It's Not A Referendum on Allen, but on VIRGINIANS Themselves
And usually, that conventional wisdom is true. It was true of the 2004 presidential election; it's true of most of the House and Senate races in 2006.
But it's NOT true in Virginia. In Virginia, this Senate race is NOT a referendum on George Felix Allen--it is, rather, a referendum on Virginians themselves.
As such, it's not enough for those partisans on either side of the aisle to vote their "aye" or "nay" to Allen himself and how he has represented the state of Virginia, while the rest stay home; rather, it is imperative on ALL Virginians to take a stand and state quite clearly just what kind of Virginians they are--and what they want their state to mean to the rest of the country.
For, you see, this election in Virginia, more than any other major race this cycle, is not about the voting or experiential records of the candidates so much as it is about the CHARACTERS of the candidates themselves--and their reasons for entering Virginia politics.
Jim Webb's character and reasons are clear: he's tired of the way today's Republican Party does business, and he wants to change the course. He lives in Virginia, and figures that Virginia would be a great place to start the cleanup.
Senator Felix Macaca's character and reasons, however are quite darker--and herein lies the crux of the matter.
The reason that George Felix Allen first came to Virginia is, by now, widespread knowledge among Virginians of BOTH political stripes. The biggest can be found here:
"Allen said he came to Virginia because he wanted to play football in a place where 'blacks knew their place,'" said Dr. Ken Shelton, a white radiologist in North Carolina who played tight end for the University of Virginia football team when Allen was quarterback. "He used the N-word on a regular basis back then."
The rest of the history of this man--if he so merits the name--is also at least moderately well-known to Virginia voters: this is the man who put a noose in his office; who dragged his own sister upstairs by the hair and broke a pool cue over her boyfriend's head; who wore Confederate flag pins; who signed a "Confederate Heritage Month" proclamation; who called the NAACP an "extremist group"; who thinks people of Indian descent are monkeys; who spits on women; and who apparently stuffs the heads of dead animals into African-American families' mailboxes.
This is a man who grew up in Southern California, and so hated the comparative openness and freedom that he found there that he had to leave. He had to get out. He had to find another place to live; somewhere that the weather suited his clothes.
And where did he go? He went to VIRGINIA. And why did he go there? Because he thought that Virginians would put up with his crap--and even support it--when Californians would not.
This is not the secret knowledge of the politically aware. Most Virginians--even the electorally apathetic--know this.
That is why, in the end, this race isn't about Jim Webb or George Allen.
Virginians understand the stakes here: the stakes are no less than their very self-identity--and the image of their home state. The stakes impact not just the politically aware in Virginia, but ALL Virginians.
For, you see, there are young, racist future George Allens growing up all across these United States. This election is about nothing less than whether they, too, will believe that Virginia is a state where "blacks know their place." Where it's okay to spit at women. Where it's okay to hang nooses in your office and wear confederate flag pins. Where it's okay to call people with darker skin "monkeys".
It is about whether Virginia will continue to be shame of tolerant and justice-loving people across the nation, or whether it will emerge from the cocoon of its past to embrace a new, brighter identity.
That is why, if you live in Virginia, it's up to you to remind your friends and neighbors OF ANY POLITICAL STRIPE just what the stakes are--and to make certain that they understand just how important this is.
That is why, if you do not live in Virginia (like me), but know friends or family who do, it is incumbent upon you to make clear to them how intently the gaze of the rest of the nation doth fall upon Virginia in anticipation of the possible emergence of the Butterfly of Tolerance from its Cocoon of Iniquity.
My stake? As a Southern Californian myself, I want to make certain that no bigoted fellowman of mine looks to Virginia as a place where his bigotry may find a more comfortable home.
Because in Virginia, this election isn't about Bush. It's not about torture, habeas corpus, Iraq, taxes, terrorism, healthcare, the economy or anything else. It's not about George Allen, and it's not about Jim Webb.
This race is about VIRGINIA. It's about Virginians. The rest of the nation can only watch with bated breath to see what kind of people the good citizens of Virginia will choose to be.