Jeff Schapiro had a great column out this weekend, calling the Virginia State Senate Democrats "divided, dysfunctional and naive". Sounds about right to me. In addition to concurring with Jeff though, I have a couple things to add.
Everyone knows that Dick Saslaw and Tommy Norment have been good friends for a number of years. When Norment had his DUI arrest in the 1990's, Saslaw was Democratic Leader and stopped members of his caucus from trying to force Norment to resign. This is a friendship that along with other Senators over the years like Warren Barry, Ken Stolle and others runs deep and for decades long.
With that understanding, there are a few interesting things going on here. First of all, in December I heard about Saslaw going to members of his caucus that were introducing pro-choice bills (such as repeal of the ultrasound requirement) and asking them to pull those bills in exchange for Norment promising no new abortion restrictions this session. Saslaw's pitch was this could be a deal that would last several sessions, and stop more pro-life legislation from passing. A few weeks later, Laura Bassett at the Huffington Post heard about this and wrote a story on it with some Democrats saying they wouldn't agree to such a deal. Notice though that Saslaw is not quoted in the story. He didn't just enter into these discussions- he agreed with Norment- and was unable to get his caucus members to fall into line.
Second interesting point. Saslaw and Norment talk all the time. Yet when this redistricting story hit, notice that the coverage has quoted Donald McEachin saying that Norment promised Donald McEachin that Democrats would be given a heads up before such legislation was brought up. If Norment was going to make such a pledge why wouldn't he do it with his good friend the Democratic Leader? This omission seems intentional- as if Norment did not make that same promise to Saslaw. That tells you all you need to know about Norment's intention to keep the promise, and it is hard to believe Saslaw never inquired.
The Senate operated for years as a bipartisan body that moved in large blocks together Major legislation usually cleared with 30+ votes out of 40. That era is over. The sad reality here is that it does not appear that the Democratic Leader understands that or has come to grips with it. Norment now leads a GOP Caucus where many of the members were handchosen and recruited by Ken Cuccinelli and he can not operate the Senate as it was done before or the GOP will get another leader. Friendships like the one between Norment and Saslaw may have to wait until retirement to be renewed.