With the increasingly consequential presidential election of 2008 just one nerve-racking week away, we’d like to present a few nuggets to ponder about our glorious Commonwealth:
The last time Virginia voted for a Democrat for president was in 1964, when the ol’ cornpone charmer Lyndon Johnson managed to eke out a 7.3 percent victory over Barry Goldwater.
Virginia boasts a huge number of active-duty military, and around 13.5 percent of its residents are veterans—a higher percentage than all but four other states.
With even Larry Sabato calling the state for Obama, who has been stumping the heck out of Virginia’s Southwest, Commonwealth McCainiacs are reduced to hoping for a full “Bradley Effect” on November 4.
Our founding father and patron saint Thomas Jefferson was one of the largest slaveholders in colonial America, and almost certainly fathered a number of children with Sally Hemings—his human chattel—while privately insisting that “the amalgamation of whites with blacks produces a degradation to which no lover of his country, no lover of excellence in the human character, can innocently consent.”
The last Virginian to hold the White House, Woodrow Wilson, instituted the racial segregation of the U.S. government’s bathrooms and cafeterias, and kicked off his term by screening and promoting D.W. Griffith’s Klan-romanticizing epic, Birth of a Nation.
The Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage in the United States bears the deliciously provocative title Loving v. Virginia.
Now, the reason that we bring up this (sometimes painful) history is not to denigrate the Old Dominion—a place that we love more than a good congressional page scandal, and that’s a heck of a lot—but to underline just how incredible it is that, by all appearances, a black liberal anti-Iraq-war Democrat is currently besting his white war hero Republican opponent in the race for the Commonwealth’s 13 electoral votes.
Barack Obama’s sizeable and persistent lead is so improbable, in fact, that it seems to have driven a large swath of the Republican establishment completely mad. After throwing vast amounts of political putrescence at the man—Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Jeff Frederick has done everything from claiming that Obama and Osama bin Laden “both have friends that bombed the Pentagon” to sending out a mailer featuring a cropped pair of swarthy, Obama-esque peepers over the words “America must look evil in the eye”—and seeing none of it stick, the increasingly desperate GOP has moved on to the rather curious strategy of insulting half of Virginia’s populace (John McCain’s brother Joe referred to Northern Virginia as “Communist country” at a rally, while campaign advisor Nancy Pfotenhauer recently insisted that McCain was actually winning in “real Virginia,” apparently referring to the non-Communist parts of the Commonwealth which are “more Southern in nature”).
Of course, if all of that fails, the RPV still has the twin pillars of bluster and fear to fall back on. We call this the “wishful thinking” strategy, which involves loudly complaining that the entire election is fixed (while simultaneously trying to discourage new voter registration and demanding that the Secretary of Elections “halt the processing of absentee ballots” immediately due to a few duplicate mailings) and hoping like hell that the so-called “Bradley Effect”—which presupposes that a black candidate’s support in the polls is always overstated—is in full effect on election day.
In fact, it’s this last electoral variable—which did, after all, nearly capsize Governor Douglas Wilder’s seemingly sure-thing election in 1989—that appears to give the conservative commentariat the greatest hope. As syndicated columnist Jack Kelly wrote a few weeks ago, if you assume that McCain has a “hidden 4-6 percentage point advantage” in the polls, he’s almost certain to win the presidency. Kelly went on to note discrepancies in various state polls, and pointed out (somewhat desperately, if you ask us) that “North Carolina was, on average, three percentage points more Republican than Virginia in the last two presidential elections. It’s inconceivable nearly 20 percentage points could be separating them now.”
Inconceivable? Perhaps it is, Mr. Kelly, perhaps it is. But, as Inigo Montoya quipped to Vizzini in The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”