December 11, 2007

Apple-Picking Politicos

The words Harry Byrd or the Byrd Machine don't mean much anymore in Virginia politics, or any politics. The only times he gets mentioned these days are when history books discuss the notion of "massive resistance" against school desegregation in 1950 and early 60s.

Harry Flood Byrd Sr. served Virginia in the U.S. Senate from the New Deal to the civil rights movement. According the legend, from his family's apple orchards in the Shenandoah Valley he ruled state politics, schooling up-and-coming Democratic lawmakers and shaping them in his image. He embodied the old guard, the segregationist fellow travelers who went along with the New Deal's economic equalization so long as race relations kept cool.

Virginia's Democratic Party has resurged of late. There were always Democrats in the state legislature and governor's mansion, even after the 1994 Republican Revolution, but now the Dems are excited. They feel like they've got the Big Mo'--Governor Warner, Governor Kaine, and now Senator Webb.

But gone are the days when Shenandoah apples shaped Virginia politics. More and more, the northern Virginia (NOVA) business roundtable sets the tone for the state. It's amazing how power bases can shift so quickly.

It reminds me quite a bit of the vanished Pork Chop Era in Florida politics, when the kings of tobacco and cotton ruled the legislature, and south Florida waited its turn.

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