David Reynolds | Heating up
It was hot. Very hot. And not a cold beer within sight. All that was near were acres of tall grass and the two small planes that were moved out of the hanger so you could sit in the shade. Of course there were plenty of cold drinks on hand. But none to massage the mind after a windy drive through the pass the Boy Scouts had just abandoned and over the mountain that Lewis and Clark had climbed long ago.
The drive took a little more than an hour. It seemed like two. Finally we spotted an oversized campaign sign telling us that this must be the place. So we turned right off Sam Snead Highway for 450 yards down a dirt road then a dogleg left. We knew that Sam would not be there, but his former neighbors would. They had gathered together not for any blessing, but to thank a favorite son who, according to The Virginian-Pilot, was “a nobody from nowhere.” Now Virginians know that its Commonwealth extends beyond an urban crescent.
Yep, we were in Deeds Country. It was his “Country Homecoming.” Our Man from Bath sure has a whole lot of friends. We had a great time enjoying the game of politics – the way the game was played before those city cynics made it nasty. We smiled, chatted and shook hands. No phony urban hugs for this crowd.
Who was there? Pam was. The petite Mrs. Deeds has a captivating smile. She stopped by to say hello to her husband. At 18, when they met, she made yard signs for him. They both know that campaigning is not homework.
There were other warm smiles shining above the tall grass. Some were from Highland County, folks who lived just a par-five away. Others were from Rockbridgeland. About a baker’s dozen of our own showed up to bake in the sun. My supervisor was there. We compared notes. So was a former supervisor. She enjoyed the day. Jeff Price from Amherst County climbed two mountains to get there, knowing full well that he has a far bigger third one to climb in November. Mount Everest will look small compared to Big Ben.
We were there to wish the endless campaigner well. Early polls indicate that he may need more than our best wishes. Still he plans to pack up and move east to spend four years along the James. The imperial city is his last campaign stop.
A hot sun can make a mind wander. While observing God’s handiwork, I kept asking whether we were still in Virginia. Are we in the same state where I spent 32 years stuck in traffic? My wife said it is. As usual, I did not believe her. She told me that Northern Virginia is now our candidate’s temporary home. I asked why. She replied, “As Willie Sutton would say, that is were the votes are.”
But vote grabbing is no longer fun. The stakes and money are stacked too high. I blame television. It’s not pleasant to watch electrons eat up your friends’ money, the oil that keep campaigns running. It has gotten so out of hand that a local congressman asks for dollars when he doesn’t have a dog in the race. Bob sends me six letters asking for oil for every time he runs. Someday Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District will have a competitive race. And someday the Washington Nationals will win the World Series.
Why can’t we just do politics the old-fashioned way – one dollar at a time? Where have you gone, Lawton Childs and Bill Proxmire? Remember those two fine U.S. senators? Lawton won on shoe leather as he walked across Florida. And Bill spent all of a hundred bucks to tell Wisconsin voters that he was their best man.
Maybe Deeds is a Childs or a Proxmire. Or maybe not. At least he was one hot summer day with neighbors. But kids, who don’t know what they don’t know, now run political campaigns out of the city. Deeds’ headquarters is in Alexandria, across the river from the National’s Capital, but one hundred miles from Jefferson’s Capitol. Do these boys and girls know anything about Real Virginia? Do they know that a vote counts the same in Big Stone Gap as in McLean?
When I got home my pleasant memories quickly faded. I read a front-page story in that Sunday’s Washington Post. It was not an endorsement. That editorial is now a fish wrapper. The paper told me that my country dream was over. Nasty city politics had returned. Deeds would be attacking McDonnell for his anti-abortion stance.
What’s going on here? House Speaker Pelosi attacks the very people her House of 435 members was designed to represent. And candidate Deeds attacks his opponent for his Catholic faith. Creigh, my friend, when you introduce abortion into a campaign, you also introduce religion. No need to explain it to me; explain it to Mr. Jefferson. Can’t we behave like Virginia gentlemen and just talk about schools, roads and jobs.
Now I think I will have that cold one.
– Column by David Reynolds