George Allen’s Folly

by Brandon D. Dorsey

As the elections of 2006 wrap up, Republican strategists are asking what went
wrong? Was Iraq, corruption, or an anti-incumbent mood the cause of defeat? Those
issues played a major part in the Democratic upset, but the most dramatic shift
came in the U.S. Senate where George Allen, the incumbent Virginia senator, lost
his race to Democratic challenger James Webb. The Virginia Senate race and control
of the entire Senate hung on about 9,000 votes and those votes swung on George
Allen’s vocal blunder, not the infamous ‘macca,’ moment, but
his lesser known blunder. Allen lost his reelection bid because he unnecessarily
antagonized the proud descendents of Confederate veterans.

George Allen was once considered a modern day hero of the Confederate Heritage
community. While Governor of Virginia, Allen issued an annual Confederate History
and Heritage Month proclamation and supported the preservation and educational
efforts of groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

That support now seems to have had a hidden negative agenda. During the campaign,
several issues came to light about George Allen. Allen was accused of having
a fascination with lynching because he once kept a noose in his office. Then
came the admission by Allen that his long-time fascination with the Confederate
flag was nothing more than an expression of a rebellious nature. Thus George
Allen became labeled as the stereotypical bigot which is an image that groups
such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and others have been working so hard
to dispel. For those with real Confederate ancestry, their pride rests upon
the heroic sacrifice their ancestors gave upon the battlefields of the War Between
the States in defending their homes against excessive federal aggression. For
them their pride has nothing to do with rabble rousing and bigotry.

When George Allen made his now infamous ’macca’ comment about a
the race of a Webb campaign worker, he opened up a critical debate on his beliefs.
Suddenly, the California born Senator who was making fun of the Webb worker
for not being a “real” Virginian was under scrutiny from the media.
So what was Allen’s strategy to repair his image? He decided to attack
the honor of dead Virginia soldiers by condemning the Confederate flag when
he could have simply apologized for his own personal mistakes. When the Sons
of Confederate Veterans called a press conference to condemn Allen’s vilification
of the Confederacy, Allen’s campaign manager Dick Wadham responded by
saying “they can do whatever they want.”

Virginians did do whatever they wanted on Tuesday November 07, 2006. They voted
for Allen’s opposition James Webb, a military man who doesn’t condemn
dead veterans and a man who is proud of the sacrifices his own Confederate ancestors
made. Allen’s antagonism of the Confederacy made history and shifted the
balance of power and perhaps world history. The political parties would do well
to learn from his defeat. In tight races it does not pay to be disparaging to
the memory of the Confederate dead.