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As this was written, statewide legislative elections hadn?t yet been held. But things looked very good for Democrats and somewhat bleak for the state Republicans.
If the results don?t actually reflect that - although I suspect they will - there are still trends in Virginia politics that don?t bode well for Republicans in this state.
The growing and diverse populations of Northern Virginia are literally changing the electoral map of the Old Dominion. By ?diverse,? I mean exactly that. Our country actually is the ?melting pot? that our history and our appeal to freedom and opportunity reflects. It used to be that Irish Catholics and Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe were the chief newcomers to our shores. Now it?s Hispanics, Asians and others.
These people come here for educational and job opportunities. The great majority of them are here legally, not illegally. But you wouldn?t know that by listening to the ?illegal immigration? hysteria that comes out of the Republican Party.
So when these new Americans vote, they can choose between the welcoming attitude of the Democratic Party or the shrill cries about ?protect our borders!? and ?build a wall!? that emanate from the GOP. If you look at recent voting patterns in Northern Virginia, you see who they?re picking.
We all know that George Allen shot himself in the foot with his ?macaca? remark last year, but minority voters in Northern Virginia probably understood that remark more than Allen?s white, conservative supporters in the rest of the state. The fact is, Jim Webb won that race in Northern Virginia.
Also, when you say ?white? and ?conservative? in the same sentence, you mean the Republican Party. I?ve written about this before, and I know it offends some people, but the truth is that the Virginia GOP is a lily-white party. Go to any Republican event in a small town or a big city in this state, and count the non-white faces. Your counting will be brief. That?s why George Allen felt comfortable saying ?macaca? in front of a nearly all-white GOP crowd.
If the same weren?t true in the national party, then there would not have been the recent debate on minority issues where not a single one - not one! - of the Republican presidential ?front-runners? showed up. Actions speak louder than words, don?t they? Black and other minority voters notice these things.
But in Virginia, though, the Republican Party is rapidly becoming a vehicle for only two factions: hard-core religionists, and rabid government haters. Moderates just aren?t welcome anymore in the party built up by moderates such as Richard Obenshain, Linwood Holton, and John Warner.
Just look at what has happened already in the GOP effort to oppose Democrat Mark Warner in next year?s U.S. Senate race. Sen. John Warner thought that a Republican member of Congress would be best qualified. But then Jim Gilmore expressed his interest.
Jim Gilmore? Could Virginia Republicans really be serious about putting up this failed governor against the incredibly popular Mark Warner? You bet they are, and that?s because of the people who have captured this party. That?s why Tom Davis, the Republican Congressman who dares to be moderate, can?t get the time of day from the inmates running the GOP asylum.
Republicans used to take pride in calling themselves a ?big tent? party. But the tent is closed now. So I hope those ideologues and crusaders inside the tent can figure out why they?re losing elections.
Let?s face it. If the Republican label was a brand on the commercial market in Virginia - and in much of the rest of the nation - it would have to be recalled.
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, lives in Roanoke, and can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.