The 2010 Election: Hope And Rearrange
Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The election's over-congratulations to Robert Hurt-but at a basic fundamental level we're all right where we started here in the Fifth District.
Yes, at the national level there has been a significant change in congressional power from the party of the president to the party in opposition-as typically happens in mid-term elections-but as a collective community electorate here in the Fifth District we have all been here before.
Two years ago the district elected a candidate who didn't get 51 percent of the vote.
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Last week the district elected a candidate who didn't get 51 percent of the vote.
A clear signal from the Fifth District?
Only this-we're still split virtually 50-50 as an electorate and we need to learn to work together.
As do the politicians in Washington, D.C.
There was no mandate for change last Tuesday.
Not here in the Fifth District.
No repudiation of Rep. Tom Perriello's two years in office. Though partisan Republicans have been interpreting the election as a clear message from the people to Washington, even has they spent two years denying that a clear message had been sent two years ago by the people to Washington when they elected Barack Obama president, with Democrats also controlling the House and Senate, as also elected by the people. A political party cannot credibly, and without hypocrisy, claim that voters send clear messages only in elections their party wins.
Not here in the Fifth District.
No repudiation of Rep. Virgil Goode's many years in office.
We elected Rep. Tom Perriello two years ago with less than 51 percent of the vote. Last week we chose to elect Robert Hurt to replace him, also with less than 51 percent of the vote.
Fifty-one percent of the vote is nothing like a mandate, no earthquake, not a tsunami in sight.
We didn't raze the house down.
We rearranged a few pieces of furniture.
Seen another way, we almost reelected Rep. Tom Perriello. In our own community there was very clearly no repudiation of the incumbent congressman on election day.
In fact, in this newspaper's three-county coverage area of Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward, Rep. Perriello won the election by virtually the same 50.7 percent to 47 percent margin that will take Mr. Hurt to Washington, which is necessarily as valid as Mr. Hurt's twin image district-wide margin.
This is significant especially because there was no groundbreaking, history-making Obama coat-tail effect this fall. Mr. Perriello was responsible for his own turn-out and in our own representative slice of the Fifth he won, doing well, all things considered, across the district as a whole.
Yes, we have replaced a Democrat with a Republican.
We have done that.
Just as two years ago we replaced a Republican with a Democrat.
We are, quite clearly here among the voting residents of the Fifth District, Republicans and Democrats in our voting habits and we need to learn to work together.
Mr. Hurt's challenge is quite the same as the one faced by Mr. Perriello two years ago-representing a district of constituents that is, by and large, split down the middle.
Mr. Perriello was criticized by about half of the people, on a number of key issues, for representing about half of the people.
Mr. Hurt is also going to be criticized by about half of the people, on a number of key issues, for representing about half of the people.
If the criticism was valid against Mr. Perriello, then it must be considered valid against Mr. Hurt. Goose and gander-wise, what's good for the donkey is good for the elephant, too.
The congressman-elect has publicly vowed, for example, to vote to repeal health care reform. What then of the approximately 50 percent of the Fifth District's voters who favored health care reform? How is their voice going to be represented by a vote to repeal health care reform by Mr. Hurt?
Their voice will not be represented, yet Mr. Hurt clearly believes he will be acting according to the expressed will of his constituents.
We've seen this before.
Mr. Perriello's office, taking into consideration all forms of constituent feedback-town hall meetings, emails, letters, phone calls, and face-to-face conversations-clearly heard support for health care reform. That's not rhetoric, it's fact.
So what's next?
Do we go through all of this again two years from now, condemned to two-year cycles of political and social recriminations and retribution?
Far better, instead, to spend the next two years here in the Fifth District and Washington, D.C. gathering ourselves together on common ground and moving this nation forward.
Two years ago there were far too many Republicans in D.C. and here in Virginia, too, who fervently hoped Barack Obama would fail as president and Tom Perriello would fail as a member of the House of Representatives so that the Republicans could regain power. And the GOP has regained control of the House.
Today, there will undoubtedly be too many Democrats in D.C. and here in Virginia, too, who fervently hope the Republican House fails and that Robert Hurt falls flat, too.
Now, as then, this country deserves far better hopes and dreams from them and from us.
We need to hope and pray that our elected officials succeed in lifting the United States of America, rather than who gets the credit and whose party gets the power.
Time waits for no nation.
A house divided cannot stand forever on the path of progress and prosperity.
So, yes, our furniture's been rearranged by last week's election.
Let's all find a sofa or chair now and sit down together and talk, and then work together.
To Robert Hurt, I say good luck and Godspeed.
My wish was the same for Tom Perriello.