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The Long, Corrosive Impact of "Virginia Values"


Virginia was unstoppable, the biggest, brightest, richest state in the new nation. Through the first decades of the American experiment, the Old Dominion dominated the revolution, the Constitutional Convention and the presidency. The state produced a cavalcade of daring, innovative leaders, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Marshall and George Mason.

And then, says Susan Dunn, a historian at Williams College and author of "Dominion of Memories: Jefferson, Madison & the Decline of Virginia," it all faded.

By the time Jefferson and Madison were old men, they witnessed the collapse of Virginia: crop failures, the crumbling of the slave economy, a narrow provincialism in politics and culture, rampant illiteracy and an infrastructure that had fallen far behind the rapidly urbanizing North.

Already in the 1820s, the seeds of today's anti-tax, anti-government attitudes were taking root. Virginia, confident birthplace of American liberty, had morphed into a conservative, nostalgic society clinging to its agricultural past, ruled by an aristocratic elite and deeply suspicious of the Yankees' investment in industry and city life.

Flash forward to last month in Richmond, where House Speaker William Howell, a Republican from Stafford County, told a group of business leaders at a $250-a-head reception that the people who've been moving to the state of late -- such as, say, immigrants -- might not be clued in on the "shared values we have in Virginia."

In this season of zesty competition to see which politician can propose the most onerous measures to take against illegal immigrants, what might those shared values be? When The Washington Post's Tim Craig called Howell to inquire, the speaker gallantly hung up on the reporter. Later, Howell's spokesman said his boss was talking about "Virginia values" -- the slogan Mr. Macaca, former senator George Allen, used in his campaigns -- such as "lower taxes, less burdensome regulations and a positive business environment."

Or is the ultimate Virginia value simply a matter of the political elite preserving its power?

In 1825, Eleanor Randolph Coolidge wrote to her grandfather, Thomas Jefferson, describing her journey to live in Boston, hailing the spanking new roads and many schoolhouses she had passed, all benefits of local taxes. Even the children of poor families attended these schools, tuition-free, she wrote, adding that "there is no tax paid with less reluctance." She also wrote: "Our Southern states cannot hope for" such prosperity "while the canker of slavery eats into their hearts and diseases the whole body."

Jefferson agreed. "One fatal stain deforms what nature had bestowed upon us," he replied.

But slavery wasn't the only belief system feeding Virginia's decline. Jefferson railed against the big cities, "infected with the mania of rambling and gambling," that were starting to dominate the economy in the North. Dunn says a "cult of the soil" steered many Virginians away from the changes that opened an era of progress up North and isolated Virginia from the intellectual and social ferment of the 19th century.

The state's powerful antipathy toward taxes relegated Virginia to backwater status, especially when it came to education. "I will put it in the power of no man or set of men to tax me without my consent," said legislator John Randolph of Roanoke in a typical rant against public education in 1829. Tax-supported schools would only encourage worthless fathers to spend more money on liquor rather than teaching their own kids, he said.

Roads, too, became a symbol of Virginia's opposition to change. While the great writer Henry Adams celebrated New England's extensive network of byways, noting that "bad roads meant bad morals," Virginians saw a different source of social rot: "Government, rightly understood, is a passive, not an active machine," Gov. William Giles said in 1827. "The less government has to do with the concerns of society, the better." The state resisted spending on roads, canals and railroads -- and opposed Northern politicians' advocacy of open immigration policies -- through much of the 1800s.

Dunn sees a through line from those early decades to the state's resistance to FDR's New Deal. Virginia's senators were two of only six to vote against creating Social Security.

Virginia values? For nearly 200 years, the state has hewed to the ideals of low taxes, limited services and resistance to newcomers, Dunn says. "They don't want roads, they don't want schools, they don't want large cities. And yet they're idealistic, with this great vision of yeoman farmers, of rugged individualism in the name of real Virginia values."

Today, Virginia "should be glad to have new blood coming in," the historian says.

Instead, legislators scurry to pick up the pieces after their latest attempt to fool the voters blew up in their faces: the cynical attempt to pay for new roads without raising taxes but, rather, by imposing steep abuser fees on drivers.

Now Howell and friends, anticipating the voters' wrath in next month's elections, wrap themselves once more in Virginia values, lashing out at immigrants every which way they can.

