Wednesday, October 22

An open letter to Nancy Pfotenhauer.

Dear Nancy,

I may claim Alabama as my current place of residence and Georgia as my alma mater, but Virginia is technically my home state, the place where I was born. I popped out of my mother's uterus at Roanoke Memorial Hospital, lived there until I was about two and a half, spent another five years down the road in Radford, lived in Lynchburg for a year where I had my first job out of college. My dad was born in Richmond and my mom was born in Fredericksburg; mom's side of the family still resides on their family farm in Caroline County, and my dad still has siblings and nieces and nephews from the D.C. suburbs all the way down I-81 to Blacksburg. So I think I know the state pretty well.

Well enough, in any case, to ask you: Who the hell do you think you are, dividing my home state into "real Virginia" and (I'm inferring here) fake Virginia like that?

You attended George Mason University for grad school and, as you said, currently live in Fairfax County; I've been unable to locate any evidence that you've ever set foot in what you call "real Virginia" at all. So let me tell you a little bit about this part of the state, the part that I grew up in. Last week, more than 10,000 people came out in the driving rain in Roanoke -- yup, my birthplace, down in that southwest part of the state -- to hear Barack Obama speak. In Lynchburg, home of the late Jerry Falwell's ministry and university, I still keep in touch with friends and former co-workers who intend to vote for Obama. And over in the rolling hills of Caroline County, Tidewater farming country, I've got relatives who get up at 5 a.m. to feed the cows, work hard, and go to church every Sunday -- and they didn't vote for Bush in 2004 and have shown no intention of voting for McCain this year.

Meanwhile, up in that northern part of the state you tossed off as the breeding ground of a bunch of D.C. carpetbaggers, I have other relatives who are also regular churchgoers, who raised their families well and are now seeing that effort reflected in a new generation as their kids raise beautiful, stable families of their own -- the kinds of values I'm guessing you so highly prize in those "real Virginians" you've only ever seen on TV. They've worked hard to make good lives for themselves and are just as worried as the folks in Roanoke and Bowling Green and Radford about how the economic crisis is going to affect them. And without naming names, I can think of specific relatives who will be voting for Obama this year, and other specific relatives who almost certainly won't be -- but that just goes to show you how not everybody in the state, even in that supposedly homogenous lump of D.C. expatriates in northern Virginia, is as easily categorized as you seem to think they are.

Four years ago, Ms. Pfotenhauer, people on your side of the aisle roundly criticized John Edwards for his "two Americas" rhetoric, calling it "divisive" and "class warfare" -- and now you're doing pretty much the exact same thing in an effort to dig a gap between Obama supporters and the hard-working, salt-of-the-earth types who live in rural areas and supposedly harbor more "traditional" values. You've been so busy digging that trench, though, that you've missed something important: Those two groups actually have a whole lot of people in common. In Virginia, for instance, every poll taken this month has shown Obama in the lead -- by double digits, according to the last Rasmussen poll, and I'm sorry, a margin that big can't consist solely of latte-sipping Fairfax County elites. In North Dakota, an almost entirely rural state that no Democrat has won since LBJ routed Goldwater in '64, the most recent poll showed Obama dead even with McCain. Georgia, where my parents still live, went for Bush by 17 points in 2004 but has only seen fit to give your guy a 5.4-point margin that's getting smaller by the day. And in Iowa -- a state that's both literally and figuratively about as close to Middle America as it's possible to get -- so many "real Americans" are supporting Obama that your campaign has evidently given up on campaigning there.

How did so many of these non-big-city-living, non-carpetbagging, "real" Americans -- the kind of folks whom, if I understand you correctly, you're sort of counting on to carry John McCain to victory -- end up in Obama's column? I'm not Larry Sabato and I don't have a political-science degree, but I'll hazard a guess: Instead of addressing health care or talking frankly about taxes or coming up with a plan for energy independence any more substantial than "drill baby drill" -- all of which Obama has done, incidentally -- you guys have apparently been spending your time in the back of the Straight Talk Express, hunched over a U.S. map, drawing what I can only imagine are fantastically intricate lines to separate fake America, the part from which you don't seek any support, from the "real" parts. While Obama has been talking issues, you've been picking out certain isolated pockets of the country -- not regions, not even states, but evidently parts of states -- where name-dropping Bill Ayers and tossing off tired old scare words like "socialist" will do the most damage.

Seriously, Ms. Pfotenhauer, has it not sunk in yet that that isn't working? I mean, I can't even begin to hazard a guess as to how many voters live in what you define as "real Virginia" or "real America" or whatever else, but clearly it isn't as many as you thought there were, or else you wouldn't be behind in the polls right now. You've got a lot of ground to make up and a lot of minds to change if you're going to win, so maybe now's the time to stop spending so much energy picking out the "real" Americans and start building a vision that resonates with all Americans. You know, kind of like Barack Obama's been trying to do.

Look, I'm not naive -- I know there are big differences between northern and southern Virginia, just like there are differences between Los Angeles and Lower Alabama, Manhattan (New York) and Manhattan (Kansas), etc. etc. etc. But the fact remains, all those places are still going to have only one president come November 5. If John McCain only wants to be president of part of it, he's going to end up president of none of it -- which is exactly what someone with that kind of mindset deserves.

