On Tuesday night, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe (D) was on CNN until well after 1 a.m., helping the panel of popular political pundits analyze the New Hampshire Democratic primary results. On Wednesday night, McAuliffe, a distinguished visiting professor at the Schar School, was on the stage of George Mason University’s Arlington Campus discussing how the Commonwealth’s newly blue General Assembly and its supporters will affect the general election.
His ”opponent” in the civil-toned discussion, the first “Pizza and Perspectives” event of the semester for host University Life Arlington, was former two-term U.S. Rep. Barbara J. Comstock (R-Va.), who offered the Republican take on the questions posed by Schar School Associate Professor of Political Science, Jennifer N. Victor, during the hour-plus conversation attended by some 60 community members, students, and faculty and staff members.
Comstock annual Young Women’s Leadership Program, which exposes more than 100 regional high school and middle-school girls to women in corporate and political leadership positions, is hosted by the Schar School.
Victor opened the discussion with a question about—what else?—the impeachment and subsequent acquittal of President Trump and how that might play in the election. McAuliffe was dismissive, saying that “by November, no one in Virginia will remember it” and characterized it as a non-factor among Virginia voters. Comstock suggested House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was misguided in her efforts to remove the president, resulting in failure, adding that the impeachment hurt former Democratic front-runner Joe Biden’s campaign.
As for what Victor called “polarizing” politics at large, Comstock characterized the current negatively charged political climate energized by the impeachment as “a kidney stone passing through the political system…Voters will be [the president’s] jurors, ultimately, in November.”
For his part, McAuliffe said he believes Biden will be the last person standing as the Democrats’ candidate, which seemed to take Comstock by surprise.
Victor, whose pre-event preparation was assisted by government and international politics undergraduate Molly Reed, touched on a variety of topics that are working their way through the Statehouse during the 2020 General Assembly session, including gerrymandering, education, workforce preparation, minimum wage, immigration, healthcare, and gun control.
In the end, Victor, who is studying civility in legislative bodies, thanked Comstock and McAuliffe for their composed, hype-free participation.
“In these days of the degradation of the political norms, you have restored my faith,” she said.