Sunday, September 20, 2009

The GOP's Insult-Everyone Path to Marginalization: Why Rural Voters Should Bail on the GOP

Cross Posted at Blue Commonwealth and Daily Kos

(I am (finally) fired up and ready to go. Consider this the first installment on this subject of how out of touch today’s GOP is, especially in Virginia. It will take four posts to address the various issues in the references I will cite. My next installment will address the assertions about the business community and their reactions to Creigh’s message. The third article will address Dems and the rural vote. The fourth will show why Bob McDonnell is not qualified and does not deserve the support of even the GOP base. Here goes the first. Fired up. Ready to go.)

If you want to understand how out of touch today’s Republican Party is, how chauvinistically it holds its rural vote, and how undeserving of it the GOP really is, you have only to look at some recent incidents. First, a major Republican, Tom Davis, suggested that a rural Virginian, with a stellar record, a law degree from a much more respected university than his opponent (Wake Forest v. Regent, come on!), and a much stronger legislative record of accomplishment isn't qualified to be governor.

Let this clip from WAPO here set the stage for a the Davis Politico interview.
“At a recent candidates forum with business leaders in Northern Virginia, Deeds talked about living upstream from the home his ancestors built in 1740. He mentioned the struggles of Virginia families in South Hill and Martinsville. He told the defense contractors, lawyers and investors in the room how much worse off rural Virginia is than the suburbs of Washington. He was halfway through his 20-minute speech before he talked about a centerpiece of his economic plan: to provide tax breaks for businesses that create jobs.

And this was Tom Davis’s reaction:

"He doesn't speak the language," said former Republican congressman Tom Davis, who works at Deloitte Consulting. "He doesn't understand it. That's just not the mold he comes from. He comes from a different world. It's okay. But it doesn't qualify him."

Davis does not react to the need for jobs in rural Virginia, to the plight of real Virginians. Rather, he disses them as being from a different world? This is the “he’s not one of us” turned on its head. Allow me a translation: He’s saying that rural Virginians are “unqualified.” To Creigh's plea for the plight of deserving fellow citizens, Tom Davis gives that? This is a metaphor for the Republican Party. It pours root killer down into its withering tree-stump, deep into its own roots. And it is too ignorant to realize it has killed itself off.

Folks like Davis probably thought Madison Marye (one of the smartest men I have ever known) was “unqualified.” A Democrat, he was so good at his job and so beloved in an otherwise Republican learning district that the Republicans, led by Morgan Griffith, had to gerrymander him out of a district to get rid of him. The voters never would. Madison has a heart of gold and a mind just as worthy. He was as intelligent, effective and savvy as any NOVA Dem. So too is Creigh Deeds.

In the Politico interview, Davis said:

Politics has been defined by culture over the last few cycles, and we've become a rural party and a Southern party. We've been losing inner suburbs and the like. A lot of this was the policies of the Bush administration." Furthermore, as the GOP increased its focus on cultural issues, it also caused a widening education gap:

Davis added: "The high education areas Obama carried -- 78 of the 100 counties with the highest education. McCain carried 88 of the 100 counties with the lowest education. As we move to cultural politics, that's been the shift."
{Kathy’s aside: Is it any wonder Republicans want to defund education?} Davis is right about one thing. Many recent elections have been largely about “culture.” They shouldn’t have been, but that’s the reality. And the GOP knows how to make it about “culture.” Concoct a brew of “culture,” disinformation, hot-button issues, and complete ongoing deprivation and you can get some of the people some of the time. But the depravity of the message and tactics have their limits, and we have approached the bounds of them. The GOP seems hell-bent on riding that wave into oblivion.

You no doubt remember the recent outrage caused by State Republican Chair, Pat "[Mullins], who
“ ended his talk with a story about a Wise County insurance office that had to close two offices, not due to lack of work or the economy, but because it couldn't find employees. He said the employer tried to recruit employees at a nearby college campus. 'They preferred to be on welfare,' Mullins said." (The Record, 7/30/09, here.

