Raised to give credit where credit is due, let me first state the respect I have for Sen. John Edwards as a person: his academic and career success, his military service for our country during the Vietnam War, his family, and what he has made of himself. The Commonwealth of Virginia has over eight million residents and to think that only 140 are in the General Assembly shows the impact and influence of those people. The General Assembly is the oldest lawmaking body in the English-speaking New World, with roots going back to its founding at Jamestown in 1619.
However, in an idea for a column I had before news came of Sen. Edwards’ retirement, his self-described “pro-choice” schtick is a hoax. Maybe a little story will help illustrate.
In 2001 my family and I were in the Sunshine State and visited the remarkable Florida Aquarium in Tampa. While walking across the parking lot a canary yellow license plate caught my eye. It had a sketch of two kids’ faces and declared “CHOOSE LIFE.” I thought that was a great idea but when I got home to Roanoke I realized Virginia didn’t offer such tags then. (That should have been a red flag to indicate how Florida was more ahead and Virginia was already lagging, even twenty years ago.)
Subsequently I realized I was not the only one with that notion, because a bill to allow such tags in Virginia with part of the proceeds going to help adoptions was later introduced in the General Assembly. Excited, I followed the news and looked forward to getting my “Choose Life” license plates, but after awhile learned the State Senate nixed the bill. And who was one of the culprits to kill it?
None other than Sen. John S. Edwards (D-Roanoke). Puzzled and unhappy, I called Sen. Edwards and spoke with his legislative assistant. I politely asked her why Sen. Edwards had voted to kill the “Choose Life” license plates.
“Because Senator Edwards is pro-choice” she responded flatly, as if she expected that slogan to end the conversation.
Flummoxed, I then asked her, “Since Senator Edwards is “pro-choice,” why won’t he give us the choice to buy that license plate?”
“And also, since he’s ‘pro-choice,’ does that mean this coming May when state taxes are due, I can choose not to pay anything?”
Her response gave me the impression that such questions had never before crossed her mind, or been asked of her. So basically, Sen. Edwards’ position was “I’m pro-choice on a woman having the choice to abort her unborn child, but God forbid a woman have the choice to buy a ‘Choose Life’ license plate. That would be a bridge too far!”
Yes, Sen. Edwards won a seat in the state Senate in 1995, and went on to win re-elections in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. Which reminds me of the 1964 protest song by Tom Paxton, “What Did You Learn in School Today?”
What did you learn in school today
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned our Government must be strong;
It’s always right and never wrong;
Our leaders are the finest men
That’s why we elect them again and again.
That’s what I learned in school today, that’s what I learned in school.
For years I lived in the district that Edwards represented, and I always puzzled by the glaring disconnect between his left-wing voting record and the common-sense conservatism I saw almost all around me in the Roanoke Valley I had grown up in.
Over time I realized one factor was the misleading local media that played up his accomplishments like helping establish the Higher Ed. Center or bringing Amtrak to town while downplaying his kooky votes that would be very unpopular in our region if more people were aware of them.
It wasn’t until years later, though, I realized Edwards was also the beneficiary of a grossly-gerrymandered district drawn to lump Roanoke City with Blacksburg while cutting out most of the GOP-learning areas, thus almost guaranteeing the election of anyone with a (D) behind their name. To my knowledge, The Roanoke Star is the only local news outlet to expose this outrage by way of this column “End the Johnnymander!”
During the decade I lived in Taiwan I learned a popular Chinese saying, Duì shì bù duì rén, which can be roughly translated as “Face facts; don’t make it personal.”
If you take personality out of the equation and look only at the results of Sen. Edwards’ voting history, which is all a matter of public record, you’ll see priorities that many in Southwest Virginia find deeply offensive if not disastrous.
Overall, this is a pro-life region, but Sen. Edwards was a decades-long pro-abortion vote. He long sat on the Orwellian-named “Health and Education Committee” which earned the gory nickname “where pro-life bills go to die.”
He also consistently fought most school-choice bills and charter schools. He’s one reason Virginia has some of the fewest charter schools of any state blue or red in the Union.
While inflation was raging and people struggled with high grocery bills, he delayed the last 1% tax cut from groceries and hygiene products from July 2, 2022 until January 1, 2023.
When gas went from about $1.89/gallon during the administration of “Orange Man Bad” and skyrocketed to $4.00 or so under President Biden, Edwards helped kill the 26.2 cent/gallon “tax holiday” that Gov. Youngkin and the GOP wanted for May, June and July of 2022, the peak driving season.
Did you notice your electric bills skyrocket last winter, despite the mild weather? That’s not an accident or coincidence. When the Old Dominion had the misfortune of voters giving both houses of the General Assembly and Governor’s desk to Democrats back in 2020-21, they passed bills to gradually shut down Virginia’s coal-burning power plants.
Result? Higher bills.
Is the answer massive solar arrays? They’re destroying thousands of acres of prime Virginia farmland and forests.
Or massive windmill formations off the coast? Some scientists suspect those may be killing off the endangered Right Whales.
Beef up research into nuclear as a power source, which despite its risks doesn’t use fossil fuels or emit carbon dioxide? Nope. Edwards helped nix that too.
“Sage’s Law,” to protect children from possible sex trafficking and inform their parents if their children are struggling with peer pressure or gender dysphoria? Creating a data base so parents can see if their school-age children are seeing books with sexual content so graphic, people trying to read passages during school board meetings have been shut down? The bill that sought to liberate Virginia motorists from emissions standards and EV requirements from California?
Sen. Edwards voted to axe all of those. Of course, he didn’t do it all himself. He did it in concert with the other Democrats in the state senate and the other Roanoke-area Democrat member in the General Assembly, Del. Salam “Sam” Rasoul.
Reviewing Edwards’ and Rasoul’s voting records shows a pattern of giving fewer choices to Virginians, not more.
Some may wonder, “Since Sen. Edwards won’t run for re-election this year, why rehash all this?” For one, we need to be aware of what has happened and how. Plus, like a multi-headed hydra, threats to our liberties are constant, so we need to be vigilant. We will see other candidates with new names and younger faces, but if their ideas are equally toxic, that’s no improvement.
Gentle Roanoke Valley voter, by sending people to Richmond with better ideas, we can do better, not only for ourselves, but for the whole state.