The Score: Beto O’Rourke, Amy Laufer, Labor Day, Ben Cline, Hollywood Historiography
This week on The Score – What did Beto O’Rourke say when he came to Charlottesville? Is there a future for redistricting reform in Virginia? Will Congress take back power from the President? How do politicians celebrate Labor Day in Buena Vista? Do Hollywood movie makers understand the Civil War?
Earlier this week, as the nation celebrated the end of summer with Labor Day picnics, fun runs, and baseball games, political leaders and candidates came to the small city of Buena Vista, Virginia, for the traditional launch of the campaign season.
There are no statewide or federal candidates on the ballot this year, but I spoke with Sixth District Congressman Ben Cline, state Senator Creigh Deeds, and Delegate Ronnie Campbell, plus an independent candidate running for the House of Delegates.
After the annual parade, I talked to Senator R. Creigh Deeds of the creatively gerrymandered 25th senate district, which has its population base in the City of Charlottesville and much of surrounding Albemarle County, then stretches to include rural areas like all of Alleghany County, Bath County, Highland County, Nelson County, Rockbridge County, and the cities of Buena Vista, Covington, and Lexington.. He has represented the district since 2001, when he won a special election to succeed the late Emily Couric. I asked him about legislative priorities in the coming year and specifically about redistricting reform. Later, he gave a short speech exhorting Democrats to turn out to vote on November 5.
From Amherst County to Capitol Hill
For a long time, Ben Cline spoke every year at the Buena Vista Labor Fest as the delegate from the 24th House of Delegates. In fact, I have a nifty smartphone app called TimeHop that has reminded me with eerily similar photographs every day this month that a year ago, four years ago, or nine years ago, I was at Glen Maury Park interviewing Ben Cline (or his predecessor, former Congressman Bob Goodlatte).
Last year, Cline was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Sixth Congressional District. I asked him to compare the Virginia General Assembly to Congress — he calls Congress dysfunctional and Richmond rational — and then we talked about some policy issues like the Trump administration’s disastrous trade policy and its harmful effects on farmers. (Cline seems to think tariffs and taxes are two different things; listen for his assertions on that score.)
Congressman Cline is on Twitter as @RepBenCline.
Ben Cline’s successor in the 24th district seat in the House of Delegates is Ronnie Campbell, who joined the General Assembly early this year after a special election. I wanted to find out from him what he has learned about the legislative process and what kind of bills he will be sponsoring if he gets re-elected in November. As he did in his speech in Glen Maury Park, he touted the support he has from the carpenters’ union and their cooperation with him on labor-law bills.
Hollywood and the Civil War
Before we turn back to politics during the next half hour of The Score, let’s have a change of pace.
Historian Gary W. Gallagher has taught at the University of Virginia for many years. He is an expert in the U.S. Civil War, and on Thursday, he gave an entertaining and informative lecture to the Charlottesville History Club about Hollywood’s treatment of the Civil War in movies.
Professor Gallagher asserts that Glory (1989, with Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick, among other cast members) is the best of the Civil War movie genre, but he acknowledges the sordid influence of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation and the Clark Gable-Vivien Leigh Lost Cause epic, Gone With the Wind, which goes out of its way to portray slavery as benign if not beneficial to the captive laborers (and, I’ve noticed, suggests that wife beating and marital rape are acceptable behaviors, too). He also has words of praise for Ken Burns multipart PBS documentary, The Civil War, which he says was seen by millions more people than those who read history books but it also drove people to libraries and book stores to read more about that period of the American past.
Gallagher is a prolific author. (I count at least 39 works listed on Amazon.com with him as author, editor or co-author.) Examples include The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference (2009; co-edited with Margaret Wagner and Paul Finkelstein); Jubal A. Early, the Lost Cause, and Civil War History: A Persistent Legacy (1995); Lee and His Army in Confederate History (2006); and, most relevant to this interview, Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War (2013).
Beto Returns to Charlottesville
Former Texas Congressman and current Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke came to Charlottesville last weekend, his second visit this year. He spoke in support of retail politics – knocking on doors and speaking to voters one-on-one – and encouraged local Democrats to work on behalf of state Senate candidate Amy Laufer.
O’Rourke answered a few questions from the news media, and The Score was there to record both audio and video, as well. Listeners with 20/20 hearing will notice I threw out the last question, about the retirement of Congressman Will Hurd (R-Texas), who is one of the few GOP Members to take assertive, fact-based positions at odds with what President Trump claims to want. I posed a similar question to Ben Cline on Labor Day, who rued the disappearance of congressional independence while not seeming terribly interested in doing something about it.
As I noted, former Congressman O’Rourke came to Virginia to offer support to former Charlottesville School Board member Amy Laufer, who is challenging state Senator Bryce Reeves in the 17th state Senate district, which stretches from Fredericksburg in the east to the suburbs of Charlottesville in Albemarle County in the west, including all of Orange County and parts of Culpeper County, Louisa County, and Spotsylvania County (which is Senator Reeves’ base).
I asked Laufer to explain what motivated her to run for office and to talk about her background, which includes growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and teaching school in lower Manhattan during the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, which she saw collapse. Senator Reeves was a guest on The Score in May 2018.
Does Toscano Know?
The former minority leader of the House of Delegates, David Toscano, attended the rally with Beto O’Rourke and Amy Laufer. I asked him about the Democrats’ prospects in November and why a major national figure like O’Rourke would inject himself in a local political race in Virginia.
Toscano, who has announced his retirement from the General Assembly, communicates on Twitter as @deltoscano.
Earlier in the show, we talked to Delegate Ronnie Campbell of the 24th House District. which includes the cities of Buena Vista and Lexington; all of Bath and Rockbridge counties; and parts of Amherst and Augusta counties.
As noted in the first half of the show, Campbell has two opponents in this year’s general election. One of them is independent candidate B. Eli Fishpaw, who is running to bring attention to climate issues. I pressed him on some other topics, as well, but his main focus is climate change and what state and local government can do about it.
Fishpaw is on Twitter as @EarthProtectorV — but he has no Tweets and one follower but follows nobody else, despite joining that social media platform in January 2017.
In a bizarre series of unpredictable events that you may wind up reading about or seeing reported on television, last night (Saturday, September 7) my car was stolen in downtown Charlottesville and taken on a circuitous joy ride by a drunk driver that ended with a hit-and-run collision.
I was not present when this happened and learned about it from a Charlottesville police officer who called me at about 4:30 a.m., just as I was sitting down to write this podcast entry. The car thief will face multiple charges including DUI, reckless driving, evading law enforcement, assault, and perhaps even kidnapping. (A friend of mine was sitting in the passenger seat when the car was taken.)
So, if you hear this strange story and my name is mentioned as owner of the stolen vehicle, rest assured that I was safe and uninjured. No persons were injured, so far as I know, but my 2006 Nissan Sentra looks much worse today than it did yesterday. The rear bumper was torn off in the impact of the collision, and the passenger side doors were bashed in and the right-side windows were shattered.
Despite all this, watch Bearing Drift for future episodes of The Score with more new, reviews, and interviews. You can never predict what might turn up.