Will it work? Those outsiders Howell and his fellow Republicans so fear can and do vote. Just ask the state's two most recent governors, Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

By Marc Fisher |  October 14, 2007; 6:36 AM ET
Previous: 24 Hours of Presidential Politics: Please, Make It Stop | Next: Education Monday: D.C. High School Dropouts

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...all the more reason NoVa should be its own state :-)

Posted by: courthouseguy | October 14, 2007 8:15 AM

Your article is a straight-forward left-leaning polemic focused on discrediting the notion of Virginia's conservative values without any demostration (beyond your opinion) that these values lack merit. Something does not become true just because you say it. One of the traditional values that does not show up on your precious left is growing a spine and developing enough gumption to stand up for this country.

You state that Virginia's conservatives continue to stand for low taxes, limited services (government?) and resistance to newcomers. We plead guilty to the first two without understanding what you might be referring to in the last instance. Oh, I see some reference in your penultimate paragraph to 'immigrants'. My family in Virginia is filled with immigrants and they have never felt unwelcome here but they are not 'illegal'.

Posted by: Robert Thompson | October 14, 2007 9:29 AM

Social Security and other federal social programs may be among things that Virginia's conservative values don't embrace politically, but given that the program is law we don't then advocate that the general public become lawless and evade paticipation in Social Security. One of our traditional values is the rule of law.

Please take a look at the letters in today's Outlook section, Close To Home, regarding Gary Jacobsen's advocacy article about using illegal aliens to do contract construction. I don't know if I can count how many laws are violated by this approach. What say you about respect for our laws?

Posted by: Robert Thompson | October 14, 2007 9:48 AM

Fisher is correct to note the elitism of Virginia's political leaders, but that elitism ought to make him happy when John Warner, Bill Howell, John Chichester, Russ Potts and Tom Davis make it clear they dislike prolifers' "love affair with the unborn child" (exact words of Chichester and Potts, two old fart high tax/secularist elitists, the latter a corrupter of U. Md and SMU sports, and then chair of Senate Education Committee, yet the Post never investigated his role in SMU receiving the NCAA death penalty 20 years ago).

Tim Craig sees Tom Davis as a "great strategist", even though TD and his proteges wife Jeanmarie, Tom Rust and Dave Albo pushed the terrible transportation deal, by bribing weak Bill Howell w/ Davis's PAC money. Craig's recent articles on Davis v. Gilmore smack of so much advocacy for the former, that it ought to draw the attention of Post metro editors, but they will be nervous about punishing Tim because of his skin color.

Fisher does not note how New England is now just a tiny fraction of the U.S. population, because 20th century socialism and secularism ruined what was once American's most dynamic and religious region. N.E. population is now down to about 14M, which is now 5M less than just low tax Fla.'s population.

Va. is now losing out big to North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida, because its tax burden is far heavier than those booming states.

Marc, you will get your way; Va. will become a blue state like Pa., Md. and NJ, replete w/ high taxes, rising crime, hundreds of thousands on public assistance, and the Post staff will be further reduced, because newspaper subscriptions will decline, as has happened to Balt. Sun, Phila. Inquirer, Newark Star-Ledger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other blue state liberal rags.

Fairfax County lost 100k productive citizens during 2001-06 who relocated somewhere else, and 60K illegal immigrants replaced those relocators. With local property values flat, and the need for immigrant public assistance rising, the most economically dynamic and largest jurisdiction in the Capital area has serious fiscal problems, which will harm this area in a big way. Maryland is raising taxes again, so let's watch the region lose jobs to N.C., Ga., Fla. and Tn.

Posted by: relocator | October 14, 2007 9:49 AM

An excellent piece, Mark.

And Robert Thompson, at least you can own up to what your philosophy is responsible for - assuming, of course, by "limited services" you mean inadequate roads, underfunded schools, and budget shortfalls.

Posted by: MB | October 14, 2007 9:49 AM

Relocaor, you did an excellent job of providing some facts that demonstrate the dislocation that results when traditional values are discarded. All the states you mentioned where the people are going still show some adherence to those values. But who wants facts when we have opinion?

Posted by: Robert Thompson | October 14, 2007 10:03 AM

I think this is a fair commentary on the historical perspective. I do think we have largely overcome most of those attitudes toward education and roads. Immigration is always an issue when it is relatively sudden.