Now I've got to get back to work, where I won't be dwelling on whether Hollywood celebrities are warping my mind or whether latte-sipping New Yorkers like fried chicken or college football as much as I do; I'll be dwelling on doing my job and hoping that our shrinking state budget permits me to still have one come tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. I'm willing to bet there are people in both northern Virginia and "real" Virginia who are having the same worries right about now -- maybe you should spend a little more time focusing on those universal types of issues than on trying to figure out which Virginian is which.

Doug Gillett


Holly said...

Catch the Monday night Daily Show? One of those rare nights where the laughs are coming but you can tell they're pissed.

John Radcliff said...

West Virginia got totally screwed in this discussion!

Anonymous said...

Dear Doug,

I said earlier that I didn't think think Obama had the necessary experience to be POTUS. I said also that I would support him if nominated, but that I did not think he could survive the gauntlet that the 'pubs would surely throw down.

I was wrong. It isn't over until after the votes are counted, but at every opportunity to stumble, Obama has instead taken a stride forward. And it is not only me that has been impressed. The most telling thing about his candidacy is not that people are willing to vote for him. The most telling thing is that in the main, they want to vote for him. On the other hand, fully 40% of John McCain's supporters simply regard him as the lesser of two evils.

You called it early: Barack is a leader, and not just a politician.

Consider me convinced.

Anonymous said...

Your lived at Roanoke Memorial Hospital for two and one half years! I thought you lived in a house with your parents until you moved to Radford.

Holly said...

p/s Virginia's sweetheart concurs.

Anonymous said...

We needed Jimmah Cahta to get Reagan.

Once every couple of decades we have to experiment with socialism in order to experience why it's a failed system.

It's that time, again.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Virginia and enjoyed its red state staus. Then Maryland liberals fleeing their self-inflicted over-taxation crossed the river and are now at it again - raising taxes. Good to be gone from the Commonwealth.

Astronaut Mike Dexter said...

You don't appear to be missed.

Anonymous said...

Nice work, Doug. I am sick of the divide and conquer tactics in the GOP. I truly thought McCain would be above this crap, but I was wrong. This is just like Bill O'Reilly when he said, "Take New York out of NY and you have a Republican state. The same goes with Detroit and Michigan."

Not everyone wants to live in a trailer outside of Wichita (which is surprisingly one of the few places you can still get a partial-birth abortion in the Bible Belt; so without Wichita, Topeka and KCK, what is left of the REAL Kansas?) and stand guard against the invading U.N.

I recently (August) left everyone and everything I know back in my beloved Missouri Ozarks to attend grad school in New Orleans because there is limited opportunity in my hometown of Springfield. People have to go where the work is and sometimes that means leaving rural America. As hard as it is leaving family, friends, and stable familiarity; you get up one day and realize that we'll never get our foot in the door unless we live close to the door!

Keep it up, Doug! And remember folks, it is both rural and urban America which makes this country strong.

Mac G said...

Socialism has failed us? Dude, do you not follow current events to see our Federal government just nationalized the US banking system and now owns the world's largest insurer along with Bear Sterns. I believe that would mean the Free Market failed but obviously, you do not keep score by facts and only ideological beliefs which in your mind, are never wrong.

Doug, thanks for your post. As a DC resident, I was really pissed about this chick's typical dividing comments. I was glad to see someone with Virginia ties speak up. Do not forget that McCain's brother called Arlington and Alexandria communist countries. The funny part is that McCain's campaign headquarters is located in the Un real parts of Virginia, Arlington.

Palin's Pro America comments pissed me off too. I would hope even people that are going to still somehow vote for the Republican ticket after the past 8 dismal years would see how this discourse is so destructive and it is what makes people hate politics.

later from this elitist liberal troop hating socialist commie that lives in unreal and anti parts of America. The nation's capitol.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Doug. Signed, a latte-swilling-fried-chicken-and-college-football-loving -New Yorker. (Ok, Ohioan. But still.)

Anonymous said...

Well said, Doug. As someone who grew up in Hanover County (directly below Caroline) and now lives in Manhattan, I must say that nothing about me has changed since I moved here. I can't stand that the fact that I worked hard and played by the rules, and now have a good job in the center of world culture and commerce makes me less American in the eyes of these clowns.

I also wish fools would stop knocking lattes. Lattes are awesome.


Anonymous said...

I'm proud to say I know you.


duff said...

Grew up in Fairfax County, now residing in Loudoun County, real Northern Virginian representing.

As much as I wish I could vote for Barr in this one, I can't miss the chance to help turn this state blue.

Anonymous said...

I am not one of your latte-drinking types, but I am living part time in Fairfax County/Northern VA, and part time "in the sticks" according to my youngest son, but I am happy to report neighbors in both places with Obama signs out, bumper stickers in place, etc. Some for McCain too, but what the heck. Got my little blue spot on, but hope it becomes irrelevant soon! Go, 'Skins!

Universal Remonster said...

Anonymous said...

obviously, I skipped a couple of steps logically, but what I meant was this: people in cities and burbs are just as American (or Virginian, in VA) as people who are not. What a fucking joke this thing has become.


Anonymous said...

It's gonna be fun watching a negro run the country after watching what they've done in Deetroit, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Where does I gets my rims, I aks you?

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 7:43

Not as fun as watching cowards spit venom behind the cloak of anonymity. Welcome to the 21st Century, douchebag.

Anonymous said...

Fried chicken and collard green state dinners? LMAO