Virginia, Welcome to the Real World of the U.S.

Tuesday night’s triumph for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party is truly a turning point for the nation and the Old Dominion, even though saying so sounds as trite as a newspaper headline.

For Virginia, it was the first time that the state voted for a Democratic president since 1964 and, in doing so; it has expunged a truly ugly chapter in the state’s history.

True, Virginia did elect the first African-American governor in 1989, but in election after election for 44 years, Virginia voters stuck with Republican Party strategies that all too often were based on wedge issues involving racism and reaction.

The trend kicked after 1964 when Virginia last voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. Since then, voting seemed a knee-jerk move against racial integration of society and schools. According to Bob Moser, author of “Blue Dixie:” “It’s true that Democrats were bound to take a hit in the South after LBJ signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts of 1964 and 1965, which ended all forms of legal segregation and doomed various schemes – literacy tests, violent intimidation – that had suppressed black registration ands turnout.”

Unfortunately, Virginia then bought into every retrograde political agenda the GOP could come up with. There was Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” which was based on building up a sense of white, working class despair over the tumultuous social and racial upheavals of the 1960s. This was the first organized attempt by Republicans to create a “Silent Majority” that was the real keeper of the American faith, sort of like Sarah Palin telling residents in a small North Carolina town that they were the “true Americans.”

And on we went. When Jimmy Carter carried the South in 1976, Virginia didn’t go with him. The Old Dominion bought into the Reagan revolution hook, line and sinker. Even though Reagan, who had some good ideas, ended up being the tremendous government spender he supposedly despised. Reagan was a riddle of contradictions – a Hollywood actor, divorcee and non-church-goer, who, as Moser points out, cast himself as an authentic, family-oriented and religious guy.

Virginia’s Republican politicians have tried to ride the Reagan wave as far as they could up the beach. Well into the 1990s, we had cowboy-booted George “Aw Shucks” Allen coming after welfare queens and building prisons and having his insulting macacca moment. Former Governor Jim Gilmore made a fetish out of his destructive car tax while making hash of the state’s budget.

With Democrat Mark Warner, the state got a big signal of its momentous demographic shift. Here was an out-of-stater living in Northern Virginia, whose economic boom was drawing in thousands of new people with new ideas, making it big in the free-market that GOPers claimed to so love. No big surprise, but Warner easily crushed Gilmore’s pointless run for senator, giving the state two Democratic senators for the first time in years.

Obama’s story is an almost magical one. He’s a half-white, half-black man who has just won in a state that as recently as 1967, back when I was in high school, made it illegal for different races to marry. Boasting of strong oratory skills and superb campaign organization, he took on old Democratic icons such as the Clintons, beat them and then won in Virginia.

True, it wasn’t a crushing defeat. Obama didn’t take much of the rural state or stubborn conservative strongholds such as my home county of Chesterfield. But big, populous counties that used to vote strictly Republican, such as Henrico, Loudoun and Prince William, went Democratic. More predictably Democratic cities such as Norfolk and Richmond did, too.

Once again, here’s evidence of the demographic shifts that have changed the face of Virginia. And it shows just how badly the Republicans have stumbled after eight disastrous years of George Bush and, after 44 years, just how they are exhausted they are of ideas.

Voters are saying that simply running against abortion, for guns and against immigrants won’t cut it any more. Serving up an under qualified “You Betcha” candidate whose only real asset is her gender won’t cut it, either. The economy is a mess and the financial markets face their worst crisis since the 1930s. We’re still stuck in two messy wars. Luckily, we have a new president whose message is hope and inclusion, not wedge issues. And voters are not stupid.

Peter Galuszka

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30 responses to “Virginia, Welcome to the Real World of the U.S.”

  1. falstaff Avatar

    Somehow, I don’t think you’ve bought into the inclusion thing quite yet.

    Congratulations on a convincing victory for your candidates and I suppose it’s forgiveable that you want to kick the GOP while it’s down.

    I hope that our newly elected President, Senator, and Congressmen do well. I hope they also deliver the change they promised. They have a mandate and they need to show the US they will use it. Blaming Bush won’t cut it long about April 2009.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    The car tax was destructive, and unnecesary. Gilmore did well to try to get rid of it.

