Virginia: California on the Atlantic (FREE)
The NeverTrumpers over at National Review blame Ed Gillespie’s defeat for governor of Virginia on – this is a surprise! – Donald Trump: “If the American electorate continues to have a low opinion of the president, then Republicans should calculate that drag into their electoral expectations.” Actually, Gillespie, an establishment Bush Republican, only scored as well as he did, losing 54% to 45%, after closing his campaign with Trumpian themes.
But even totally embracing Trump and campaigning like him likely would not have won it for Gillespie, as a year earlier Trump himself lost the state, 50% to 44%. The reason is because Virginia has become California on the Atlantic – albeit with much worse weather to punish their sins. It’s a leftist state dominated by, in the Old Dominion’s case, four leftist areas: the Northern Virginia extension of Washington, D.C., Charlottesville and its University of Virginia, Norfolk and its large military bases and Richmond, which like all state capitals is a mini-D.C. in its leftism. In essence, in the Virginia election, the government voters voted for the government candidate.
As described in the great autobiographies by Pat Buchanan and Bob Novak, Washington, D.C. in the 1950s still was a sleepy Southern town. The Virginia and Maryland suburbs were small and, on the Virginia side, largely populated with Pentagon personnel.
That changed in the 1960s with LBJ’s twin wild spending programs, the Great Society and the Vietnam War, which fueled the military-industrial complex. The federal government metastasized into the monstrosity it is today, expanding ever further into the Virginia and Maryland suburbs – becoming the Beltway we know and loathe. The Beltway is the expressway that circles D.C. and its inner suburbs.
I spent five miserable years there, 1982-87, as a young conservative journalist living in McLean, Virginia. Even then, the area, formerly part of the Old South, had become indistinguishable, in its residents, stores and culture, from any other suburb in America, especially those in the North. The exception was that D.C. was recession-proof. I had come to D.C. because, after leaving the U.S. Army in February 1982, I couldn’t find a job in the Michigan I grew up in because of its depression-level 16% unemployment. So Russell Kirk found me a scholarship with the National Journalism Center in D.C.
When times are bad, D.C. expands to “help” those suffering from unemployment and homelessness. When times are good, D.C. expands from the vast new tax receipts flowing in. When I was growing up in the 1960s, the wealthiest counties in America were those North of Detroit, where the auto companies’ owners, executives and top engineers lived. Today, the four wealthiest suburbs surround D.C., according to the U.S. Census: “Loudoun County, Va., where the median household income was $125,900 in 2015; Falls Church City, Va., where it was $122,092; Fairfax County, Va., where it was $112,844; and Howard County, Md., where it was $110,224…. Nationwide, the median household income in 2015 was $55,755.”
So Our Masters in Government basically make twice what we do. Of course, not all of them actually serve directly in government, but are contractors, lobbyists, lawyers and executives of huge companies that either serve the government, or want to be near it to lobby it.
When I was there in the mid-1980s, Northern Virginia still was relatively conservative and Republican. The local congressman was Frank Wolf, who was generally a Reagan conservative except on one thing: compensation for federal workers, which he always wanted to increase. He’s one reason why federal workers overall, not just in D.C., make twice that of private-sector workers. But the Pentagon’s military culture still was generally conservative, as was that of the many military contractors. And conservatives in and out of government preferred to be with similar-thinking folks.
But today, the military contractors are nearly as leftist as most corporate chieftans, much the way Silicon Valley billionaires are liberal Democrats, not conservative Republicans. I think the reason is they all attend the same leftist, P.C. universities, especially in the Ivy League and the top state universities.
No wonder Northern Virginia housing prices approach California levels, meaning it takes a household income of at least $125,000 just to get a mortgage on a modest townhouse.
Turning to the other cities, Charlottesville of course houses the leftist University of Virginia, itself once a sleepy minor college best known for expelling Edgar Allan Poe. Its founder, Thomas Jefferson, would be appalled at what’s taught there now, and soon could get his statue and name removed because he owned slaves. I used to visit the school 30 years ago when it still sported a veneer of preppy conservatism. Like other U.S. universities, it has spread into the surrounding countryside, turning everything into Maoist self-recrimination sessions.
I also knew Norfolk-Virginia Beach back then, when both also generally trended conservative. Its heart was the MacArthur Memorial, with a statue of the great general; and Bernini’s final sculpture, Bust of the Savior, at the Chrysler Museum of Art. But the federal government has expanded there. Conservatives should realize that, nowadays, more military spending means more subsidizing liberal armaments companies.
Then there’s the state capitol at Richmond, quickly becoming the third point of the government triad of D.C.-Charlottesville-Richmond. I was there when they were constructing most of the city’s own Beltway. It then was a Beltway to Nowhere, funded by such powerful state senators as Harry F. Byrd, even though few people needed such an extensives system. That meant condemning property and dislocating people and businesses for no reason. But as usually happens, an expressway ends up creating its own centers of housing and commerce, always duplicating those elsewhere in the country – vast new swaths of tedium.
Virginia Route 7, which carries hundreds of thousands of well-paid Beltway functionaries to and from their jobs oppressing us, is named after Byrd. But naturally there’s a move to rename the highway because he was a segregationist. Although a better reason was that, although he liked getting as much pork for his state as any member of Congress, he was obsessed with balanced budgets. Robert Caro’s most recent LBJ biography, “The Passage of Power,” details how Old Harry, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, went along with Johnson’s major tax cuts only if the budget were kept under $100 billion, forcing about $5 billion in spending cuts. Byrd left office in 1965 just before LBJ exploded the budget, and died in 1966.
That was the unforgivable offense of Byrd, in the estimation of federal workers. Restrain spending? Cut the budget? Live within your means? Not run up $20 trillion in debt? Make federal workers live modestly? Traitor!