Readers of the Star Exponent have known me for some years now. Since August of 2014 one hundred and ten columns have appeared in these pages without ever missing a deadline. I have been assisted in this effort by able friends, most notably David Reuther, but also Thom Faircloth and George DeSerres, all of Culpeper. This has been a demanding experience, but a very fulfilling one. I am pleased to announce that I am passing the baton to David, and I am sure you will continue to enjoy this column under his leadership. Many thanks to Editor Emily Jennings for facilitating this transition.

I am far from alone in thinking the State of the Union address was not a unifying message. It wasn’t one that would make Democrats want to work with him. President Donald Trump mildly suggested bipartisanship while still throwing red meat to his base. He tangled with Democratic women who cheered and congratulated each other when he pointed out their gains in the House of Representatives. His response? “You weren’t supposed to do that.” He did not acknowledge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She did, however, give him that pointed handclap that has now famously gone viral.

There was no mention of Robert Mueller as Trump proclaimed to Congress: “An economic miracle is taking place in the United States—and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way.” That line fell incredibly flat, as even Republicans balked at applause. Inexplicably, there was no mention of the meaningless government shutdown that cost billions of dollars, and inflicted suffering and financial pain not only on federal employees and contractors but also on the communities where they work and live throughout the nation. There was no mention of continuing gun violence, and no mention of climate change.

Now, after attempting to control all three branches of government for the past two years, Trump cries “presidential harassment” as the legislative branch begins to once again practice its legitimate oversight as part of our Constitutional checks and balances.

Meanwhile, Virginia is experiencing its own political dumpster fire as the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General continue to be embroiled in their own individual scandals. Ralph Northam’s yearbook photos and the allegations against Justin Fairfax were sprung on unsuspecting citizens by “Big League Politics,” a far-right media website founded by a former reporter for the Daily Caller and Breitbart News, also known for their extremism and conspiracy theories. Mark Herring, at least, confessed to and begged forgiveness for his blackface antics before being exposed.

There is good news, believe it or not.

Locally, Amy Laufer, who has served on the Charlottesville school board, will be formally kicking off her campaign for the Democratic state senate nomination against Culpeper’s incumbent Republican Senator Bryce Reeves (SD17) on Saturday, February 16th. She will be visiting constituents all over the district, which is made up of Fredericksburg, Orange County and parts of Louisa, Spotsylvania, Culpeper and Albemarle counties. She will be at the Raven’s Nest on Saturday, Feb. 16 from 4 to 4:45 p.m. She will face Ben Hixon in the June Democratic primary election.

While the Virginia GOP appears to prefer relegating Virginia women and girls to the 19th century by voting against the 2019 Equal Rights Amendment Act, we Democrats must keep our chins up, and never give up or give in. We might think about forgiveness. We have elections to win in November.

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Mike McClary is an armored cavalry combat veteran and a retired federal executive in defense nuclear nonproliferation of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. He lives in Culpeper County.