Jul 26, 2017

Virginian Centrism Isn't Going Anywhere (Yet, At Least)

Reading Jeff Schapiro's column in the Metro section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch is always one of the most boring experiences of my day. Everything that man writes is bland, but I suppose that that could be a symptom of writing about Virginia politics.

Today's column, though, actually looked to be somewhat promising: Debate shows Va.'s political middle seems to be fading. The fading political middle is extremely my thing! The first three paragraphs of the column continue to grab my attention, as Schapiro discusses the vanishing of centrism from politics in Virginia. Schapiro hints at his bad politics, but that's another post for another time.

But then something weird happens: Schapiro nearly completely stops talking about political polarization in Virginia. The rest of the column is a criticism of the gubernatorial debate's focus on national politics, rather than state politics. This is absolutely a fair criticism to make, but why did Schapiro lead off with a discussion of polarization, going so far as to title the column around the idea that centrism is going away?

About three-quarters of the way through the column, Schapiro does touch on the issue of polarization again, albeit briefly. He notes that both Northam and Gillespie are centrists, recalling that Northam voted for GWB and that Gillespie is friends with McAuliffe.

I have a theory as to why this column strayed so far away from it's intended purpose of highlighting the polarization of politics in Virginia: it's because the polarization isn't happening. In looking at the four major contenders in the race for governor just over a month ago, one can see that the two centrist candidates won out against everyone else. If this election was between Corey Stewart and Tom Perriello, I think that would be a good justification for the discussion about the disappearance of centrism in the state. But with a race for governor between Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie, it's safe to say that centrism is alive and well in Virginia.

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