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The House’s Unusual Move


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Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene before the House vote yesterday.

With a big vote expected today in Virginia’s House of Delegates, lawmakers are poised to make the state the first in the South to abolish the death penalty.

It would be a turning point in the region, after Georgia’s recent blue turn put Republicans on notice in the Deep South. But in Virginia, the bill is only the latest in a cascade of liberal policies that have moved through the state’s General Assembly since Democrats won full control in 2019.

Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat who has embraced the state’s liberal turn, supported a ban on the death penalty during his campaign in 2017, when Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic governor at the time, drew criticism from the left for moving forward with the execution of a mentally ill man.

“It’s important that we shut down the machinery of death here in Virginia,” Northam told our reporter Trip Gabriel in an interview for Trip’s article on the new bill.

Since Congress reinstituted the death penalty in 1976, Virginia has executed 113 people, more than any state except Texas. Federal executions had been on hiatus in recent years, until Trump restarted them in 2020, giving the issue a fresh urgency.

Coming after Virginia passed progressive laws on gun control, abortion access and the removal of Confederate monuments, the impending death penalty ban further cements the state’s transition into Democratic stronghold status.

Before Barack Obama carried the state in 2008, Virginia had voted Republican for president since 1964. But last year Biden beat Trump by 10 percentage points, and Democrats maintained their grip on seven of the state’s 11 House districts.

New York Times Audio

What do G.O.P. politicians stand for in 2021?

The Republican academic and writer Yuval Levin isn’t convinced they even know. On today’s episode of “The Ezra Klein Show,” he told Ezra that “the Republican Party has come to be defined far too much by its opposition to the left.”

You can listen here.

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