  3. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “Voters are saying that simply running against abortion, for guns and against immigrants won’t cut it any more. “

    Pretty much waht governor Pawlenty said last night. Republicans need to become more pragmatic and not try to live solely on the heels of the Reagan Religion of Republican mantras.

    Democrats need to understand that the poor are not poor because the rich are rich. You can’t get something for nothing. A good environment and good foreign policy require a strong economy.

    Both sides need to worry less about the other side and more about the people they are supposed to represent.


  4. I sure wish the Va SBE or the RTD could generate a summary (with county data) as succinct as this one:

    Looking at the map – it seems clear that the changing demographics are gradually submerging the more traditional RoVa happy hunting grounds for the packyderms in Virginia

    and they have a decision to make…

    is the "purity" of their conservative Social (as opposed to fiscal) principles more important to them – than winning and governing?

    Do you expect to win without the hispanics and blacks and other diverse cultures that..if not "bluing" Virginia…they certainly are "pinking" it.

    Take a look at the map and forget the blue and look at the pink.. and THEN look at the blue …and it becomes clear that Virginia is not only not becoming more conservative – they are headed in the opposite direction…

    So.. the Packyderms are at a crossroads… Do they want to end up like the social conservatives in other industrialized countries – a permanent minority who can only govern if they make compromises to form coalitions of necessity?

    OR .. if the rest of us are lucky – .. they'll all get in a room and fight to the death about the future of the party..



    Actually I hope they do get their act together.. the ones with Conservative fiscal principles and tolerant social principles.. I'd vote for…as I have done in the past….

    SOMEBODY ..has to keep the tax & spenders under control.. right?

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Nice column. But please “…when Virginia went with ultra-rightist Barry Goldwater instead of Lyndon Baines Johnson”…did not happen!

    I worked my tail off in that 1964election and was elated when Johson carried Virginia! Yep–we got over 53% that day! We may have many things to answer for but losing Virginia in that election is not one of them.

    And, oh, I am a good Democrat but I never felt Goldwater was “ultra”. I just think he was a good man who was mistaken on a number of issues.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    You are right about LBJ and Goldwater. I screwed up and have amended the column. Thanks for pointing this out.

    Peter Galuszka

  7. Anonymous Avatar


    I am one peon but I am going back to work to continute to realign the Republican party

    My efforts have been noticed and I will be assisting in a local supervisors race shortly with someone that shares our collective values of fiscal conservatisim with less emphasis on the social piece

    This individual is a good person but it will be challenging because it is a blue district

    It should be interesting. I am looking forward to it.


  8. NMM – good luck!

    What I’m reading in some places… which is a real head scratcher.. that perhaps you can explain…

    and that is.. that the Packyderms lose because they stray from their conservative principles….. and that… they’ll do better if they go back and re-emphasize their conservatism…

    I never pretended to completely understand some of the really “pure” packyderms anyhow but this logic seems totally counter to what they need to do.


  9. I think it is a matter of how one defines conservatism…

    If you define conservatism as an adherence to what are popularly refered to as social issues, then the GOP will continue to have problems whether they stray from those principles or not.


    If you think of conservatism as an adherence to limited government, balanced budgets, personal responsibility and liberty, and keeping government out of people’s lives, and seek to find solutions within that framework to pocketbook issues, security issues, and quality of life issues, then a return to conservative roots might be the ladder out of the abyss.

  10. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Their core priciples have been subverted, for cycnical gain.

    For example, Republican’s seem to believe that everyone has an equal right to get up in the morning and try to succeed, but that does not translate into and equal right to actually succeed. Equal opportunity, then, takes on a very narrow meaning, which allows for many roadblocks to be thrown up on the path to success.

    Republicans think we should grow the pie, and pesonal vcissitude determines who gets the larger pieces. Democrats think the pie is a zero sum game and the epieces should be shared more equally.

    They are both wrong, and both right, but neither side is able to recognize or concede the wrong part.


  11. I like Bwana’s analysis…

    is there a misunderstanding among the packyerms themselves when they say “get back to our roots”?

    Does the same phrase mean very different things to different members of the same GOP?

