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Rove, RoVa, NoVa--Make It Your Mantra!

Karl Rove knew what would happen. He told interviewers that he had special secret polls that told him so. The Republicans would hold on to both houses of Congress. Independents would sit out this election. And, of course, Sen. George Allen would retain his seat, courtesy of good Virginians who understand what Allen has done for them over many years in office.

The president's political guru was so certain of all this that he took time out of his busy schedule to enjoy the comedy stylings of the Washington Post's Style section. Rove also spent some time on Election Eve visiting on the radio with talk show host Hugh Hewitt. Rove told Hewitt not only that "we'll have a Republican Senate and a Republican House," and that "I feel very good about Missouri. Feel very good about Virginia," but also that the Style section's recent riff on the cultural differences between northern Virginia (NoVa) and the rest of Virginia (RoVa) revealed an essentially elitist mindset among Post journalists.

Here's the president's longtime political chieftain on the Hewitt show:

"Well, you know, it's interesting. The Washington Post, you've got to remember the mindset. Most of the people who are commenting on these races live inside the Beltway, and get the coverage of the Washington Post. The Washington Post coverage of Virginia is so elitist, it's unbelievable. They ran an article, which was one of the most revealing pieces of journalism I've seen. They ran it in the Style section, but the fact that the editors of the Post would consider this useful contrasted Northern Virginia, NVA, with what they called the rest of Virginia, ROVA. And they said that language in Northern Virginia meant something different than the rest of Virginia. For example, they said in Northern Virginia, when you said the word lab, you were referring to your dog, your family dog. Whereas in the rest of Virginia, use the word lab, you were talking about the place where you cooked up methamphetamine.

Hewitt: Wow.

Rove: And I think that is indicative of how the Washington Post, and hence, a lot of people who read the Washington Post, understand Virginia, which is only through the eyes of what's inside the Beltway in Northern Virginia. And George Allen was an accomplished governor of the state, and has served the state ably as both a Congressman and as a Senator, and people have not forgotten it.

We've discussed the NoVa/RoVa riff here on the big blog and quite a number of you agree with Rove about it, while others found it to be in good fun, and were happy to join in the game. Tuesday's vote only provided further evidence that Virginia is evolving into two distinct and polarized populations, one in the Washington suburbs (along with a couple of demographically related pockets around the state) and one in, well, the rest of Virginia. On the Webb-Allen race and on the marriage amendment, this is a state divided. Rove may not like it when those differences are described so starkly, and certainly the effort at humor entails exaggeration, irony and a host of other comedic tools, but the vote tallies from Tuesday describe a reality that even the president's political guru now must see, even without his secret magic polls.

By Marc Fisher |  November 10, 2006; 9:53 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Isn't it great to see a big gasbag get pricked ? Or the gas let out of a .......... ? Especially such an arrogant one?

Posted by: jmsbh | November 10, 2006 11:12 AM

Since George Allen was on Dan Snyder owned radio station Triple X ESPN several times a week during the campaign, presumably giving his "insights" on footbal and sports and having the regular on air personalities including John Riigins fawning all over him, my guess is that Danny will offer an assistant coaching position to Allen. He will be put in charge of one of the areas where the Redskins have been particularly weak and where Allen has recentl demonstrated great skill--turnovers and fumbles !!!!

Posted by: John H | November 10, 2006 11:20 AM

Since George Allen was on Dan Snyder owned radio station Triple X ESPN several times a week during the campaign, presumably giving his "insights" on football and sports and having the regular on air personalities including John Riggins fawning all over him, my guess is that Danny will offer an assistant coaching position to Allen. He will be put in charge of one of the areas where the Redskins have been particularly weak and where Allen has recently demonstrated great skill--turnovers and fumbles !!!!

Posted by: John H | November 10, 2006 11:21 AM

Now if only NoVa and RoVa can evolve into two distinct and separate states, we may be onto something!

Posted by: nocando | November 10, 2006 11:39 AM

I think this is indicative of how utterly humorless the Courtiers of "The Reign of Error"(to quote Paul Krugman, from that OTHER newspaper) are. TheNoVa/RoVa game was clever and was no more or less 'complimentary' to either location. It is so typical of he-who-must-not-be-named to seize on a bit of whimsy and inflate into yet another devisive tool. The man is really shameless.

Posted by: Phil | November 10, 2006 12:08 PM

nocando: No need for two states. NoVa is growing every day. NoVa is on the come. RoVa is yesterday's news.

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | November 10, 2006 12:14 PM

Very true, fellow Loudoun Voter, however Richmond hasn't gotten that idea yet. And NoVa can't keep growing once we have 24/7 gridlock which is also courtesy of Richmond's inability to accomplish anything besides suck our tax dollars to RoVa. Between VDOT and the VA state legislature... we're going nowhere fast.

