Virginia always has been a state that was slow to accept change. As Andy Griffith once said on his iconic TV show, "There's people around here who won't hold hands in public until after they've had their ninth or 10th young'un."
Look how long Virginia was considered a reliable Republican state. Until Barack Obama in 2008, it had been 42 years since Virginia had backed a Democratic candidate for president. However, look at the breakthrough since then ... three straight solid placements in the blue win column for president, two consecutive blue waves washing over the top three elected offices in Virginia, and surging growth at the federal and state legislative levels.
The state's new official song could be a rewrite of the Crystal Gayle hit, "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue?" Call it, "Don't it Make My Red State Blue?"
Now, Virginia is being asked once again to change something it long has not been in favor of doing: ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. That law has been waiting around for more than 45 years to be added to the Constitution (1972 to be exact). Thirty-eight states need to green-light it in order for it to be carved into the cornerstone of our democracy, and backers are only one state away from that magic number. Hence, the full-court press has been unleashed on this year's General Assembly session to turn Virginia from nay to yea.
It's already cleared a state Senate committee, even though it took a change-of-mind by two Republicans to get it through. Next up is the full Senate, which is controlled by Republicans by a — you guessed it — two-vote margin. Whether those two votes will be enough to get it through the whole chamber is anyone's guess because a minute is considered an eternity in politics. Then there is the question of whether the measure can get through the GOP-led House of Delegates, where again, the margin of control is two votes.
We in society have gotten to the point where we even have the need to codify something that already should be in practice. The United States was reportedly built on the premise of self-evidence that all men are created equal. But back then, the Founding Fathers probably did not have the foresight to know that 200+ years later, every single word and punctuation mark those quill pens wrote would be so closely scrutinized.
Speaking of writing, the Republicans in Richmond for the next month and a half clearly need to see it on the wall. Virginia will not break off and fall into the Atlantic Ocean if it agrees to the ERA. It didn't during previous times in our history when the status quo was challenged — the election of Doug Wilder as governor, the growth of so-called alternative lifestyle as a major political power broker, surely the choice of Barack Obama as president. The leaders of the old Byrd Machine may have pivoted in their graves at the mere thought of it, but even then, it was not as seismic an event as the traditionalists had feared.
It's time to start a new tradition in Virginia ... a tradition of accepting and rolling with change. Let Virginia be seen as the leader, the champion, the vote that put ERA over the top. Ratify ERA and bask in the glow that has been building up for the past 45 years.
Bill Atkinson is a political writer and assistant editor for The Progress-Index. He may be reached at 804-722-5167 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BAtkinsonpi.