Posted by: Robert Legge | October 14, 2007 10:08 AM

I am sure that the oft-quoted Susan Dunn is a typical leftist liberal (naturally, Mr. Fisher would be parrotting her drivel).As far as new immigrants to VA are concerned, does Mr. Fisher apprise them of our FLE (sex-ed) program in Virginia public schools which may conflict with their traditional values?(The democratic left loves FLE)

Posted by: MItch | October 14, 2007 10:15 AM

dem values include reduction in the population of white people, a new lower class they can control who will vote for them, excessive taxation and continued proverty and advocating for sexual perversions.

Posted by: dwight | October 14, 2007 10:15 AM

MB, what does underfunded schools mean and where is this happening in Virginia?

Posted by: Robert Thompson | October 14, 2007 10:24 AM

Fisher has been and always will be a hack for the extreme left in both Virginia and Maryland. If he wants socialism he should and government run everything he should move to Sweeden.

Posted by: jm | October 14, 2007 10:51 AM

Oh, yes. My feelings about Virginia exactly. I moved here not realizing how disturbingly indifferent those 18th Century throwbacks such as Bill Howell and like-minded members in the Assembly and County Boards of Supervisors are to everyday problems. And, how willingly they sacrific quality of life to their phoney idealized society -- a society controlled for and by the rich and elit.

Efforts of the Virginia General Assembly have nothing to do with the state's wealth. Two elements make Virginia wealthy -- the Federal Government (which Virginians profess to hate), especially the Department of Defense, and all the companies that feed off its huge uncontrolled budget; and, tourists (read outsiders) looking for that early state that Virginians failed to keep alive.

Virginians have some kind of election every year but few bother to vote. So us new voters, who don't care about that pretend state of long ago, are going to make Virginia modern. My message to Mr. Howell and his ilk is "I'm a new Virginian and I vote." I live in Stafford and will never vote for "Mr. Bill". Happy 21st Century!

Posted by: LB | October 14, 2007 11:18 AM

Wow. Talk about a well-earned evisceration. Why didn't this run in the print edition instead of that "sprawl is good" laugher?

Posted by: TheGreenMiles | October 14, 2007 11:25 AM

The Virginia GOP's decision yesterday to have a party-activist-only convention pick their 2008 nominee for U.S. Senate gives us all a wonderful opportunity to explore some of the hypotheses set forth above. So let's allow the GOP to nominate a "traditional Virginia values" conservative like ex-Governor Gilmore without complaining about it. Then let's see if the Democrats don't nominate a "modern Virginia values" candidate like ex-Governor Warner. After that we can allow those pesky Virginia voters to actually choose between the two options. From my perspective, at least, it'll be fun to see which set of values today's Virginians choose.

Posted by: Keith in Arlington | October 14, 2007 11:50 AM

"I am sure that the oft-quoted Susan Dunn is a typical leftist liberal ... "

In case you haven't noticed, MItch, with the left on the rise in many battleground states--including Virginia, and the nation as a whole, after a decade of disastrous right-wing government--this sort of churlish Foxspeak has become not only passé, but a parody of itself. See "The Colbert Report" for further examples. I'm afraid conservatives are going to have to advance beyond lazy name-calling in order to beat the resurgent Dems in 2008. And I'll see YOU at Mark Warner's victory party.

Posted by: the anti-MItch | October 14, 2007 12:04 PM

Dear Mr. Neanderthal aka anti-mitch,

What are your qualifications for speech police? Can't stand to hear the truth?

Posted by: mitch | October 14, 2007 12:10 PM

"Tax-supported schools would only encourage worthless fathers to spend more money on liquor rather than teaching their own kids,"John Randolph said in 1929.

So he preferred that worthless fathers teach their own kids. Virginia value? Might explain a lot!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 14, 2007 1:38 PM

Make the date in the previous comment "1829."

Posted by: Dottie b | October 14, 2007 1:39 PM

The "Virginia values" which Mr. Howell insinuated were not shared by clueless immigrants -- I think he might have meant speaking English, not urinating in the Azaleas, parking your car on the lawn or changing oil on a public street. It might even rise to the level of not congregating at convenience stores and verbally assaulting women customers or even lying to the DMV or various other social service agencies. Mr Howell might also have said -- Mr. Fisher, no matter how retrograde you find Virginia culture, it's still superior to that which is rapidly being imported from Mexico and other points south. As a wag once said "Mexico is where Mexicans are".

