Monday, February 11, 2008

The Potomac Primaries

Tomorrow there will be primaries in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and my old stomping grounds of The Old Dominion. I cannot speak from experience about Maryland. DC I see going to Obama, for a variety of reasons. The real contest, and here the media actually has it right, is Virginia.

Lisa and I moved to Virginia in the end of June, 1994. By the time she told me she wanted to move back to northern Illinois, in the fall of 1998, I wanted to pack up and move that day. The '90's in Virginia were not good years, at least for me.

Before we moved, in mid-June of '94, I got my first taste of what was to come when I read an editorial in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It concerned a case that was, at the time, garnering national attention, a woman attempting to take custody of her grandchildren from her lesbian daughter. The "argument" of the editors was simple - the woman had admitted in court that she had engaged in "sodomy" (oral sex of any kind is technically illegal in VA), rendering her an unfit parent.

When I read the piece, at first I thought it was a parody. I honestly did not believe anyone could "think" that way. I was to encounter far worse over the course of several years. There was Ollie North's attempt to enter Congress on the back of Chuck Robb's massage in 1994. There was the election of George Allen to the Governor's mansion in 1995, followed by his chosen successor, Jim Gilmore, who won by promising voters a rebate on their personal property tax (read "assessed value tax on automobiles" here). There was the on-going controversy in the capitol, Richmond, over the appointment versus election of a mayor (the whole thing was a farce, based on racial fears).

There were the insults and indignities I witnessed on an almost daily basis visited upon half the population of the little town in which we lived because of their race. The ubiquitous racism became a grinding, horrid reality I found no way to escape.

Yet, in the years since, Virginia seems to have undergone a sea change. The center of political gravity has shifted from traditionally "conservative" (please read racist) regions to the far more open suburban areas north near the nation's capital, and around the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach. The state has elected, wuite handily, two successive Democratic governors who have performed well and popularly (much more so than the current Democratic governor of an alleged "blue state", Elliot Spitzer in New York). There is talk about Virginia being in serious play come the general election, rather than four-square in the Republican column.

With demographics changing the socio-political landscape in the fallen capital of the Confederacy, the stakes are high. An Obama win south of the Potomac would be huge. Furthermore, it would crack the Republican southern strategy, a gift to the party from Lyndon Johnson (which he was wise enough to acknowledge). Of the three primaries, this is the one to watch. Should Obama win Virginia tomorrow, I foresee serious problems for Sen. Clinton's continued viability as a candidate. Of course, there are more primaries and caucuses coming up, in states larger than Virginia. Yet, we lost most the rest of the field after Iowa and New Hampshire, so there is that to consider. Also, unlike Obama, Sen. Clinton's funds are running low.

We might have serious clarity to the race before the week is out.

Yes, we can.

Virtual Tin Cup

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