Northern Virginia: New center of the hard right
With all the news these days regarding Virginia's conservatives -- from Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli to Prince William County Supervisor Corey A. Stewart -- it may be interesting to ponder how the right-wing movement in the state has shifted.
The epicenter of the Old Dominion's hard-right social conservatism has moved to the Washington suburbs of Northern Virginia from downstate.
Virginia has always been highly conservative. For decades, it was ruled by the Byrd Organization, which was named after former governor and U.S. senator Harry Flood Byrd (D) and probably had more in common with a communist party cadre than with American democracy. In the Byrd Organization, for instance, cadre discipline was enforced by the State Compensation Board, which wielded power and money like a communist central committee. There was virtually no opposition.
Later, as the civil rights movement and social upheaval in the 1960s caused conservative Democrats to flee to the Republican Party, a new type of Virginia conservative emerged. They were the pro-business, anti-labor, anti-tax politicians typified by governors Mills E. Godwin and John Dalton.
These conservatives tended to be moderates on social issues, leaving the more radical positions to the likes of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell and Rev. Pat Robertson. The former's "Old Time Gospel Hour" evangelical television show featured anti-integration types such as Lester Maddox and George Wallace in the 1960s. Falwell, founder of Liberty University in Lynchburg, later went after Teletubby Tinky Winky, accusing the preschooler television show character of sending a dangerous, pro-homosexual message.
Robertson, founder of Regent University in Virginia Beach, is also a minister and televangelist whose precise and repeated predictions of Armageddon, not to mention his business deals with brutal African dictators, make him look foolish. He ran for president in 1988.
Not that long ago, it was routine for Northern Virginians (NOVAs) to regard ROVAs (Rest of Virginia) residents as bumpkins because of people like Falwell and Robertson.
How the tables have turned. Cuccinelli, an aggressive social conservative, is from Fairfax County and graduated from Gonzaga, an elite Jesuit high school in the District. Stewart, champion of anti-immigration laws, is from Prince William. McDonnell hails from Alexandria, although he moved to Virginia Beach and went to grad school at Robertson's Regent University, where he wrote his notorious anti-gay and anti-female graduate thesis.
Add to this mix people like Michael Farris, a home schooling advocate who is founder and chancellor of arch-conservative Patrick Henry University in Purcellville, and Eugene Delgaudio, the gay-baiting supervisor from Loudoun County. All feed off the outer, white Republican suburbs of Washington.
Curious how the tables have turned.
| July 30, 2010; 12:20 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax County, HotTopic, Local blog network, Prince William County, Va. Politics, Virginia, crime, development, economy, education, energy, environment, faith, guns, history, race, taxes, transportation
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