For Virginians who may have thought voting Republican in this November’s election may be a reasonable way to balance out the Democratic Party’s dominance last year, the revelations this week about the particular Republican running for governor this fall should give considerable pause to that notion.
Once again, a 21st century Republican has been exposed to be anything but your father’s thoughtful moderate, pro-business, fiscal conservative. Nope, Attorney General Bob McDonnell, who wants to become Virginia’s next governor, is cut out of the cultish, reactionary mold of evangelist Pat Robertson. As a child and college student, he sucked on the sour teat of society’s most acrid, bitter bigotry.
Quotes from McDonnell’s college thesis confirm that he’d internalized the Robertson vision of a white male-dominated culture, where women are dutiful, subservient housewives and children replicate the social models of such parental roles in their upbringing.
This fall, McDonnell will want to portray himself as a middle-of-the-road moderate, because rightwing whackery does not fare well in statewide elections, even in Virginia. This is due to the rising influence of Northern Virginia in such statewide races, when in every case since Oliver North in the 1990s, the GOP has advanced a succession of radical right wingers to seek U.S. Senate and gubernatorial seats.
In the most recent such case, in 2006, Former Governor George Allen was headed for an easy victory in a race for the U.S. Senate when he was caught on video tape issuing a cruel, racist slander against a fellow citizen of Indian heritage. The widespread circulation of that “macaca” video tape moment caused Allen’s double-digit lead in the polls to evaporate within weeks, and underdog Sen. Jim Webb wound up winning the seat by the slightest of margins.
Until the video tape revelation in August 2006, Allen had bamboozled a lot of Virginians into thinking he was a reasonable moderate. In fact, had things gone according to plan, GOP leaders in Washington saw him as their best bet for a run at the U.S. Presidency in 2008. But the slander, combined with an unexpectedly strong campaign from Webb, did him in. The truth be told, the Allen case shows that Virginia voters harbor very little tolerance for bigotry, even when it reveals itself in a candidate through only one off-handed remark.
Now, the uncovering of McDonnell’s wild, published assertions about his negative views of women who are anything but dutiful servants for their husbands has set up a veritable repeat of 2006. In this case, McDonnell’s comments were thorough and written down, not just a nasty comment spoken into a video camera.
Now, the outcome will be determined by how well Democratic challenger Creigh Deeds can match the strength of Webb’s campaign.