I have GOP activist Nancy Pfotenhauer to thank for inspiring me to start this blog in the days leading up to the 2008 Presidential election. Ms. Pfotenhauer was a senior advisor to the McCain-Palin presidential campaign. On October 17, 2008, in an interview on MSNBC, Ms. Pfotenhauer acknowledged that Northern Virginia had been more receptive to Democratic candidates in recent elections, but the rest of the state, which she dubbed, “Real Virginia” would be supporting Senator McCain because it’s more “Southern”.
Watch for yourself:
So in Ms. Pfotenhauer’s pre-election world, “Real Virginians” would certainly support McCain and were “Southern”. Well Nancy ended up being dead wrong. Not only did Barack Obama carry Virginia, he won in all parts of the Commonwealth, including big cities, the suburbs and the small towns in each region of the state. In fact, he was the first Democrat to win in Virginia since 1964.
Obama won lots of votes from people like me.
- I’m a lifelong Democrat, but I’ll vote for the occasional Republican and Independent if I think they share my values. (That’s happening less and less as the GOP lurches further to the right.)
- I live and work in Fairfax County, Virginia, but my thick Southern accent would make you think I’m from Southside, Virginia. While I moved here just prior to the 2008 election, my family’s roots in Virginia go back to the 1700s. That said, the great vibrancy of Virginia’s culture and economy comes from people who are new the Commonwealth. I’m most definitely a Southerner, but I believe the best part of living in Northern Virginia is the great diversity in our midst.
- I consider myself an evangelical Christian in the tradition of Jimmy Carter and I’m a weekly church-goer. But I strongly believe in the separation of church and state and I don’t hold that there is a “Christian” way to vote or a “Christian” position on all political issues.
As I look back on the 2008 election, I believe Barack Obama ran a campaign which sought to unite Americans, while John McCain and the GOP (with the help of people like Ms. Pfotenhauer) ran one of the most divisive campaigns in my lifetime. It wasn’t just John McCain’s campaign.
Consider Minn. GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who resurrected McCarthyism when she told Chris Matthews on MSNBC, “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America.”
Or then-N.Y. GOP Rep. Randy Kuhl who told WHAM-TV in Rochester, N.Y., “I firmly believe the Democratic majority wants the American public to suffer and to hurt so that they can make some political gains at election time, and I think that’s wrong.”
Or then-N.C. GOP Rep. Robin Hayes who said at a McCain rally that, “liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God.”
Where were these GOP elected officials getting their campaign messages? At the top of my list was GOP Vice Presidential nominee and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who said in N.C. that, “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.”
Senator McCain was no better. In October 2008, he repeatedly defended robo calls sponsored by his campaign and the RNC which linked Senator Obama to “domestic terrorists”.
In my view Barack Obama won the White House and Democrats increased their numbers in Congress, Governors’ mansions and state legislatures in 2008 because voters were turned off by the divisive Lee Atwater-Warren Tompkins-Karl Rove brand of politics which came to prominence in the era of George W. Bush.
Now more than ever, our country needs to come together, not be divided into “Real Virginia” and “Fake Virginia” or “Pro America” or “Anti America”. And we need politicians who reject that kind of divisiveness.
I look forward to continuing this political discussion now that candidate Obama is President Obama.
p.s. My favorite commentary on Nancy Pfotenhauer’s Real Virginia remark was made by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Check it out. I guarantee you’ll laugh.