Saturday, July 20, 2013

More Virginia Shit

Growing up in Virginia I heard much about the "Virginia Way" and how this special gift made Virgina politics not only sublime, but genteel and gentlemanly.  Mills Godwin was the first Virginia politician I saw wrap himself in the Virginia Way, sniffing that a rabble-rouser like Henry Howell questioning the very cozy relationship between state government and big business was to question the foundations of the Commonwealth itself.  Godwin wasn't the last.  These days wanna-be governor Ken Cuccinelli bathers about Virginia's "very reserved traditions" even as he makes a mockery of them.

All of which makes Dahlia Lithwick's Slate column about Virginia's lax ethics laws a good read.  Not only does she see the legal absurdity of having, for all intends and purposes, no effective laws governing gifts to public officials, she also understands the deep psychology of Virginia politics.  True Virginians know that Virginia is near-perfect, a fantasy that renders all change dangerous and unwise.  Those few imperfections are preferable to the unknown danger posed by change.  Lithwick sums it up well, "given the opportunity to do something to hold [elected officials] to account, we’re somehow too romantic to try."

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