Posted by: nocando | November 10, 2006 12:34 PM

As NoVa grows, Virginia is increasingly experiencing circumstances that have existed in lots of other states for a long time. Illinois, for instance, is dominated by the huge Chicago metroplex and is otherwise a rural state. It may be that rural Illinois is more prosperous than rural Virginia, but the issues that concern the residents of, say, Danville, a downstate city, certainly differ from those of, say, Evanston, one of the inner suburbs of Chicago.

I wonder if there are any lessons to be learned about taxation, the distribution of revenues, and other issues from states in which these urban/rural differences have been part of the political landscape for much longer.

Posted by: THS | November 10, 2006 12:46 PM

Having grown up in what the Post so cutely calls "RoVa," but now living in Arlington, I continue to be floored by the utter insensitivity of the Post, and many of the people who write in defending it, about this issue. That Style article wasn't even handed, and it wasn't funny.

The Post would never stand for a similar article that picked on a person's race or ethnicity, yet somehow it is ok to pick on the "hicks" from down state - - and to tell them they don't have a sense of humor when they don't find it funny. It really shows the internal operations of the ivory tower echo chamber in which the Post makes its editorial decisions.

I have been really struck by the Post's, and many of its readers', inability to see that it is quite possible that this article was in fact far more hurtful than it was funny - - but then again, having grown up down state, I must not be smart enough to understand.

It is this sort of arrogance by the Post, and some of those up here who keep harping on their supposed greater contribution to the Commonwealth, that distinguishes the rest of Viginia from what NoVa is becoming. The Post sounds a little bit like the distinguished Member from New York who said yesterday "who the hell would want to live in Mississippi." It is very unappealing coming from a member of Congress, a newspaper, or my fellow citizen.

Posted by: Kevin | November 10, 2006 2:55 PM

Our NoVa economy fuels the state, and I have to agree with nocando that Richmond should take a lot harder look at apeasing the locomotive before it is left at the station with its 3rd world economy and a 14th century religious mindset. Its the year 2006 and we have over half the state "freaked out" by the gay boogeyman. Hetro's have been screwing up the marriage institution for years, its time to let others help out. Lets hope our money can talk and the rest of VA's BS can walk.

Posted by: B McB | November 10, 2006 2:55 PM

The Post's snarky NOVA/ROVA piece was the natural manifestation of an attitude the paper has held for many years: That ROVA is a picturesque but hopelessly backward place where the only newsworthy events are about racism, fundamentalism, environmental degradation, economic decline and the occasional gaudy crime. This territory begins, remarkably, just beyond the Post's circulation area.

Posted by: allbetsareoff | November 10, 2006 8:02 PM

Kevin and allbetsareoff both make good points, although I will add the caveat that comparing the Style section to the Post's news coverage is ultimately folly; they are two completely different entities. However, the snarky tone of Style is in the same "we're so smart, we're better people than you" mode as halftime shows at Ivy League football games. Perhaps Style needs to hire some talented State U. journalism grads (instead of the usual "elite" suspects) for a change.

Posted by: Vincent | November 11, 2006 9:22 AM

Dear Comrades (Washington Post Online Readers): I would like to congratulate you on this week's glorious socialist people's revolution. I would like to pledge my support to rooting out the last of the reactionary Republican dens and helping you to seize the Politburo and office of Premier. Until then, I will await evacuation from the rural areas to the urban centers for re-education. In particular, I will look forward to sensitivity training, diversity training, deprogramming of my religious views and instruction on how to conduct progressive domestic policies and a nuanced foeign policy. Praise the Revolution and our forthcoming Workers' Paradise.

Posted by: Comrade | November 12, 2006 10:13 AM

I grew up in New York City and have lived in Washington for 30 years, and have spent my entire life listening to snarky jokes about both cities, often enough told by politicians from some rural district.

We city dwellers understand that it is (mostly) good-natured humor and don't make a big deal of it unless it crosses fairly obvious lines of racism, anti-Semitism, etc. How many times have we heard "The People's Republic of Cambridge/Santa Monica/Takoma Park" or similar slurs?

So spare me the righteous indignation of podunkville every time the Washington Post, or more recently Rep. Charles Rangel, makes a joke at their expense.

Posted by: Meridian | November 12, 2006 11:31 AM

The material below is a response to the RoVa/NoVa article that appeared in Gene Weingarten's webchat. It's a perceptive analysis of the world outside the beltway and why it is that even things meant to be funny are not really that funny.


The NoVa/RoVa piece was meanspirited and the outrage over it is reasonable. Drives Volvo and drinks lattes v. lives in trailers and builds meth labs: come ON.

This one should be obvious. For the piece to work, it would need to skewer something more ridiculous and much less attractive in NoVa and leave out the excessive offensive comments about RoVa. It has to be evenhanded.

It didn't work because no one is ever going to think that the writer lives in Grayson County, Va. The NoVa slams are fond and familiar. The RoVa slams are straight out of Dogpatch.

In a remarkable moment of chat coherence, this is precisely the reason that there is suspicion among the conservative about a possible liberal bias in the media: you aren't deliberately biased, but there's a lack of understanding and respect given to a conservative viewpoint.

