Thursday, February 25, 2021
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Tag: Douglas Wilder

Does the DPVA Still Benefit Its Members—- and the Citizens of...

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That is the question former Governor Douglas Wilder recently asked in an article in  Virginia Tomorrow.  Some in the past have referred to the former Governor as "a loose cannon," and it looks as though the cannon has fired a devastating broadside against what he himself clearly had considered in large part his own creation, the modern, post-Byrd-machine Democratic Party of Virginia.  Mr. Wilder is unhappy with the condition, policies, leadership, and prospects of his party today---- in fact, with the whole shebang. In making his case, he writes:
"Before the Voting Rights Act, the voting populace of Virginia was so small one observer of southern politics said this commonwealth made the notoriously voter-hostile Mississippi look like a hotbed for democracy. After the passage of the VRA, voters with darker faces and those without family wealth and prestige dating back to 1619 started to cast ballots in larger numbers."

Thereafter, as in other states subject to the VRA, a realignment of the political landscape began, with the shifts at first benefitting Republicans (after all, the Great Empancipator, Abraham Lincoln, was a Republican), which is how in 1969 Republican Linwood Holton was elected to the governorship.  (FYI side-note: it was in 1619 that the first slaves from Africa arrived in Virginia---- the past is never really past, in the Old Dominion).

The decade of the 1970's was when the Democratic Party re-built itself "from the ground up" on the ruins of the formerly all-powerful Byrd machine.  This was a slow process, "shedding the ultra-conservative Byrd elements," elements which began joining the Republican Party, freeing the Democrats to build an essentially new party coalition of diversity through painstaking grassroots organizing on "just about a precinct-by-precinct level."  Wilder praises Chuck Robb for bringing the "disparate groups and entities together" in 1981, when Robb ended the 1970's Republican electoral dominance with 12 years of Democratic sweeps in the commonwealth.