...but there’s a special reason why Northern Virginia is hopping mad!
(Warning, the following starts out sounding radical and (metaphorically) militant. Heck, even fulminating-wrathful! But I eventually get around to shining some light on an important - little noted - factor in this election.)
It seems that America’s devastating “culture war” -- actually phase three of America’s intermittent, 150 year Civil War -- is starting to follow the course of the first two rounds.
Certainly, at long last, there is a rsising flood tide of anger in Blue America. The nation’s urban and educated people -- along with ethnicities and simply folks who prefer the future to the past -- have had it with hearing their Red countrymen deride their morals and patriotism for more than twenty years. ...
...or to hear endless denunciations of cityfolk decadence from regions that often fall far behind urban-dwellers in most measures of successful marriage or child-rearing. Or panicky, hypocritical war-shrieks about “terror” from people who live far from the crosshairs. But those irksome insults were mere motes and pustules compared to the very worst thing -- the imposition, after a pair of squeaker-elections, of a “mandate” government-by kakocracy, or national rule by the very worst.
Or the glaring, unrepentant shamelessness of repeating all of the above with increasing frenzy -- as Sarah Palin does every day, before frothing throngs -- after their Chosen Ones have already, by every metric, misgoverened America to the verge of destruction.
With Palin’s own words rcocheting across the continent, proclaiming that Red America is the only True America, is it forgivable -- or at least understandable -- that a our patience, here in the Union, is coming to an end? You could see it in John Stewart’s eyes, amid the jokes. And his audience laughed with a tone of barely restrained fury.
Hatred sows hatred and we have had it. We have been patient long enough.
In that light, can it be that some view this 2008 election as our generation’s nation-saving equivalent to the Battle of Gettysburg? A last-chance turning point, when we can draw a line - finally - against sanctimonious, hypocritical, know-nothing hickery and start guiding this great and blessed land back toward being an advanced, egalitarian, educated and scientific nation, less devoted to dogma than to progress.
And, if that means dusting off great grandpa’s uniform from the FIRST phase of this struggle, and singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic? Then so be it.
What is happening in Virginia?
Now, with Obama firming up big leads across the Old Union (except in weird Indiana), along the coasts, and Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico -- the GOP standard bearer now finds himself struggling to defend such formerly reliable Republican strongholds as Virginia and North Carolina... plus possibly North Dakota, Arkansas and Georgia. How did it come to this?
Pundits credit the economy, of course, plus a vigorous democratic “ground game” that featured unprecedented registration of minorities and young voters. Elsewhere, I’ve also spoken of the University Effect in North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, which have invested in higher education far more than other southern states. The upside effects on their economies and general vibrancy had to eventually start manifesting in politics, as well, especially after eight years in which the Republican Party has relentlessly and deliberately driven off America’s educated.
It was long assumed that Red “goodoldboy” Culture would always swamp out the tepid liberalism of northern migrants, but we may be seeing that start to change
Still, I believe there’s more to this phenomenon.
Specifically, in the case of Virginia, you can see America’s First Colony start to fracture in two -- much as it did in 1861, when Appalachian settlers angrily refused to betray their country at the behest of aristocratic tidewater slave owners, choosing to secede instead and form West Virginia. Similarly today, you hear tales of local politicians declaring that Northern Virginia is something totally apart from the “real” parts of the state. One angry neocon called it “Communist country.”
I suspect there are interesting factors involved in the rebellion of Northern Virginia, that go beyond simply the economy, or a demographic shift toward more education, or even a lot of northern migrants. I surely doubt socialism of any inkling has a thing to do with the surge of Obama support in the counties surrounding the District of Columbia. Rather, I think this local phenomenon is due to something largely overlooked.
The swing against the GOP in Northern Virginia is all about the U.S. Civil Service. It is a mini-referendum by members of the professional class who we hired to run the business of America’s government -- by far the top employer of that region. These people are turning to the Democrats, in droves.
Note that it did not start out this way. Polls showed repeatedly that (contrary to some expectations) federal employees are not notable more liberal or democratic-registered than Americans, at large. Indeed, many are deeply conservative by temperament. And remember, Northern Virginia includes a lot of military folk, as well, including the Pentagon and several huge Naval installations. Then why this dramatic swing of political passion, in a region that showed strong GOP streaks in the past?
