devastating – for the tens of thousands of people who would lose jobs two weeks before Christmas, first and foremost, but then, think politically.

Virginia is a blue state: voting Democrat in each of the past four presidential cycles; going straight ticket in the past two statewide elections, in 2013 and 2017; even giving Democrats, in spite of clever GOP gerrymandering, control of the General Assembly in 2019.

OK, but, is it that Democratic?

The last time we elected a president in a time of upheaval was also the last time we elected a Democrat to a first term, Barack Obama in 2008.

Obama was the first Democrat to win Virginia’s presidential elector votes since LBJ.

Who, you may remember, inherited that 2008-2010 recession from his bumbling predecessor, George W. Bush, a Republican.

We eventually got out of it, and then some – but eventually didn’t come soon enough for the Democratic ticket in Virginia in 2009, which got swept, and boatraced in the process.

Anything resembling what we saw in the spring in terms of job losses, economic upheaval – social upheaval – and the groundwork is being laid down for a repeat of 2009.

Which is why I’m expecting whatever we get from the governor to be in the vein of being officious, more than anything at all substantive.

I’m looking down the road at our friends in North Carolina, where the Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, just yesterday instituted a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, styled as a “modified stay-at-home order,” that the governor says “takes into account that the longer into the evening you go, the more people get more uninhibited, thus more of an opportunity to spread the virus.”

Which, I mean, yeah, we all know that the COVID likes to party.

“Our new modified stay-at-home order aims to limit gatherings and get people home where they are safer, especially during the holidays,” Cooper said.

Executive Order No. 181, which goes into effect Friday and lasts through at least Jan. 8, requires restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, personal care businesses and others to end all on-premises services at 10 p.m.

Take-out, delivery, drive-thru and curbside services are permitted during the curfew hours.

The order also stops on-premises alcohol sales at 9 p.m., whether at a bar or restaurant, or by a vendor.

The curfew applies to live entertainment, such as movies and amateur sports events.

Professional and collegiate sports events, which have limited attendance, are allowed to continue past 10 p.m.

It allows individuals who work between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. to travel for work and to perform their jobs in a different location if directed by their employer or to take care of family members, health care and food needs.

Yeah, holy crap, this is dumb, but on the other hand, it makes it look like you’re doing something, without actually doing any damage.

Seems a perfect fit for our 2 p.m. COVID-19 show tomorrow.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press