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.