My hometown paper, The Washington Post, held America's Next Great Pundit, a contest designed to select an opinion columnist. Ten finalists would compete for a thirteen-week editorial gig at The Post, to start next year. Sweet, I thought, as I entered.
I wasn't chosen as one of the finalists. I did, though, want to share my entry with you. It is rather timely and concerns the race for governor here in the state of Virginia. Without fanfare, I present The Endurance of the Wedge Issue:
It recently became more evident that Virginia gubernatorial candidate Democrat Creigh Deeds reads the polls – more specifically that he read the October 8 Washington Post poll that showed that his Republican opponent, Bob McDonnell, widened his lead over Deeds by nine points. Before that time, Deeds’ argument for why he would make a better governor was that he was all for a woman’s right to choose. Deeds trotted out a thesis that McDonnell had written twenty years ago, in which McDonnell went hard at working women, contraception, and many social technologies that are interwoven into the bedrock of feminism. Translation: McDonnell is a misogynist who plans to send women into back alleys with coat hangers if Northern Virginians were to elect him governor. This tack probably would have worked twenty years ago, when a landmark decision by the Supreme Court made the abortion debate a matter of states’ rights. Shockingly, an economy circling the bowl, two wars, and budget cuts and record unemployment seem scarier than some old wedge issue from the past millennium.
McDonnell is just as guilty. Though he has been clear about his platforms – questioning their ability to be operationalized aside – he, too, has fallen back on a wedge issue of his own: the dreaded raising of taxes. His most recent ads have painted Deeds as the typical tax-and-spend Democrat, to McDonnell’s fiscal conservative. Here again, a politician conjures up a tried and true tactic, while seeming blissfully unaware of the context in which he employs said tactic. Again, with Virginia trying to contend with over a billion-dollar deficit, how does McDonnell think the state will be able to pay police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other civil servants other than to raise taxes? While not promising outright that he will not, McDonnell painting Deeds as the candidate who will is disingenuous at best, dishonest at worst.
November 3 is Election Day in the state of Virginia. Something tells me that this election is less about who is best suited to govern and more about a referendum on the wedge issue. It is certain that, no matter who wins, the wedge issue used by the governor-elect, no matter how anachronistic it may be, will live to fight another day.