Wrath of the Brahmins
ruling caste in the General Assembly put upstart
Senator Ken Cuccinelli in his place. But their
arrogance does not play well with the public.
state Senator John Chichester, R-Stafford, and other
senate Brahmins have decided to teach freshman Sen.
Ken Cuccinelli, R-Fairfax County, a lesson.
Cuccinelli led the successful effort to defeat the
regional sales tax measure on last Novemberís
ballot in Northern Virginia. His brand of populism
is, to say the least, unpopular among the Brahmins
and the business types who contribute to their
The senate Brahmins
are leaders in the political arm of Virginiaís
Establishment. In a previous generation, they shared
power with governors and a handful of powerful
members of the House of Delegates, effectively
controlling Virginia politics. Times may have
changed, but the Brahmins seem oblivious to the new
and more open politics.
Cuccinelli not only
defeated an Establishment candidate to win the GOP
nomination to fill the seat of Senator Warren Barry,
who resigned last spring, but also handily defeated
an Establishment candidate in the August 2002
special election. By spearheading opposition to the
ballot measure to raise the sales tax in northern
Virginia shortly after his election, Cuccinelli
rubbed salt in the Establishmentís wounds.
fellow simply doesnít heed the old code of conduct
in Richmond. New legislators are expected to show
obeisance to their elders and wait in the shadows
obviously believed that he owed it to his
constituents to keep his campaign pledges. The bills
he has introduced have met a summary death. Even
worse, the Brahmins have openly mocked the freshman
and predicted that he would accomplish nothing in
the General Assembly.
The Brahmins may
have miscalculated. Because the news media reported
Cuccinelliís treatment in great detail, his
constituents and people throughout the Commonwealth
are learning how the game is played in Richmond.
Theyíre not apt to like it.
threatens not just Republicans, but veteran
Democrats as well. Once again, voters can see that
the party in power in Richmond is neither Republican
nor Democrat. Itís the Establishment Party led by
long-term incumbents and business elites.
time voters have been given an opportunity to
register their sentiment about the power of the
Establishment, they have plainly indicated their
opposition. Over the last dozen years, they have
soundly rejected ballot measures favored by the
But average voters
are at a distinct disadvantage. Business
elites have access to elected officials that the
average voters can never hope to match. The arcane
decision-making process in politics and government
is a mysterious netherworld to these common folks.
representatives like Cuccinelli have the ability to
do is to make politics more transparent. The
Brahmins will never let that happen without a fight.
Transparency threatens their grip on power.
So strong is the
Brahmins' antipathy toward Cuccinelli that
legislators like Chichester arenít able to
restrain themselves in their own self interest. By
publicly humiliating Cuccinelli and failing to give
respectful treatment to legislation he introduced,
Chichester and other Brahmins have tweaked the
voters themselves. Regardless of
Chichesterís feelings about Cuccinelli, the
freshmanís actions taken on behalf of his
constituents deserved the same consideration every
other legislatorís bills enjoys.
power of the Internet and the telephone has leveled
the playing field more than the Establishment
comprehends. The advantage that fat campaign chests
used to provide can be offset by the largely unseen
networking of ordinary voters fed up with a system
that isnít responsive.
Just ask the
proponents of the ballot measures in 1990, 1998 and
-- February 3, 2003