Beyond Goode and His Evil

Courtesy John Nichols, The Nation “A Jeffersonian Victory in Virginia”

Tom Perriello (Representative-elect D-VA-5th), who defeated Virgil Goode (R-VA-5th) in the race for the latter’s congressional seat in this election.

The 2008 election is the gift that keeps on giving.

At the close of the week of Barack Obama’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 “When 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 Qur’an in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’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 Qur’an.”

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 family’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 “I 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 ‘In God We Trust’ 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 Qur’an. My response was clear, ‘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 Qur’an is not going to be on the wall of my office.’”

Goode found a forum on Fox News, where he stood by his statements and said, without a hint of irony, that “I wish more people would take a stand and stand up for the principles on which this country was founded.”

What made Goode’s ignorance of those founding principles remarkable was the fact that he represents Virginia’s Albemarle County, where Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743.

Ultimately, Ellison countered Goode’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 Jefferson’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, Perriello’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 Virginia’s quiet embarrassment over Goode’s behavior, excitement about Obama’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.


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