Posted by: Jones | October 14, 2007 1:39 PM

Marc, we're so glad you're joining the ranks of people who realize roads are actually a good thing! But some Maryland counties are so anti-highway they're turning into 19th century Virginians, like the P.G. council claiming roads "suck jobs" away. Where's Henry Adams when we need him? Now Maryland has "Our Farms, Our Future" license plates . How about "Better Roads, Better Future".

Posted by: Punditator | October 14, 2007 1:41 PM

Ms. Dunn is not exactly a mainstream historian, viz her book about the three Roosevelts (the third being Eleanor). She lives in Massachusetts. Paradoxically enough, having lived in both areas, northern Virginia is much more accommodating to legal newcomers than is the Boston area. ("Oh, you moved to Boston? How unusual!") Maybe things would be different if we were illegal day laborers...

That said, I think this week's inane Marc Fisherism (to distinguish it from last week's or next week's) is to associate the comments of a more neanderthal VA state politicos with the states values, or the actions that the state govenment actually undertakes. (If we used his reasoning for other states, 'Maryland values' would be corruption, and 'District values' would be incompetence...)

From this article, you'd assume that Virginians are all shootin' the state revenue agents, when according to the US census for 2005, Virginia is actually ranked 12th for total state tax revenue and 26th on per capita tax revenue. http://www.census.gov/govs/statetax/05staxrank.html (But Vermont is perhaps the model to be emulated here, as they rank first. Connecticut 4th, Massachusetts 7th.) Could we pay more? Sure. But we already pay a considerable amount.

As for education, while that's hard to measure, I don't think anybody accuses Virginia schools at the local or state level as being inadequate compared with other states. Here's an internet site that says when taking into acoount revenue, test scores, teacher salaries, etc, Virginia schools rank 6th. Massachusetts its 2nd, Missisippi is 48th.
http://www.morganquitno.com/edrank.htm

As for highways, its a fair point that legislative stupidity is in evidence...why didn't Murkie Marc focus on the real smoking gun here? The VA state legislature still apparently allocates roads on a per square mile basis rather than per capita. "We couldn't leave out ol' Bill from Roanake" or whatever, thus Richmond has an empty Four Lane bypass beltway, while Nova (and Hampton Roads) are left to suffer (and pay most of the taxes.) What funding is available goes disproportionately for enormous unique expenses like the 95/495 mixing bowl, that cover very few actual miles for any driver.

I think the comments that the local state legislators love their privileges are fair, they're just in no way unique to Virginia. They occur in essentially EVERY political body, including Marc's beloved (this week) federal legislature. But don't confuse what some good ol' boys in Richmond say, with what the people of the state believe, even if a Massachusetts University professor says we sucked in 1820.


Posted by: DH | October 14, 2007 1:59 PM

Typical Fisher dogma - just like his illegal employer bosses (The WAPO), the biggest liberal lying mouthpiece for the WAPO spews the same old crap as Democrats ignore the realities of the negative impacts of illegal immigration. Hell, just like the WAPO, Fisher cannot even bring himself to differentiate bewteen illegals aliens and legal immigrants.

Talk about prejudicial hipocracy - at least conservatives are addressing it Fisher. You open border drug sniffing quacks who call yourselves reporters are continually ducking the issue EVEN THOUGH 80 percent of the nation wants to deport illegals and close the open border.

I suppose after the Nov 07 elections when the Reps take over in VA, you'll respond by calling the the commonwealth a hateful racist state. Typcical rant for Fisher.

We are going to defend our commonwealth Fisher against illegal identity theives, rapists and murderers, and, in 08, the country is going to elect someone who will stand against the illegal invasion and not for open borders, anarchy and the over population of the USA - as you, the WAPO and Hillary Clinton espouse.

