Why I Won’t Vote For George Allen
Not too long ago I returned from 8 ½ years overseas and back to Virginia where I grew up, went to college, and where I hadn’t lived since 1968. It was like returning to a foreign country and there is still a bit of acclimation going on with me. But with far too much time on my hands, and a growing interest in the political dynamics of the region, I began a tentative journey into Virginia’s politics.
I went to the Shad Planking in Wakefield to see George Allen and Jim Webb in person, I attended local town hall meetings, I went to our local high school to see George Allen speak, I went to a local college to both see Jim Webb and to stand up and pose a question to him, I watched far too much C-SPAN, and my TV is routinely turned to any political pundit show that happens to be on – and I began to follow the emerging array of Virginia political blogs.
When I left the states for assignment abroad I was basically aligned to the Republican philosophy. I tended to vote Republican, had started and run a small manufacturing business, and considered myself fiscally conservative and moderate on social issues. I had worked in the community on several boards, volunteered in the African-American community, and assisted to establish primary care in black neighborhoods in Delaware where I was living and working after grad school. My neighbor was then Republican governor Mike Castle and I volunteered in his campaign.
I’m obviously not a knee-jerk liberal Democrat. However, I do not think George Allen is the better choice in November for our senator and these are my reasons:
• I fail to see the qualities of leadership or the wisdom and broad perspective that I associate with the qualities of a U.S. Senator to be characteristic of Allen. I believe Virginia deserves better. I am not at all uncomfortable with Republican Senator John Warner, although we differ on many issues, he is a statesman and a man of uncommon wisdom and integrity, someone I believe is in the tradition of great Virginia senators. Allen is no Warner. And our country’s problems require better.
• In person, my impression of Allen is that he is a consummate retail politician who has a practiced, almost slick style, and who is often condescending or patronizing to any opposition. I feel he is good at appealing to the lower common denominator of the electorate.
• I am not so disturbed by his “macaca” slip, or his youthful attachment to the Confederate flag – but these isolated associations are troubling in that they buttress a sense I intuit of him from observing him on the two occasions I saw him in public. I also heard from a local convenience store employee an anecdotal story of his treatment of his daughter while in the store. One can only make a composite picture of someone from what information one has, and I would dismiss it all if it didn’t just become reinforcing.
• I am beginning to learn a little about the good ole’ boy Republican political machine in Virginia, and see Allen as just too cozy with them, and with his appearing to be just a rubber stamp for the Republican Party, rather than an independent thinker with the best interests of the nation and Virginia at heart. And it is crystal clear that he sees himself as grooming for the 2008 Presidential candidacy, more than looking forward to another term in the Senate.
• I am concerned about the drift of rather righteous religious groups into the machinery of politics, the use of church pulpits to encourage political agenda, and the crossing of the bright line between religion and government. And to see that George Allen is being showcased as one of the featured speakers at the upcoming religious right wing Family Research Council convention along side James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Anne Coulter, is particularly disturbing. Either he is catering to these people or he is actually aligned with their policies - - and I find either to be far too uncomfortable.
• And as to Jim Webb: This is a humble renaissance man of uncommon experience and qualifications. He served courageously in war, and admirably in peace. He has the introspection of an author and journalist, and the empathy and insight that implies. He is moderate and thoughtful, intelligent and pragmatic. And he genuinely has his roots in the soil of Virginia’s middle class. I believe he is more attuned to the common sense, realistic approach to problems that represent most Virginians.
I am but a layman and a naïve political observer, but I truly see a marked difference between these two candidates. And given the opportunity to make a similar comparison, I believe most Virginians would agree with me.