  12. Even though I voted Green (McKinney, an African American female), I am very happy that Obama beat McCain for the Presidency, nationally and in this state.
    I remember seeing the punk band X at the Floodzone a couple of moons ago and singer John Doe called Richmond the most racist city in the nation, if not the world. Well tonight I hope to see John Doe play solo at the National tonight and hopefully he has a slightly better opinion of this city.
    Sure, I hope Virginia has joined the rest of the world by this choice, but beyond racial politics, I hope Virginia can in fact leapfrog the rest of the country by embracing real change for peace, the environment, and social justice. That means EMBRACING renewable energy and universal health care, not just talking about ‘clean coal’ and reconfiguring insurance schemes.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Fairness — A number of Democrats have made a strong and sensible argument that it is unfair to have middle income people subsidize the wealthy. It sold quite well.

    I saw a tape of Jim Moran making this point.

    But since Jim Moran (and other Democrats) strongly support the current plan that will make ordinary users of the Dulles Toll Road foot the vast majority of the costs for building Dulles Rail, which, in turn, largely benefits: 1) Bechtel and its partners; and 2) the big Tysons landowners who will get hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in development profits, isn’t Congressman Moran guilty of the very same thing? If not, why not? And where are the Republicans who could make this argument? Also afraid to challenge the biggies? Where is the WaPo? Strongly supporting this big subsidy?

    I used to be an active Democrat, but that party is also strongly committed to continuing the subsidies to the very biggest and wealthiest, while condemning success of the fairly successful. I’m not convinced that Obama will change this. Resko et al. I see myself (fairly successful, but hundreds of miles from the top) as losing ground with Obama and his crowd to pay for fairness, even while the Buffets, Bechtels, West Groups, Lerners, etc. are largely exempt from the reform process.

    The other guys and gals are now wandering cluelessly, immersed in the 1970s. Not sure where I go from here.


  14. I dunno about all of TMT’s complaint… but I strongly suspect that the folks who support METRO… increases in the sales tax for METRO…even if they never took it a day in their lives (except for perhaps during bad weather, or flying at the airport).. those same folks are probably okay with tolls being used to pay for it also.

    … and that would be a separate issue from Tysons and the developers….

    in other words, in their mind.. using tolls for a mainline METRO link to the airport is a good thing…and whatever happens at Tysons.. is a different issue…

    I fully admit.. I could be BAD wrong about this as I do not live up there…

    and just to be clear – developers and mega projects that tax infrastructure .. don’t seem to me to be BLUE or RED.. both are equal opportunity practisioners…

  15. re: “They are both wrong, and both right, but neither side is able to recognize or concede the wrong part.”

    okay..I’ll bite…

    what is the wrong part…. for each…

    ..and what would be the right approach?

  16. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Republicans lean toward growing the pie. That personal vicissitude whould determine your sahre of the pie – solely.

    Dems think of it as a zero sum game (at least in the short term) or actually think we should consume less and make it smaller.

    Mathemeatically, it is the same as any other pair of cost/benefit curves. If one or a very few get 99.99% of the pie through personal efforts, then it is hard to see that making the pie bigger does everyone else much good, and maybe a lot of harm.

    Likewise, everyone will have the same if we shut down the economy, but it’s hard to see the benefit in that.

    Republicans can’t seem to see beyond how fast the pie grows and personal vicissitude, when there may be other factors in improving social net worth.

    Dems can’t seem to get beyond equality an fairness, even if it stunts growth.

    Somewhere in between is the best rate of increase in net social welfare.

    The right apporach is to look for the right answer instead of the DEM or PUB answer.


  17. I still don’t get it.

    what specific policies would be the “correct” ones to implement?

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, the late state Senator Omer Hirst, who sponsored legislation setting up the DTR, promised that, once the bonds for the road were paid, it would become a free road. Now legislation has passed that ties in the rail debt, such that the DTR will not only never be free, but will likely become quite expensive.

    Why would most drivers support paying high tolls for a rail line that doesn't fix their traffic problems? Even with Dulles Rail or maybe because of it, traffic congestion on the DTR does not improve. But the tolls go up.

    Dulles Rail, largely funded by DTR users, is the trigger for expanded development at Tysons. Take away the higher tolls, take away the mega-density increases and mega-profits for Tysons landowners.

    This is Mr. & Ms. Commuter paying higher tolls for the main benefit of Tysons Corner landowners and the Bechtel consortium.

    How is this consistent with progressive politics?