Posted by: Tom Jefferson | October 14, 2007 2:31 PM

Hey Marc and Tim Craig and most of the left leaning hacks of the WP

for the last freaking time

We are not lashing out at immigrants
We are anti ILLEGAL-immigrants

We are not anti-government
We favor efficient accountable government
We question why anyone would use the rainy day fund
We question the necessity of a tax increase that created a 1 billion dollar surplus

If you disagree with these consider this an open invitation for you to pay my tax bill

We dont want to become like Maryland which has a welcome mat for illegals and a giant sign saying tax me (kick me) please

Posted by: Get a clue | October 14, 2007 3:03 PM

I think he has a point. The Va. GOP does not get NoVa -- a place that has been populated and dominated by Yankees and their values for years.

Their ignorance came at their peril: One out of three votes in the state comes from NoVa and -- even if they are Republican -- have different social values that the good ol' boys in Richmond.

Case in point: When Allen caled a dark-skinned native of Fairfax a "foreigner." Anybody who walks around Arlington and Alexandria and surrounding communities knows there are Southeast and South Asian immigrants who are here legally and have children who are born here. Those kids are as Virginian as Washington and Lee. But the Va. GOP doesn't get this. And won't for a long, long time.

Posted by: Andrew | October 14, 2007 3:03 PM

The old rednecks are coming out of the woodwork. Don't worry, N. Virginia will slowly bring the Commonwealth out of the dark ages.

Posted by: Fairfax resident | October 14, 2007 3:13 PM

All the talk by politicians about Virginia values is just meaningless rhetoric. Politicians - be they from Virginia, Texas or any other state - love to talk about how their state is special and unique. The rhetoric is only increasing as our nation becomes more and more homogonous. I've lived in Prince William County, Fairfax County, Alexandria, and Prince Georges County and the people are all the same. Politicians get elected by creating distinctions were none exist. The people feed into it because we all want to feel unique.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 14, 2007 5:15 PM

"The South", as implied here, will never rise again. The Civil War killed 95% of the best and brightest young men the South had to offer. Longstreet was correct in his analysis the South should have gotten rid of slavery, THEN declared war against the Union - this would have guaranteed England and France joining the Confederacy in arms against the Union and Southern "values" might still be alive and well in this day and age. Unfortunately, they forgot to free the slaves first. Well that's southern values for you, I guess. Only a few men had genius to see an Agalitarian society cannot survive the advent of an industrial revolution. However, by keeping the populace poor and uneducated, you can keep the past alive. But those days too have come to an end, as George Allen found out. But don't be fooled. There are still a lot of rural white men out in Virginia who would make Jubal Early beam with pride.

Posted by: Falls Church | October 14, 2007 5:19 PM

There is going to be a reaping this fall of the GOP, those cookies are done.

I love how Howell talks smack about Va Values, and then defends the abusive driving fees. I'd love to hear from him how they are not iconic of "burdensome regulation"...

Seriously though, rhetoriclly asking him to react with an honest answer is nice intellectual theater, but it is a waste of time.

The only thing to do is to vote these fools out of office this fall, their track record of screwing up the state speaks for itself.

Posted by: Gentry | October 14, 2007 5:55 PM

Very accurate article. I was born in Petersburg, and couldn't wait to leave after finishing my Army service.

Now 45 years later, having lived here once more for the past 5 years (I was sent here by the Fed Govt after service in Europe), I can say that Virginia is changing, but still slowly, at least here in the Williamsburg area.

But hopefully a new generation will gradually pry change out of the cold hands of the State's dying Bigot-ocracy....

Posted by: Bill | October 14, 2007 7:45 PM

Very accurate article. I was born in Petersburg, and couldn't wait to leave after finishing my Army service.

Now 45 years later, having lived here once more for the past 5 years (I was sent here by the Fed Govt after service in Europe), I can say that Virginia is changing, but still slowly, at least here in the Williamsburg area.

But hopefully a new generation will gradually pry change out of the cold hands of the State's dying Bigot-ocracy....

Posted by: Bill | October 14, 2007 8:13 PM

I was born in Charlottesville, and very happy to see the state changing. Coming from a rural area like Fluvanna where the education was second rate and even someone in the top of their class couldn't make it to college (the year I graduated, only 15% went on to college), I think its fair time that people began realizing that investing in infrastructure like roads, hospitals, schools, fire departments, water, sewer, and other services typically provided by the state or local govenments is essential for long term prosperity. I'm more than happy to lower taxes, just slap tolls on every road (you don't want to pay them, don't go anywhere), charge a ton for every time you call the police (pay, or get mugged), fire department (i'm sure your home insurance would go up if you didn't do your part), or ambulance (you could always choose to die, I guess). It just boils down to Virginians want to have their cake and eat it too. With such a focus on being "smart for businesses", you'd think they'd understand that you have to spend money to make money.

