I have lived in Virginia for most of my life — over 35 years — and for the first time, I am ashamed to call Virginia my home. The home of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason, Patrick Henry, and, yes, Robert E. Lee and Nat Turner. And now home to the most recent attempted political assassination on American soil. I am ashamed, but not surprised.
The Del Ray ballpark assault of early June 7 came just hours after Virginia primaries that were preceded by campaign invective and rhetoric that set new standards for both irrelevance and hatred. In primaries to nominate candidates for state elections to state offices, state issues were rarely mentioned. Federal policies on immigration, international agreements and foreign affairs, Federal judicial decisions, the “mess” or “swamp” in Washington, the President, and Congress were mentioned (and usually reviled) time and time again. But the 2017 Virginia election can change none of these. Public sentiment on them may be strong, but to fan the flames of resentment on Federal matters in an election where no peaceful and legitimate change to those matters can be effected invited a violent and illegitimate response.
This has no place in Virginia. If local elections can be conducted with civility and based on local issues anywhere, it should be here. There are plenty of local issues to be discussed: Virginia energy, environmental and social policies; Virginia infrastructure and transportation; and Virginia finances, taxes and budget, to name a few. As Virginians, we must insist that the candidates and campaigns focus on these. We must not allow the candidates’ consultants, advisers, and financial backers to turn the 2017 Virginia election into something like the Spanish Civil War. We Virginians must insist that our interests be put first.
The rhetoric must cool down and focus on Virginia. It must do so now, before another four months of extremely negative campaigning, and before, not after, the body count gets higher.
Thomas M Leahey