Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Romney and Virginia

The signs are starting to pop up on lawns all throughout the DC Virginia suburbs.   As I've driven my young and idealistic/liberal/politically aware fourteen year old son to and from family and school events this last week, he's noted them.   "Why would anyone in this area vote for Romney," he asks.   "Don't they get it?"

I've tried to explain that there is much to commend conservatism, and that there are conservative values that are both rationally defensible and profoundly positive.   A sense of duty and personal responsibility, cherishing and defending the best of your faith and your heritage, valuing putting your best into something, caring for family and community and commitment: these things are a net positive for our culture.

But I do wonder about Virginians voting for the Romney/Ryan ticket.   I don't entirely get it, either.

Virginia appears, on the surface, to be a conservative state.   Our governor is conservative.   Our state legislature is conservative, sometimes to the point of being a little Talibanny.  We're business-friendly, with a laxer regulatory regimen than the People's Republic of Maryland that looms in all its stark Stalinist horror across the Potomac to our Northeast.

Virginia has, as a conservative, business-friendly state, weathered the recent recession quite well.   So you've got this prosperous, conservative state...and yet Romney is increasingly down in the polls here.   Why?

I think, quite honestly, because on a practical level many Virginians realize that our recent prosperity is entirely a function of the federal government.   Our state has two distinct economies.   There is the agricultural/industrial economy that dominates the southern part of the state.   It's stable, but not really growing.  Economically, it's basically East Kentucky.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  It's a more easy going life, or would be if you didn't have to work three jobs.

Then there's Northern Virginia.   NoVa has been the driving force behind the growth of the state economy.   In my own county, for instance, there are 500,000 more residents than there were when when my family moved here 35 years ago.  NoVa has grown as government has grown.   Government and military workers are part of that, but so are government and defense contractors and the service and retail industries that have thrived here.

The Federal Government is the main industry of Virginia.  It is an inescapable empirical reality, one so present that it inhibits our GOP governor from heralding Virginia as an example of the success of his economic policies.  McDonnell is no fool.  He knows where things stand.

So when I see the Romney/Ryan signs popping up around Virginia, I get it.  We're conservative.   But on another level, it's a bit fuddling.

Everyone is entitled to have a political perspective and vote accordingly.  And I do grasp the desire for sane, right-sized, non-intrusive government.

But if Romney and Ryan win, and they actually do the things they have committed to do, the net effect on the Virginia economy will be devastating.   A decimation of the federal workforce...which Ryan has promised...would have disproportionate impacts here, as would radical reductions in spending.  Beyond increased unemployment, there'd also be a massive reduction in housing demand and a crash of home values.  Those things combined would cascade, leaving state coffers as empty as the abandoned homes, offices, and storefronts that would become the norm in the state.

For many Americans, thems would be the breaks.   If you believe in reducing the size of government, then so be it.  Que sera sera.   But for Virginians, a vote for Romney and Ryan is a vote to collapse the economy of our state.   It's a fascinating abandonment of material self-interest in the interest of a broader ideology.

Heck, on some levels it might even be noble, were it being done intentionally.