The Virginia elections are now over, and I find that few of the candidates I voted for were elected to anything. It is possible that the Attorney General's race may yet be decided in favor of my candidate, but so far that remains to be seen. This has been my usual experience in elections, with only two exceptions that I can recall -- I was a Bush voter last year, and a Zell Miller voter during his gubernatorial days. (That is likely to produce two questions in the minds of readers, which are answered thus: I did not vote in the 2000 election at all, due to being in China and not being able to obtain an absentee ballot; and Zell was appointed rather than elected to the Senate.)

The Washington Post is interpreting the results as an anti-GOP movement in Northern Virginia (see here), and there is certainly something to that. I think that committed Republicans (of whom I am not one, being a Southern Democrat who occasionally votes Republican as circumstances warrant) did not feel they had much at stake this year, and didn't bother to get out and vote. Liberals, who seem to exist in Virginia only in the northern regions, have been drubbed in all the recent elections of any importance, and were spoiling for a victory of any sort. So, they got out in big numbers.

However, I think it's also important to note how minimal the stake really was this year. I have been a Kilgore supporter for nine months or a year, but only because of 2nd Amendment issues. In spite of the vicious campaign Kilgore ran against Kaine, the difference between the candidates wasn't great; the NRA endorsed Kilgore, but the even-more-committed Virginia Citizens' Defense League did not do so, and included pro-Kaine commentary in their newsletters in the runup to the election. For voters thinking of other issues, the difference was even less important; and Kaine was the scion of a popular governor.

Kilgore apparently believed his best card was Kaine's opposition to the death penalty. I think he misunderstood the issue. There are two reasons for opposing the death penalty, and only one of them is likely to spark opposition on the American Right. One reason, which will spark opposition, is to belong to the camp that says that the death penalty is "cruel or unusual" punishment. This annoys because the death penalty is a traditional part of American jurisprudence since the Founding. The claim that it is unconstitutional smacks of simply trying to redefine the Constitution to mean what you'd like it to mean without any concern for what it always has meant, a stance that will justly rouse opposition among many Americans.

Kaine's reason for opposing it is that he is a committed Catholic, and has devout religious beliefs that inform his opinion. That is going to win him respect among many on the Right, including most non-Catholics as well as Catholics. The American Right is generally well-disposed to people who are willing to let their faith inform their lives, especially when it causes them to take up positions that are obviously political disadvantages. I suspect that Kilgore's ad campaign -- which laughably invoked Hitler! -- did more damage to him than to Kaine.

Congratulations to the victors, both the ones I voted for and also the ones I did not. I wish them well in solving the problems of the Commonwealth, and restoring some of the political community that has been strained of late. I hope that the pleasure of victory will calm some of my more pricklish liberal neighbors, who have taken to staring angrily at anyone who habitually wears a cowboy hat (as I do myself). Really, folks: we're on your side, in spite of the occasional disagreements. It's more important that we're neighbors than that we disagree on this or that point of politics.

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