Primary Thoughts

Last week Kelly and I were able to do something we haven't had the chance to do very often: vote in an election that might make a difference.

Mind you, we're conscientious about our responsibilities as citizens, and we regularly haul ourselves out to the tiny rural church that serves as our district's polling place.  It's just that said church is in Virginia, which for the past forty years has been a reliably red state, and bluish voters like Kelly and I are typically offering only gestures of defiance against the Red Menace* that our neighbors form.  On a couple of occasions I was able to vote for winners, but usually only those seeking re-election, such as Bill Clinton or John Warner. (Yes, I did in fact vote for a Republican; I felt he deserved my support for publicly refusing to support Ollie North's campaign, and I don't feel guilty for doing so.)

But this state has been getting appreciably more purple in recent years.  Our other Warner, former governor Mark, was an immensely popular figure here despite being a Democrat, and his lieutenant governor, Tim Kaine, has been doing solid work in Richmond as well.  In 2006, I was delighted to see George "Macaca" Allen go down in flames and put Jim Webb into the Senate, and since John is retiring at the end of this term and Mark is running for his seat, there is a very real possibility that the Old Dominion will soon have two Democratic senators.

Okay, my district still has as its Congressional representative the irritatingly knee-jerk right-winger Eric Cantor, but at least he's a member of the minority party these days.

What's new and exciting, however, is having gotten the chance to vote in a primary election that may have meant something significant.  Not only is Virginia tending blue, but last week we got to choose between two groundbreaking candidates for president, and either of them could well be our next Chief Executive.  For a man born in 1963, when Jim Crow laws still ruled much of the nation, it was a proud moment to stand in a voting booth and see a black candidate's name on the presidential primary ballot.  It was even prouder to see that his chief opposition was a woman.  It would be significant if the Democrats were seriously considering a member of either group to carry the party's standard; that members of BOTH groups are on the ballot is a sign that the country is not the same one I was born into.

Of course, it's not merely the melanin or the XX chromosomes that are significant here; it's that we've now got some evidence that the principles on which this nation was founded are more than principles.  For all the racism and sexism in America (and there's plenty), we're at least entering a period where we don't automatically reject a candidate because of African ancestry or she's got interior genitalia.

Moreover, in this primary, a Democratic voter was demonstrably defying either sexism (by voting for Clinton) or racism (by voting for Obama).  (I suppose if you voted for Mike Gravel, you were arguably defying probability, but that's another issue.)  No matter which candidate you backed, you were making a statement about America's ideals--about the way the country ought to be.

Better still, the current polls suggest that either candidate might well win the general election.  And if there's one thing I like better than making an idealistic statement, it's making an idealistic statement that has practical value as well.

Kind of like winning a basketball game by using sound fundamentals, high-percentage shots, energetic defense, and good sportsmanship.

It's fun to play that way.  It's even more fun to play that way and win.



*The Red Menace is, of course, only one of the variously colored world-conquering hordes from the original version of the board game Risk.  The others are the Blue Meanies, the Yellow Peril, the Black Plague, the Gang Green, and the Pink Panzers.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on February 18, 2008 2:39 PM.

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