Home Something I just learned: I’m not a liberal

Something I just learned: I’m not a liberal


chris grahamI just found out in the last couple of days that I’m not a liberal, despite what I had assumed was a long track record suggesting otherwise.

I mean, for starters, I came out in public support of gay marriage back in 2005, during the walk-up to the 2006 statewide referendum on a gay-marriage ban in Virginia.

This I did as the editor of a fledgling Internet publication in the Shenandoah Valley, one of the redder regions in all of America. Augusta County, where we’re based, routinely gives Republican candidates in state races upwards of 70 percent of the vote.

I fully expected not only a flood of angry emails, but a ton of ad cancellations.

Didn’t care. We decided to do what we knew to be the right thing.

Funny thing, I thought I did all that because I’m a liberal.

But, nope.

Then in 2008 I ran for public office in Waynesboro, again throwing caution and common sense to the wind, on a platform advocating for increased spending on education, infrastructure and job creation, in the one city in the region that skews solid Republican.

I lost, and lost bad, but decided against throwing in the towel, instead doubling down by running the local Democratic Party committee. Again, this is 2008, which meant the first and most important task was getting a guy named Barack Obama elected president.

I ended up working harder for Obama than I did for my own business, almost to the detriment of my own business. And though we didn’t win Waynesboro for Obama, our efforts pushed the turnout for Obama to 44 percent of the overall vote in Waynesboro that fall, after John Kerry had gotten 29 percent in 2004.

I thought working like a dog to get Barack Obama elected was pretty good evidence of my liberal bona fides.


And then there’s this: the little business that we’ve built, Augusta Free Press, this odd bastion of liberal thought in red Virginia, educating readers here and elsewhere on public policy efforts to improve public education, to grow the local economy to provide jobs for kids to provide them with motivation to work hard for their own betterment, to better the environment, to value inclusion in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, is, of course, still a business.

Which means: I’m a businessman. (Shudder!)

Even worse, the part of our business that makes money is the marketing arm. (I’m a slick salesman! Not really, but … it fits the narrative, so, yes, slick salesman!)

And part of the reason that I support universal healthcare, a decidedly liberal position, is because I think universal healthcare is what’s best for business. (I’m also a corporatist!)

My long-standing interest in black civil rights makes no sense. I concede that point. There were only three African-American kids in my high-school graduating class. Why I chose to read the MLK “I Have a Dream” speech at Patriotic Day in sixth grade is lost to long-ago thinking.

I’m sure I only took Julian Bond’s History of the Civil Rights Movement class as an undergrad at UVA for cover later.

Because, you know, I’m not actually a liberal.

OK, so I am the son of teen parents who grew up in a single-parent home in a trailer park a politics junkie because I wanted to change the world around me to make it fair for everybody to have a chance to succeed.

And surrounded by strong women: the most important people in my life being my single mom, my sister, my wife, my sister’s three daughters, and my grandmother, from whom I inherited my Democratic Party politics.

Again, thought that all of that, all of everything about me, was what made me a liberal, but it turns out, I’ve come to learn of late, that what I really am is a vain elitist.

I’ve actually been called that this week. Never thought watching Democratic National Conventions gavel to gavel growing up in the trailer park eating a ketchup sandwich for supper that I’d ever get out of the trailer park, honestly, much less get to the point where anybody would think me elitist in any way.

I guess the good news there is that the education as a means for providing for opportunity thing work, if you can go from having one pair of pants to wear to school each year to being elitist, but that’s another story for another day.

The story for today is that the self-appointed real liberals have decided that people like me, motivated to make the world a better place by valuing education, economic opportunity and civil rights, aren’t welcome under their tent.

To say that I’m a bit shaken at having come to this realization, feeling a bit like a man without a country, would be understating where I am right now in terms of processing this.

Whatever I am, I guess I just keep on doing what I’ve been doing, because really, I don’t know any other way, because wherever I fit on the coordinate axis, I was born this way, and you can no more change the way you were born to see the world and how it should work than you can your gender, skin color or sexual orientation.

Keep in mind, the guy who wrote that last sentence above, not a liberal.

Column by Chris Graham



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