I agree that the idea of a media conspiracy is ludicrous (okay, I think the idea of any conspiracy involving more than about ten people is ludicrous). But, as you point out, there is a liberal leaning among journalists, and, hard as I know you guys try, it comes out in the writing . . .

. . . I assume that you, essentially, in your heart, think that journalists lean left because they are more involved, better educated, and have better critical minds than the average American.

Translating this to the way your conservative reader hears it, you think he's dumb, passive and credulous. On some level, most writers will convey this disdain for the opposing viewpoint. It will be unintentional, and the writer may try to avoid it, but it will happen.

There are a few world-class intelligences that can write without letting their biases show, and I do mean world-class: Leo Tolstoy, William Shakespeare and David Hume are the only ones that spring to mind. Given that these guys are long past writing for the Post, the best alternative is a journalist who genuinely believes that the people moving each political party are intelligent, well-informed, and acting in ways that they believe will be for the best interests of the public.

That Len Downie doesn't vote is one of the strengths of the Post: whether you achieve unbiased reporting or not, you value it, from the top down.

When I was 22, I decided that I was really tired of my life: overachiever, parents with advanced degrees, majored in comparative literature and obscure ancient languages in college, definitely on the yuppie-latte-Blackberry side of the line.

So I began working for a police department in the Southwest, a life choice which left me with a profound respect for the intelligence and humor of the conservative male who owns more guns than pickups and more pickups than computers, who does not see irony in American flag paraphernalia, and who has Stone Age ideas about immigration policy.

I may disagree with them (ye gods, I cannot tell you how many arguments I've had about politics with angry armed men) but I don't despise them.

After the 2004 elections, I read an article in the New York Times in which one New Yorker lamented: "How could they have elected Bush? I don't know anyone who would have voted for that guy!" If you don't know, like and respect at least one person whose politics are opposite your own, then it's hard not to slide into despising those cretins on the other side, and it is impossible to write respectfully about their ideas.

Gene Weingarten: I don't contest anything you say, and compliment you for the way you say it.

Posted by: THS | November 12, 2006 3:06 PM

I've lived in Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, followed by four countries outside the US. Every state, and nearly every country (maybe not Monaco or Singapore) have their RoVa and NoVa. Every state has an ongoing argument about which section pays the most taxes, and which section gets to spend most of those taxes. When I lived in Croatia after their war, this was one of the main reasons people told me they wanted independence from Serbia - Croatians paid the taxes from the income off of Western European tourists, while the Serb-dominated government spent those taxes.

My guess is the anger displayed by the RoVas in this string is not so much because they were portrayed in the article as bumpkins - that's been going on for a long time, and I'm sure they're not so thin-skinned. (And as noted above, the country bumpkins have long had their negative jokes and stereotypes about city slickers as well - which appear in the RoVa newspapers and TV news reports.)

The real issue is the change in power between the two sections, which has the RoVas angry that they no longer call all the shots.

The fact is that shifts in power between these two groups always causes some anger on both sides. The RoVa-NoVa anger pales in comparison to Upstate NY vs. NYC, and when I lived in NJ, the rural south proposed secession from the state. Huey Long controlled political power in Louisiana in the 1920s by uniting the entire state against New Orleans. Maryland just elected its first two statewide officers from the DC suburbs since 1919.

Ultimately, the power will flow to the section that produces the most votes. The smarter party will attempt to find the issues that provide a base in both NoVa and RoVa, but if NoVa keeps growing, this may not be necessary for NoVa to dominate.

Like it or not, just as the US is going to stay together despite the red/blue divide, Virginia is not going to be splitting up in this century. Unless you RoVas find a way to get more people to move to your part of the state, you're going to have to get used to less power in state politics than you used to have.

Posted by: Try and Try Again | November 13, 2006 4:36 AM

If you liked the one about NOVA-ROVA wait until you hear mine about MOCO-PGCO or the BMW Pit-HIV Pit...oh, wait, making fun of poor whites is cute sarcasm or parody while making fun of poor blacks is racist, or that's what they told us as sensitivity training last week.

Posted by: JHU Sigma Chi | November 13, 2006 8:58 AM

Yes, that's right. You got it. Go to the front of the class.

Posted by: To JHU Sigma Chi | November 13, 2006 1:30 PM

I have a friend who is a substance abuse counselor and has worked in both NoVa and RoVa, and the drugs in both areas are different. RoVa has tons of meth and I think NoVa has more crack. I don't know what the writers of the Labradors vs. meth labs was thinking, but even thought it's true and a play on words, that doesn't make it funny.

Oh, and Karl Rove is a moron, and I'm a redneck hippie.

Posted by: Dee | November 13, 2006 3:10 PM

Here's one for the Style writers:

In RoVa, they follow Nascar. In NoVa, they follow the Nasdaq.

Posted by: Dee | November 13, 2006 3:16 PM

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