Thursday, November 04, 2021

The View from 2900 Miles Away



Four decades have passed since I last voted in Virginia but the Commonweath’s politics still have a hold on me. Virginia was just emerging from decades of political and racist oligarchy under the Byrd Organization (read: machine) as I became politically and socially aware in the late 60s and early 70s. Change was all around then, even in Virginia, and the political campaigns of that era left an indelible impression on me that has never worn off.

So it’s not surprising that I paid close attention to this year’s election for governor. And as in many previous elections, I was disappointed in the outcome. Glen Youngkin managed to excite the Trump base without frightening the suburbanites while Terry McAuliffe seemed to offer little more than “I was a not terrible governor during my previous term” and “Trump = BAD!” Although I preferred McAuliffe, it was largely a matter of keeping Trumpism at bay and my general dislike of wealthy investors parachuting into political office.

That plus McAuliffe has never been my idea of a good candidate. Like Youngkin, he’s a rich, white man, a corporate Democrat hard-wired into the status quo. I paid some attention to the Democratic primary this year and thought several other candidates seemed better aligned with my values. I probably would have voted for one of them if I voted in Virginia. But name recognition and big money gave McAuliffe the Democratic nomination and, for the longest time, a seemingly comfortable lead.

But Youngkin ran a smart campaign. He kept his distance from Trump while still dog whistling to the Trump base. He talked about local issues that seemed more consistent with the governor’s duties as the state’s chief executive. He presented himself as a completely nonthreatening suburban dad, not at all like Donald Trump. Meanwhile McAuliffe sounded petty and arrogant, seemingly entitled to another term in office. After the upheavals of the past four years, Youngkin is comfort food for a Virginia electorate that has seen the foundations of its mythology challenged.

The dust has settled and Virginia will have a Republican governor for the next four years. I can only hope that he will govern in the tradition of his predecessor Linwood Holton who became the first Republican elected governor of Virginia since Reconstruction. I think that will be unlikely in the Age of Trump but would be happy to find that I am wrong about that.

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