FCHS '93, UVA '97, NYU-Stern '09

Posted by: FluvannaNative | October 14, 2007 9:32 PM

when is enough enough

I will never take your party seriously because your sole mission is to increase the size and scope of government

Posted by: to all the bleeding heart liberals | October 14, 2007 10:40 PM

Oh, what an ignorant column.

Marc's ancient history is selective and just wrong -- Maryland was also a slave state, Virginia DID build canals and railroads (check Wikipedia), and no state built good roads back then. Moreover, the excursion into the distant past overlooks the fact that those steel mills, shipyards, and automobile plants haven't really worked out that well for the Yankee states in the last thirty years or so. Boston has been thriving recently because of its computer industry -- just like Virginia. Virginia has been every bit the growth engine in this region as Maryland, if not more so.

As far as race goes, there were race riots in the Yankee city of Boston as recently as the 1970s, and in New York City in the 1980s and 1990s. So much for Northern tolerance.

As for roads, I can only conclude that Marc hasn't tried to commute in from Maryland lately, if he thinks that Maryland's road spending has made it any easier than coming from Virginia. More importantly, traveling within Maryland is horrendous; good luck traveling between Baltimore and Rockville (the state's two largest cities).

As for schools, what is Marc smoking? Fairfax schools stack up just fine against Montgomery County. I daresay that all Virginia schools, including Richmond, are as good or better than Baltimore's. In metropolitan Boston, the schools in Chelsea got to be so bad that they were taken over by a private company. In New Jersey, schools in Newark and Camden were taken over by the state, as were the schools in Philadelphia and Chicago. Somehow, I'm not buying the notion that Yankee devotion to education outstrips Virginia's. And that's without even considering Virginia's world-class university system (founded in the 19th century).

Good lord, what an ignorant piece Marc wrote.

Posted by: Tom T. | October 14, 2007 10:42 PM

Here are a few values that Virginians do not extol:

Disingenuousness. For example, employing a euphemism ("illegal immigrant") in place of an accurate description ("illegal alien"). Then, shortening the euphemism ("immigrant') to blur the distinction between good ("legal immigrants") and bad ("illegal aliens") to lend weight to an otherwise empty claim of xenophobia.

Superficiality. For example, taking a few thoughts from some history professor on events that occurred 175 years ago, and using them as the basis for asserting a broad condemnation of 7 million people today.

Judgmental. Virginia has no monopoly on the divergence of ideals and actions. For example, New York City welcomes everybody regardless of race, color, or creed -- until 10pm, at which point you must be white to hail a taxi. Yet, one would not expect a Virginian to gratuitously hold forth on New York City's many shortcomings.

Posted by: Joseph Davoli | October 14, 2007 11:12 PM

Prior to moving to Virginia six years ago, and having lived in many parts of America and the world, I had never lived where the "values system" (or basically the cultural milieu) is as defensive, close-minded, provincial, ignorant, self-serving, delusional, and fearful of change, progress, and modernity, as here in Virginia. Even worse, in fact, I chuckle when I read posts such as some of those here, by Virginians who will not or can not admit the truth. Hey, those of you Virginians who really are the white elite (from the old plantation owner stock) have a really good thing going. You've managed to keep up the pretense of being intellectually astute, tolerant, fair-minded, and educated, when in reality, you are still the slave owners of the past. Railing against the illegal immigrant is simply a cover-up for your racist (slave owner) cultural mindset still lingering under the surface. Fess up, you folks such as Robert Thompson, underneath the fancy stance you take to defend yourselves, there is poor white trash mentality that is visible to all of us who "moved here" or "moved out" like Bill from Petersburg or Fluvannanative. Those "ostriches" who still have their heads in the sand, like Robert Thompson, make me laugh, because they refuse to get the point - you don't want to pay taxes, but you want others (like those in Connecticut and NY) to pay taxes which then get siphoned off and doled out to your lesser wealthy "kin" down the street. The same with roads, schools, public health, social services, and on and on. Marc Fisher has nailed it on the head and you just can't stand being told the truth. You're living in the past and you're dragging down your children. Bill Howell is a joke - just take a good look at him (and all the others who spout the same "Virginia values" lines) and you see a man who thinks he's God's gift to Virginia. And then look at his supporters - what a bunch of losers who don't realize they are getting shafted by the white elite Virginians who really don't give a hoot about them. Sad state. More immigrants are needed in Virginia, not less (not illegal ones) - but people from other states who aren't so hung up and will drag Virginia into the 21st century. That means a big, big change in the Virginia GOP currently dominated by the white elite good ol boy network. You don't have to become a Democrat. You just have to stop living in the 18th centuryget out of the dark ages.

