Courtesy John Nichols, The Nation â€œA Jeffersonian Victory in Virginiaâ€
Tom Perriello (Representative-elect D-VA-5th), who defeated Virgil Goode (R-VA-5th) in the race for the latterâ€™s congressional seat in this election.
The 2008 election is the gift that keeps on giving.
At the close of the week of Barack Obamaâ€™s election to the presidency came the news that Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode — one of the originators of the creepy politics that was used by the worst elements within the Republican Party to try and frighten voters about the Democratic nominee — had been swept from office in the tide of Obama votes.
Goode, an otherwise obscure Republican, stirred a national controversy two years ago when he worried publicly about the precedent set by the election of a Muslim, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, to Congress. The Virginian declared in a letter to a constituent that â€œWhen I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Qurâ€™an in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens donâ€™t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Qurâ€™an.â€
Goode made several television appearances during which he pushed this line, even after it was pointed out to him that Ellison was born in the US and traced his familyâ€™s roots in this country back at least to 1742.
Goode left no doubt about his disdain for Islam and for its practitioners, declaring that â€œI fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped. The Ten Commandments and â€˜In God We Trustâ€™ are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Qurâ€™an. My response was clear, â€˜As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Qurâ€™an is not going to be on the wall of my office.â€™â€
Goode found a forum on Fox News, where he stood by his statements and said, without a hint of irony, that â€œI wish more people would take a stand and stand up for the principles on which this country was founded.â€
What made Goodeâ€™s ignorance of those founding principles remarkable was the fact that he represents Virginiaâ€™s Albemarle County, where Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743.
Ultimately, Ellison countered Goodeâ€™s attacks. The new Congressman from Minnesota declared his loyalty to the Constitution while clutching a copy of the Qur`an that was once owned by Jefferson.
Unfortunately, Goode remained the representative from Jeffersonâ€™s home county. And it looked as if this would be the case for a long time to come.
When 34-year-old Democrat Tom Perriello decided to take on Goode, he seemed to be a political sacrificial lamb. With his background as the founder of an international non-profit group, progressive stands on the issues and relatively small campaign budget, Perrielloâ€™s looked to be the classic uphill fight. But Perriello was an agile campaigner who attracted a cadre of committed volunteers and a good deal of grassroots support throughout the district. That, combined with Virginiaâ€™s quiet embarrassment over Goodeâ€™s behavior, excitement about Obamaâ€™s candidacy — which would turn once red state blue on November 4 — and perhaps a bit of the old Jeffersonian impulse to boost the challenger into competition.
The Goode-Perriello race was close on election night.
And, after three days of counting ballots, the Democrat prevailed by more than 700 votes.