I have heard this kind of prejudice before. The supposition is that someone who is “plain spoken,’ who speaks with a twang, or who just doesn’t’ sound as slick or as deceptive as as (say) the current Republican candidate for governor, should be rejected. So, someone who better reflects both the values and the agenda most Virginians want is dissed because, despite the fact that he earned his law degree at the best law school in the state, he uses straightforward language, unspun, unslickified, unlike the FAUX moderate from real other world of FAUX newsland extremists. The thing is, when Creigh is Creigh he does very well. A single clip following the recent debate notwithstanding, Davis and the GOP seriously underestimate both Creigh and the electorate.

I am the daughter of a farm boy, who happened one day, as life would have it, to become a mostly self-taught “master designer” (as the president of a major corporation once said of him). He went on to found its first patent office, and become a corporate vice-president. All his life he spoke humbly and considered himself a farm boy. When he retired he moved away from the hubbub of Southern California to the then mostly rural central Coast. To his last days, he treasured riding past cattle farms, orchards, strawberry fields and vineyards. For him it was like going home, which increasingly this quiet man spoke of in his later years. To understand the GOP’s peril you have to know a bit about my Dad. He was a registered Republican who dined one table away from Ronald Reagan at a presidential fundraiser in 1980. He broke ranks to vote for Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry. Had he lived to 2008, I believe he would have voted for Barack Obama because he had little patience for John McCain. Besides, he told me more than once he’d never vote for Republicans again. (Did I mention he also voted for Senators Feinstein and Boxer! Now there’s a story--and many a voter to be tapped.)

I did not grow up on a farm, far from it. But I have lived not just in a large suburb of Los Angeles; but also in medium-sized city in the northwest, surrounded by wheat fields; and in the rural north, hours from a major city. Farms were just down the road in both directions. Amish buggies rolled down my road too. And today in my planned development, with its walking trails, basketball courts, clubhouses, and 2 swimming pools, I have farmland on three of five sides of me. From one side, the Obenshain farm (now farmland in perpetuity via the New River Land Trust), I hear cows through my open window. I see them as I get my mail outside. Over the years I’ve noted the cows' group behavior and come to watch for them each time I head out of my neighborhood. They silhouette our sunset from finger-like western rays sweeping over Brush Mountain from the northwest. I walk past the Virginia Tech sheep farm and the Heth cattle farm too. Every time I leave the surrounds of my town I am surrounded by farmland, hours of it as I pass mostly rural landscapes on my trips to visit far-flung family. Though I am not a farmer, I know enough to respect what farmers and other rural workers do. They defy stereotype. They are our neighbors, our fellow citizens. They are us... We are of many one, not just here in my my town, or in my family, but across this nation. Jim Webb knew as much. And he showed the way. Mark Warner too. I disagree with Mark Warner about many things, but not about this.

Today's Virginia Republicans show abject disrespect for their base, confound us with their over-the-top bigotry and stereotyping, and (well) appall us with their ignorance. They think they have something up on rural folks, the people all around us, who grow our grain, vegetables and fruit, who raise our cattle and poultry. There's no respect for the teachers, nurses, shopkeepers, construction workers, miners, plumbers, doctors, and mechanics. The GOP does not not have a clue, except how to stoke emotional, rote calls to arms over “values” these Republicans don’t actually practice in real life. Half of the state lies beyond the suburbs of NOVA and Hampton Roads. And the GOP disses all of it.

That pretty much would have eliminated Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and most other early US patriots as well. Regarding buttons, Tom has succeeded in pushing mine. And if I have anything to say about it, we won’t stop giving him and the GOP grief over such bigotry for the rest of this race and on into the future. The GOP has marginalized itself from minorities, women, and now rural voters? Who’s left?

The GOP is, finally, the Party of No and of No one. On the other hand the Democratic Party of Virginia, including and especially, the the Webb wing of the Virginia Democratic Party has some instructing to do. So, let's get the word out about how today's Republicans disrespect rural voters and see how long rural voters continue to support FAUX candidates like Bob McDonnell. Fired up. Ready to go.