New Books and New Insights

My X-mas list was dominated by books, and SWMBO came through for me.  All are needed in the library of those interested in Virginia politics, and each offered insights in even a cursory scan.  They are:

1. Virginia in the Vanguard
2. The Moderates Dilemma: Massive Resistance to School Desegregation in Virginia
3. Notes from the Sausage Factory

All are good books, and Notes is so good that I plan on sending Barnie Day a fan letter. All have been scanned, and a couple of insights come to mind:

In Notes, George Grayson writes about Vance Wilkins as the “Virginia Republican Moses”, author and architect of its rise to majority status.  Grayson describes the dictatorial control the Democrats held over the General Assembly, and how it was used against both GOP and Democrats. One manifestation of this control was allowing trusted veterans to chair multiple committees/subcommittees and not allowing younger legislators to introduce significant legislation. Grayson indicates Wilkins gained loyalty by spreading the wealth, and as Speaker of the House Wilkins limited to one (1) the amount of chairmanships any member could hold at one time.

As I read this I had a sense of deja vu, then realized that this practice that contributed to the GA to slide from democratic control to GOP control was also a reason the Byrd Machine lost control of the GA back in the day. The vets coming home from World War II came to the the General Assembly with different ideas, especially in the areas of race relations. Rather than welcome into positions of resonsibility, the new members were instead held up to a litmus test-that several failed. The Byrd leadership derided them as “Young Turks”, and fought with them over school and road funding, then even more bitterly over school desegregation. When the Byrd machine began its collapse in 1966, it fell to these same “Young Turks”.

Nancy Pelosi…take note.

As I perused Vanguard, I realized there was a name missing. That name was Frank Wolf, GOP congressman from Va-10. Given that book covers the years 1981-2006, and Wolf was first elected in 1980, and has stayed in office all that time, he seemed a natural for material in a book about Virginia politics during that time. I checked the index, and found only one reference to him (noting his chairmanship of an Appropriations Subcommittee).

It would seem that someone who was able to take a congressional seat from a Democrat, then hold it for over two decades, would merit more print. It could be as a reference to demographic changes in Virginia (see how the 10th district has changed shapes), the power of redistricting (see how the 10th was cut to help knock out George Allen AND create a democratic winnable 11th), the power of incubency, or just on how to keep winning in a district that has experienced enormous changes since he was first elected…there are so many angles, I am surprised there was not more attention given.

You see? You read, you learn. Rush to and order these books immediately….and read, enjoy, and learn!


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