Just a couple of months ago Virginia Sen. George Allen, one of the more nasty reactionary incumbents up for re-election this year, was being talked about as a potential GOP presidential candidate for 2008. As for the Virginia election, people said it was Allen’s to lose, against newcomer Democrat Jim Webb, who is a critic of the Iraq war.
Allen may well have lost it, as a series of embarrassing scandals have surfaced in the local and national media. It is reported that:
• Allen heckled a Webb campaign worker of South Asian extraction by calling him “Mr. Macaca” and bidding him “welcome to America” even though he was born in Virginia. Allen says he did not know macacas were monkeys and had just been making up nonsense words (which is disturbing enough in a possible president). Now he says “macaca” means “buffoon” in Italian. Sorry, but I consulted several Italian-English dictionaries and do not find this to be the case.
• Allen wore a Confederate flag lapel pin for his high school picture, and used to be known for putting Confederate flags on his car, in his living room and who knows where else.
• When he was a lawyer, Allen had a noose hanging from a ficus tree in his office. (He says it was part of his “Western décor”).
• He opposed Martin Luther King Day holiday for Virginia, but proclaimed a “Confederate History Day.”
• When a reporter asked him if his Tunisian-born mother was Jewish, he became inexplicably enraged, as if having a Jewish mother was somehow bad. He then claimed his mother never told him she and her parents were Jewish until now, though former neighbors claim that it was never a secret. Now, according to Newsweek, the story is that she never told him she and his maternal grandparents were Jewish because he had been befriended by Richard Nixon, a notorious anti-Semite, and she was afraid of spoiling that friendship. Allen says he eats ham sandwiches, which is supposed to imply that he is a Christian.
• Two more former college friends have surfaced who have remembered Allen using the “n” word, and one of them says that one time Allen put a severed deer’s head in the mailbox of an African American family. Allen and some of his other college friends deny that he used racist terms, but the deer’s head caper has not yet been explained.
• Here is the best, saved for last: according to Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter, Allen’s former high school chums say that one time when his school team was to play a team from a mostly Black school, Allen scrawled anti-white slogans on the wall of his own school in hopes of inciting racial animosity by the white students against their African American rivals. Real GOP presidential material, this boy.
From the above, and from the ornate cowboy boots he sports, one might think that Allen is just a stereotypical “good ol’ boy” from rural Virginia, but he is not actually even Southern, hailing instead from California. His father had been head coach of the Los Angeles Rams and moved his family to Virginia when he was appointed to coach the Washington Redskins (don’t ask). So he is part of the ranks of faux Southern good ol’ boys, another of whom is, of course, President Bush, who originally hails from Connecticut, but likes so much to pose as a Texas cowboy that it would not surprise us if he would bust out a-yodelin’ at a White House press conference.
Why do that? Why pose as something you are not? To get votes and campaign contributions and such like, naturally. In Virginia, there is a constituency for people who flaunt Confederate flags, racial slurs and nooses. The elites of this state include people who say loudly and openly that the wrong side won the Civil War. Right across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., the major road is named Jefferson Davis Highway, and there is a Confederate Lane and Jackson-Lee Highway (as in Stonewall and Robert E.) and many other mementos of the “cause.” Not only Allen’s pseudo-Southern posturing, but his ultra-reactionary politics, appeal to this sector of Virginia opinion.
Fortunately this is not the majority attitude in Virginia. It never was the attitude of African Americans here, of course, and is less and less the attitude of whites. Northern Virginia is increasingly Democratic, as are Richmond and several other parts of the “Old Dominion.” We will see how this all turns out on Election Day.
Emile Schepers is an immigrant rights activist living in Virginia.