It is with great trepidation that I venture into the shark-infested waters of Virginia’s culture wars, which I regard as a distraction from the pressing fiscal, economic and environmental issues facing the state. I belong in the muddled middle of the electorate that sees elements of truth in both sides of culture-war arguments and, like many Virginians, wish the liberal and conservative zealots who feed on one another’s extreme views would just go away. But the world is as it is, not how I would like it, and the culture warriors will not oblige me.
Moreover, as Peter Galuszka has observed in recent posts — as much as I take issue with the tenor of his rhetoric, I do agree about this — Virginia’s culture wars affect realms of activity that I care deeply about, like building prosperous, livable and sustainable communities. For instance: Insofar as culturally liberal northerners with skills and/or capital regard Virginia as a culturally retrograde state, they are less likely to locate here, or even do business here. That is not sufficient reason for cultural conservatives to sacrifice their core principles, but it is reason for the rest of us to regret all the hoo-ha that gets played out in the national media.
Yesterday, I spent three-quarters of an hour talking to a bright young man who graduated from the University of Richmond then went on to get a Harvard MBA, among other credentials, and is thinking about relocating to Virginia, where he and his fiancee envision launching one or more enterprises. I spent much of my time arguing that Virginians as a whole are far more moderate in their social views than one might deduce from legislation emanating from the General Assembly this year, much less the selected excerpts highlighted in the national media.
Political pundit Larry Sabato once said that Virginians are no so much liberals or conservatives as they are libertarians. I would refine that statement. Virginians are what Lee Harris, author of “The Next American Civil War: The Populist Revolt against the Liberal Elite,” calls “natural libertarians.” They are libertarians by inclination, not ideology. Writes Harris:
The natural libertarian, whenever he feels that his self-image as a free and independent individual is under assault, will turn to a defense mechanism that is not listed in the classic Freudian inventory: he will become ornery. … Orneriness is often a highly effective defense mechanism against bossy people and bullies. …
One of the most striking characteristics of ornery people is that they don’t want to boss other people around any more than they want to be bossed around themselves. … The ornery man’s idea of liberty is the liberty to be left in peace, to tend to his own affairs, to pursue his business, make his home, raise his kids, without being told what to do or how to do it by other people.
In a nutshell, most Virginians subscribe to the philosophy, “Live and let live.” Which brings us back to Virginia’s culture wars. While I regard the left as the greatest overall threat to our personal liberties nationally, in this instance, the assault came from the right. Legislation would have required women seeking an abortion to undergo an invasive, transvaginal ultrasound procedure to determine the gestational age of the fetus. Not only has this provision subjected Virginia to national ridicule, it raised the hackles of us natural libertarians.
In one of the most deft political moves during his tenure in office, Governor Bob McDonnell framed his opposition to the measure in terms that we natural libertarians can relate to:
Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.
For this reason … I am requesting that the General Assembly amend this bill to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily. I am asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age. Should a doctor determine that another form of ultrasound may be necessary to provide the necessary images and information that will be an issue for the doctor and the patient. The government will have no role in that medical decision.
It is gratifying to see that many, if not most, Republicans have fallen in line. Yesterday was a victory for natural libertarians everywhere.There are currently no comments highlighted.