Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Virginia, Government, and the Golden Egg

This morning, I went to vote in a local election here in the great state of Virginny.  The wife and I motored the several hundred yards to the local Episcopalian church, which has served as our polling place since we first moved into the area.   There, we...um...fought our way through the crowds...ahem...to cast our votes.

Not really, of course.  It being a state and local election only, the turnout was marginal.   I wait longer in line at Chipotle than I did this morning to vote.  If you hit Politico's website, you've got to dig through the Herman Cain psychodrama for a ways before you even discover there was an election today.  We Americans are remarkably good at announcing how wonderful our democracy is, and completely wretched at participating in it. 

The polls were empty, but for once, it wasn't for a lack of sound and fury at the local level.  This is the first time I've ever, ever gotten an attack-text, for instance, sent from an anonymous number and insinuating that a school board member (a Democrat) was responsible for the misuse of funds.  Conservatives are taking local elections seriously, and it's going to pay dividends.

It's looking to be a bad day for the Democratic party in the state, which has a strong chance to lose the Virginia Senate, leaving Richmond entirely controlled by the GOP.  This sets up a rather odd dynamic.

The VA GOP, like the GOP across the country, is vigorously anti-Washington.  Government is the enemy, and business is the source of all things good.  So the rhetoric here is radically anti-regulation, anti-tax, and anti-federal government.  That's why Virginia is now frequently rated as the most business-friendly state in the Union.

Here's the odd thing.  If you look at Virginia's economic base, our business community is in fact thriving.  But the primary pillar supporting of the Virginia business economy is the federal government. 

Heck, the primary business of Virginia IS government.  Not just federal civilian employees and members of the armed services, mind you, although there are plenty of 'em. 

Federal contractors, defense contractors, government-funded research, and Navy shipyards are the meat and potatoes of what Virginia's business sector does to make money.  Given that the state can no longer fall back on good ol' standbys like tobacco and slavery, the gutting of the federal government...the killing of the beast that has been the quest of conservatism for a generation...will smash a huge hole in the economic health of our region. 

The collateral Virginian economy, meaning retail, construction, real-estate, and services, all of that relies on the tax dollars and deficit-spending that the GOP so vigorously opposes.  Remove that base and the difference between the economy of Virginia and the economy of West Virginia is reduced in ways that I think most Virginians probably aren't eager to see.

The success of a pro-business, anti-Washington, pro-austerity GOP agenda means significant pain for much of the Virginia economy.  The GOP in the state has gone hard into that national level focus, which would seem to fly radically against the actual self-interest of most of their constituents.  And yet, here we are.

Whereever you stand on the role of government, it's an odd irony.