I’ve tried to make this point repeatedly. The civil servants and members of the U.S. Officer Corps have endured eight years as the very worst victims of this administration. They’ve been stewing under the grip of thousands of political appointees, partisan hacks charged by President George W. Bush with a single, paramount mission -- to bully, harass, divert and demoralize the men and women who actually keep the nation running. From the Justice Department to the intelligence services, to science agencies, to the military, those hatchet men seem to have had no other purpose than to prevent our public servants from doing the lawful jobs that we pay them to do.
Note the cleverness of this neocon stratagem. In most of American life, if workers suffer abuse, the right to complain and seek redress is pretty strong. Civil servants, too, are supposedly protected from direct political interference. But so long as the hacks refrained from anything too overt -- (with the exception of stupidly firing those assistant U.S. Attorneys) -- they could erect barricades of distraction and mal-assignment that would thwart agency workers from accomplishing anything, or solving any problems, causing many to resign in frustration. Moreover, civil servants and military officers are constrained -- by both law and tradition -- against speaking out against their political superiors.
Is there a comeuppance? Apparently, the military did stand up, courageously, a couple of years ago, in what is now quietly known as the Generals and Admirals Revolt -- resulting in the ousting of Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary and the arrival of the Gates-Mullen team, effectively peeling the hands of Bush and Cheney away from the tiller at Defense. An episode when our officer corps bravely kept their oaths once again, to protect us from enemies, both foreign and domestic. And they did it so discretely that most Americans haven’t a clue how much we owe them.
Alas, I’ve been disappointed that few other groups of civil servants have done likewise. Apparently, the FBI and CIA agents and others, who might have blown the whistle on Bush era crimes, proved too timid to stand up and help their country in its hour of desperate need. Instead, they appear to be leaving it up to the People. The ignorant, febrile, much-maligned People will have to fix this mess. Much as they did on 9/11, common citizen voters will work a miracle that the professionals could not. Or would not.
Still, here’s the point: I believe that it is the simmering resentment of the civil service caste that we are seeing erupt in Northern Virginia... and in patches around the country. When our first state joins in the blue rebellion, nobody in the GOP or in Red America should yelp in wounded surprise. They brought it on themselves.
== Fixing the blame and fixing the mess ==
What could better prove the charge of “erratic”?
In the second debate, John McCain was asked who he might choose as Treasury Secretary, and the first name he brought up was Warren Buffet, the chief economics advisor of his opponent, Barack Obama! As “the world’s greatest investor” - who also forecast with eerie prescience that our financial meltdown would happen, and how - Buffett would be a great choice. But... in that case, what about McCain’s own top economics advisor?
Well there is this: Economists unanimous: McCain advisor Phil Gramm most to blame for the current Wall Street crisis.
Well, then, why hasn’t McCain dumped Gramm, or any of the hundred or more lobbyists and Bushadmin factotums that this anti-Washington “maverick” surrounds himself with? Really, it isn’t all lies and hypocrisy. For all his many faults, few have ever accused John McCain of fickleness or disloyalty to his friends. His messy divorce notwithstanding, he does seem to be a very loyal guy. Which, alas, makes it hard for him to convincingly claim to be “anti Washington” or a “maverick” against corrupt members of his own party, who passed the rule changes that brought us to this sorry state.
If he were sincere, would he not call for many of those Republican Senators and Congressmen to be turned out of office? Would that not seal his maverick-cred? Shouldn’t Obama challenge McCain to do just that?
Which brings us to the news that: “In 2001, the last year the Internal Revenue Service estimated the tax gap – the difference between what taxpayers owe and what they actually pay – the figure stood at $345 billion, or $290 billion after subtracting enforcement efforts and late payments.” Yes, this is half of the recent bailout passage. But what I find stunning is that very little has been said about the fact that 2001 was the last year of figures on missing taxes owed! Think about it in light of my earlier contention that the greatest crime of the Bush Gang has been to divert, quell, bully and repress the ability of the entire US Civil Service to perform any function that might help the republic to operate in a healthy way.
Now you have the smoking gun.
==See my more recent essay: Past Keeping Faith with Future…and Day with Night
Oh, before I go.... What a great Buffett comment. Here, from the October 11th Kansas City Star, is the whole quotation: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”
Edmund Burke once said, “Rage and phrensy will pull down more in half an hour, than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years” (Reflections on the French Revolution).
I may add some misc items under Comments. But for now...
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.