Posted by: Mimi Barron | October 15, 2007 12:33 AM

I just love the way people move to someplace and then try and change it into the place they left. The only time Virginia values appear wrong is when they run up on outsiders who have the ones of whatever Blue state jobless hellhole they left to come here. They're not wrong, they're ours. What Virginians really hate is someone else coming down telling us what to do.

Posted by: Stick | October 15, 2007 6:59 AM

Btw for all you suburban crybabies with your wails about traffic, didn't you know what the roads were like when you moved there? I guess the legislature just figured that people wouldn't move way out to commute over "inadequate" roads. FYI, there ain't enough asphalt in the world, let alone the land to build up the roads required to handle every one of you commuting alone in your own vehicle from your mansionette in outer East Jesus.

Posted by: Stick | October 15, 2007 7:15 AM

One of the puzzles about blogs is why it mostly brings out the most intemperate and emotional of responses. Folks use reasoning and language they'd not employ in conversation or letters, or so I'd like to believe. In any event, the underlying bitterness and hostility doesn't speak well for progress.

Defensive reactions to this column and to the book itself are understandable, because of course Virginia has outstanding state universities and, certainly in Northern Virginia, schools. We have had a series of honest governors, we have very low unemployment, and we have state institutions that have helped keep Virginia's magnificent landscapes and historic sites.

But Susan Dunn's book helps explain why we have a host of political features in Virginia that create major problems. Among them: long-standing political control of our state legislature by large development interests that has deep historic roots, our county government structure and the persistence of the Dillon rule that severely limits local government authority over local affairs, and the narrow reading of property rights of development interests in Virginia courts that ignores the property rights of those concerned about their water, agricultural economy and other economic interests.

In any event, the language and anger evident in some of these comments brings to mind Virginia's bitter debates over slavery in the 1830s through 50s. It wasn't very helpful then and isn't now.

Posted by: Malcolm Baldwin | October 15, 2007 10:04 AM

Well, the reactions are intemperate because the column and the book are themselves emotionally-based, one-sided screeds shot through with factual errors. Moreover, the attempt to suggest that the various negative factors cited are somehow unique to Virginia is thoroughly misleading. No one likes to be lectured, and to be hectored by a closed-minded ideologue with little regard for factual accuracy is guaranteed to be irritating.

Posted by: Tom T. | October 15, 2007 11:45 AM

Can it be possible for the Neocons gun nuts who worship God and divorce their wives at a 50 percent clip to just leave the planet?

Posted by: Hey GOP | October 15, 2007 1:49 PM

Sure Hey GOP as soon as the liberals who hate God, Guns and people that don't and who divorce at the 50% rate leave VA.

Posted by: Stick | October 15, 2007 2:03 PM

The WaPo just can't refrain/keep itself from jousting with George Allen or any other pol whose beliefs exude the slightest air of conservatism, can it?

Posted by: NA ok | October 18, 2007 12:57 AM

You see -- it eats me alive the degree of ignorance demonstrated by bloggers w/in this forum.
"Andrew", for example, assumes that Richmond is made up of a bunch of "good ol' boys"...
I've got news for him: Richmond venues (e.g. shopping malls, retail stores, banking, customer service) have become overly diversified. The change has led to the dying out of the "good ol'" Southern gentleman.

Fisher: f.y.i. - Virginia was arguably the wealthiest Southern state at the turn of the century. Richmond, headquarters for one of 12 Federal Reserve banks and home to a couple Fortune 500 businesses, boasts Tredegar Iron Works -- an iron foundry which instituted first tier infrastructure in Virginia at the height of the Civil War.

Posted by: NA ok | October 18, 2007 3:32 AM

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