We are on the brink of a federal government shutdown attributable to the extremist faction of Republicans in the House of Representatives. This is a bizarre characteristic of American democracy, but it is especially detrimental to a state like Virginia, with its second largest contingent of federal employees in the country (huge California being the only one with more). If there is no new annual budget for the federal government starting on 1 October 2023, almost all federal employees are required to stay away from their work duties and forfeit their income.
This could have serious implications for voter turnout in the Virginia state legislative elections. No wonder that Governor Youngkin and his Republican Party cohorts in the US House have been urging for a solution, even if temporary. In fact, Virginia’s latest program for early voting, which started on 21 September, has been actively promoted by Youngkin, in contrast to many other Republicans who have opposed early voting and other ways (such as ballot boxes in neighborhoods) of increasing voter turnout. The Virginia-based monitoring groups are tracking early voting turnout to see if this is having any effect in the midst of this looming lockdown crisis.
The other features of the 2023 race that we are following include the nature and quantity of financial resources, another characteristic that should really have no bearing on the outcome of the elections. But we do know that the US system has gotten way out of control on this level. There may be certain limitations on official campaigns, but the rest is open-ended. All kinds of support groups can pursue their own communications and outreach strategies, vulnerable as they are to fake or misleading social media by unofficial groups. And it might be noted, too, that political parties can spend their own resources to promote voter turnout independent of any specific candidate. So we’ll be watching the financial reports with great interest.
Finally, there are the triggering issues. Democrats are emphasizing the crisis of abortion rights in the US Supreme Court decision, while some Republicans are trying to stake out a “middle-of-the-road” position on this. On the other hand, the Republicans have to be aware of their pro-life constituents and activist groups to move this further to the right. Republicans, or at least Governor Youngkin, are claiming responsibility for the healthy economy in Virginia, of course, but they are also emphasizing school transgender policies.
Let’s see how the US Congress handles its budget crisis this weekend, and we’ll write some more.