  19. TMT – I’m not an advocate of it but I try to understand the dynamics…

    and most folks support METRO – not because they believe it will help traffic per se but because it’s like other core services like education…

    it’s a good social benefit – helps folks with lower incomes…provides a reliable trip, lets you go to events and museums without traffic, etc…

    as far as Politicians making promises that are subsequently broken… well.. shame on you TMT… for believing wives tales!

    but like I said.. I don’t think most folks equate METRO with tied to specific developments… at least no more or less than they would new highways…..

    some folks have sworn for years that new highways and interchanges are just taxpayer-funded private development…but most folks either don’t buy it or believe that trying to separate the two is futile….anyhow.

    People that live up the Fairfax area – they see high-octane development all the time… and I suspect don’t see an obvious connection between when high density is proposed/built and access to a particular highway or transit mode…

    don’t get me wrong – I don’t agree with this perception but I do think it is not an uncommon perception either.

  20. JeffConn Avatar

    Maybe Gov Kaine is right when he says, “Old Virginny is dead.”

  21. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “and most folks support METRO – not because they believe it will help traffic per se but because it’s like other core services like education…”

    Nonsense. folks who support Metro do so because they have been sold a bill of goods, highly advertised and oft repeated.

    For example:

    “it’s a good social benefit – helps folks with lower incomes…provides a reliable trip, lets you go to events and museums without traffic, etc…”

    All of which is demonstrably and measureably false, yet the beat goes on.

    Now, I beleive that some drivers DO GET some traffic releif as a result of Metro, and whatever that benefit is, should be paid for. But I also believe it is small, relatively speaking. Absent the help (subsidy) from drivers METRO and VRE riders would pay much more.

    So much more tht few would ride and (most of) the system would fail, as it should. We oppose bailouts for bankers, but we support bail-outs for other failed systems.

    Under the present conditions, it seems to me that TMT’s analysis is correct: our government has lied to us, and the result is that a few will get big rewards at the cost of many.

    If the rewards are real, then there ought to be a way to share the value with those that pay the bill.


  22. Most big urban areas in the world have suite of core services to include airports, mass transit, subways, bus service, etc…

    I think most people know and understand that these services are expensive, not cheap, probably don't pay for themselves from the farebox but are worthwhile to have – just as they think that highways are expensive, wasteful… and worthwhile.

    They are not sitting down with a calculator totaling up costs and benefits.

    I don't think it's any more an issue of being sold a bill of goods for subways than …say for airports… or port facilities, etc….

    Most folks see these things as separate from the development of land around such facilities (like airports).

    They realize that development is attracted but they don't necessarily believe that the ONLY reason something like an airport or a subway is built is to provide venues for developers.

    For instance, they think a highway interchange is needed to get them off of the interstate and onto the surface streets …and they expect development…gas stations, restaurants, apartments, etc to locate near such interchanges as such to be typically expected.

    The average person does not ask themselves how much an interchange costs and whether or not it has a positive cost/benefit ratio – no more than they do for airports, metro, professional fire & rescue, etc.

    The people that do development – they know that there are State and Federal dollars available for transportation infrastructure – and they know someone will get the dollars and build something – and it just as well be them than some other city.

    Remember. I'm not advocating this way of doing things – only that the majority of folks expect these things to be in major urban areas and are not generally opposed to them.

    One can argue that these folks are not very smart or even dumb – but if you're asking why these things often/usually get built – and they do – worldwide – this is a reason why..

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    Let’s compare the Route 28 Transportation District in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. That district, just like the Dulles Corridor Rail Tax District, was created at the request of local landowners under the very same statute.

    The Route 28 District imposes an additional tax on commercial landowners, the proceeds of which are being used to upgrade Route 28. Landowners pay 80% of all costs. The project is generally regarded by all, including the affected landowners, as a success.

    The Dulles Rail formula is different, but I would suspect that the potential economic growth for Tysons landowners is much larger than for the Route 28 landowners. Why the difference in the funding formulae?


  24. I’m not sure that there should be a difference.. and probably would support a standard approach….

    I’m no fan of what Fairfax is doing with respect to Tysons – both process and intent….

    it sounds oh so similar to some new roads and interchanges that I’m familiar with.

    VDOT is changing… they know how the game is being played.

