I recently stumbled across an article from the Spring 1966 issue of Virginia Quarterly Review, Murat W. Williams’ “Virginia Politics: Winds of Change.” The author—a Rhodes scholar, WWII veteran, and U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador—argues that Virginia’s conservatism (fiscal and otherwise) cannot hold in the face of the changing demographics of the state. Williams’ prescience is kind of stunning at times. Here’s an illustrative excerpt:
America’s fastest area of metropolitan growth in the 1960’s, Greater Washington, is swallowing the Northern counties of Virginia. […] Half-surrounding the nation’s capital and embracing already some of the most powerful and expensive elements of Government, Virginia will feel the pressure of growing affluence and the restlessness of a population that will be looking for new opportunities and demanding space for sports, for recreation, for education, and for investment. The suburban spread in the northern counties can be expected to double. […] To face such expansion, ordinary politics and ordinary politicians are not enough. Those who preach retrenchment in the conviction that depression is around the corner are likely to be left behind in the growing new world. Those who would be niggardly in expenditure for education and social improvement will count the cost of miserliness in later social explosion. Those who are content to see the spread of suburban ugliness without provision today for recreation and cultural outlet, without planning for better communities, will face the repeated crises of the many sicknesses of affluence.
The irony here is that Williams was speaking of Democrats like Harry F. Byrd (and quotes him saying that “the Truman Democratic Party was a ‘greater menace to this country than Russia'”), not Republicans. But Republicans had the unfortunate timing to take control of Virginia politics just as this demographic shift took place, and are in the process of bearing the public’s ire, while Democrats have positioned themselves to be the party of change against their own legacy.