Lord knows we here at The Odd Dominion have had our fun with the pugilistic powerbrokers of the Virginia GOP. We’ve ridiculed them as the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, castigated them for their anti-immigrant fear-mongering, and generally lampooned them as xenophobic blowhards who seem increasingly out of touch with the Commonwealth’s electorate.
We will say this, though: The Republican Party of Virginia may be many things, but it sure as hell is never dull. And for scandal-hungry political parasites such as ourselves, the slow-motion implosion of this once-powerful political cartel is like watching a particularly spectacular NASCAR pile-up — or maybe the second season of “Twin Peaks,” but without the backward-talking midget (unless you count Del. Dave Albo, of course).
RPV to the Seventh District Congressman: Help me, Eric Cantor. You’re my only hope.
Anyway, as the polls continue to go south (and not in a pleasant, weekend-at-Nags-Head kind of way) for John McCain, and the chances of Senate hopeful Jim Gilmore picking off Mark Warner slip from infinitesimal to “President Kucinich” levels of impossibility, we thought we’d take a quick look at the current state of the Old Dominion’s convulsing conservative landscape. After all, it’s times like this—when a party is at war with itself, and nothing seems to be going to plan—that often lay the foundation for future greatness. The only question is, does the RPV have a Barry Goldwater in the wings, ready to remake the party in his or her bold image? Or is it all Lyndon LaRouches and Gerald Fords, crackpots and company men as far as the eye can see? Well, let’s take a look at the current Republican bullpen and see who jumps out, shall we?
The Old Guard. They’ve been around forever, and it’s hard to imagine that they’re going to breathe new life into Virginia’s Grand Ol’ Party now. Former governor Gilmore is running his haphazard Senate campaign into the ground; Senator John Warner, that legendary paragon of Republican moderation, is retiring (while pointedly refusing to endorse Gilmore as his replacement, and even hinting that he might throw his vote to Mark Warner); Virgil Goode seems to have little ambition beyond keeping his congressional seat in perpetuity (he’s so lazy, he even skipped out on last Tuesday’s debate with challenger Tom Perriello); and George Allen? Three words, my friends: Ma. Ca. Ca.
The Roadkill. This is a category of Republican officeholders who can’t influence the future of the RVP, because they won’t be around to see it. Either voted out of office by unhappy constituents, or run over by their own doctrinaire (and short-sighted) party leadership, these pols evince a weary disgust when talking about the current state of the GOP, if they talk about it at all. The poster boy for this sad political subspecies is U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, whose recent, lachrymose profile in The New York Times Magazine (in which he called President Bush “a disappointment,” and lamented that “nobody keeps an eye on anything unless it hurts the other party”) provides a perfect case study of why Virginia’s bipartisan, conciliatory politicians are a dying breed.
The Young Blood. Finally, we get to the smallest slice of the Commonwealth’s elected conservative coalition: the go-getters. This group is best personified by Seventh District U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, who has seemingly been everywhere as of late. After his national name recognition got a boost by his inclusion on McCain’s VP short list, Cantor seized the opportunity like a coked-up Chihuahua with a chew toy. He was one of the driving forces (and main spokesdudes) for the House Republican’s alternative financial bailout proposal, and has taken to his role as a McCain surrogate and all-around Republican quote machine with a rare, omnipresent gusto. Of course, Cantor’s pro-life/anti-tax politics aren’t exactly remaking Republican orthodoxy, but given the dispirited state of the Virginia GOP, we’re guessing that they’ll take what they can get.