    I don’t think the airport authority really cares what happens as long as the mainline gets built – you might call them unwitting accomplices … unless you know differently.

    Is there any link between the airport authority folks and the Tysons advocates?

    One would think that if there were – it would have the potential of being explosive.

    but like I said.. most folks …think rail is a good thing… and they know that it has to be paid for …somehow and that probably everyone will get “nicked” to pay for it.

  25. Groveton Avatar

    TMT is quite right in all of his arguments and points. His knowledge of the inner workings of UnFairfax County are astonishing. This is an old style, stright up handout to large landowners and developers by average Joes. The fact that the carpetbagging half wit Jim Moron supports it only conforms its slimy-ness. Jim Moron (aka Mayor Quimby from the Simpsons) has been on the wrong side of every issue since he decamped in Alexandria from the People’s Republic of Mass. years and years ago. His overfed and underloved political base in Old Town keep him around to spew his senseless simpering. Too bad.

    Peter – you are right about a lot of new people from outside Virginia moving into Northern Virginia. I wish they would all leave. To hear them tell it – Cleveland, Buffalo, Brooklyn, Long Island, etc are all the greatest places in the world. I have offered to pay for a full tank of gass for several of them if they rpomise to drive back to the northern promised land they so love. It seems that economic opportunities are a bit thin back at the greatest place on earth. I would happily trade all the northern invaders for illegal Mexican aliens. The illegal aliens are far more industrious and usually don’t vote.

    As much as it pains me to write this – we may need a consortium of long time Virginians from NoVA and RoVA to form a voting block to keep the carpetbaggers at bay.

    Governor Moran?

    I’d rather live in Cuba.

  26. Doesn’t Tysons have wide and deep local and state bipartisan support – at least for the basic concept of Tysons ….growing… as a job/economic development center?

    I’m sympathetic to the scope and scale and developer/business advocacy/involvement but this is not an untypical thing.. where local and state officials believe that transportation infrastructure presents an opportunity for economic development.

    A new road, a new interchange, a new airport, a new METRO line – all of these present development opportunities.

    Tysons is an extreme example – on steroids – but in some respects no different than say ..the discussion going on with respect to Fort Belvoir..

    One thing that I’ve not understood is how different is the density that is being proposed from existing densities around existing METRO stations?

    The other thing is that one would think that any development with too much density that portended gridlock.. would be counterproductive… i.e. who would want to locate a business somewhere where the traffic made it impossible to conduct business?

    It IS curious that VDOT has already weighed in on the Fort Belvoir proposal – from a transportation impact viewpoint (with warnings) and folks are still awaiting their input on the Tysons Proposal.

    but I admit..I’m basically ignorant about the complexity of the issue compared to TMT’s in-depth understanding.

    but CUBA? Groveton? talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire……

    I’m sure the expat life might have some appeal but you’d have to really sell me on the idea that living in a 3rd world dictatorship is superior to living in NoVa… even with a Tysons .. run by carpetbaggers.


  27. Groveton Avatar

    Unfortunately, Governor Moran wouldn’t just run Tyson’s. And Fidel and Raul are bound to pass. Who knows? Maybe Cuba will experience a rebirth. Of course, I’ll then be the northern inplant who everyone wishes would go home.

  28. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    PG: You provided your partisan spin. I may post my take on what the election means, or if I have time a more dispassionate, but clearly biased from my perspective, view of what it means to VA GOP politics.

  29. Groveton Avatar

    It seems I have been hasty (go figure). I asked that the non-Virginians leave the state and go back home. I want them to enjoy the “greatest place on Earth” as they often refer to their hometowns. I don’t want them to feel they are being held hostage by some wierd magnetic force in Virginia that makes them live here instead of back in the “greatest place on Earth”. However, there is on vote that needs to happen first. Just one. Basically this:

    I know enough of the good old boys down in the SW of the state and over on the WVa border. This is clearly a topic that could join NoVa to big parts of RoVA. We’d both (NoVa and the freedom loving parts of RoVa) have to defeat the entrenched interests in the Richmond area. So, we might need to keep the notherners in-state for just long enough to vote on this. Then, they can head back to the “greatest places on Earth”. And they’ll head back with a big smile on their faces. Only question is whether they’ll make it to the border before stopping at a Burger King.

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