Editorial: In the best Virginia tradition

Over the 200-plus-year life of the United States, Rappahannock County has helped elect some of the United States Senate’s most respected and influential leaders: James Monroe, Richard Henry Lee, Eppa Hunton, Carter Glass, Harry Byrd, Sr., John Warner. And on Nov. 6 we have an opportunity – perhaps even an obligation to our nation – to continue in that tradition of sending thoughtful, honorable and wise Virginia gentleman to Big Washington.

But Virginians have not always been wise in their selection. Not so many years ago, one of Virginia’s U.S. senators was voted, in a secret poll of peers, to be Capitol Hill’s “dumbest.” To remind readers of that senator’s name now would not be a very gentlemanly thing to do.

Nor is this a very gentlemanly thing to say about the opposition political party: “Let’s enjoy knocking their soft teeth down their whining throats!”

Those words in 1994 helped spark the loss of civility and dysfunctional government that characterizes Big Washington today. John Warner, Republican senator at the time, who spent a lot of time here in Rappahannock, would have never said anything like that. Nor would have Virginia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction, Linwood Holton, whose daughter is married to Tim Kaine, this year’s Democratic senatorial nominee.

But Kaine’s opponent, George Allen, the Republican nominee, actually did say those things. It’s an exact quote. And he continues to say things that echo more like soundbites for an audition on angry talk radio than as serious, credible, deliberative debating points for responsible governance.

It is no surprise, then, that even Virginia newspapers that normally support Republicans are this year endorsing Tim Kaine – for his learned and thoughtful approach. But a surprise it may be for some Rappahannock News readers to know that I, too, in my almost 50 years of voting, have supported as many Republicans as Democrats. Critical comments in this editorial space are reserved for non-compromising politicians of either party who forgo possible long-term solutions in the interest of scoring short-term, ideologically pure and pandering political points.

At my advanced age, youthful selfishness has long since metamorphosed into worry about the possibly insolvent nation and degraded planet that future generations will inherit. Taxes should therefore be on the table, and environmental regulations should be no-brainers – both knee-jerkily abhorrent to George Allen. Tim Kaine, not afraid to ask voters to sacrifice and think long-term, would make a distinguished U.S. senator in the best Virginia tradition.

In a senate election as down-to-the-wire as this one appears, voters in even “tiny” Rappahannock County can make a lasting difference in the future direction of the United States.

Walter Nicklin