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History on Line 1, sir page 2
Will Gov. McDonnell weigh in on the Wilderness Walmart?

Date published: 12/17/2010


Thus, many rank-and-file Republicans, embarrassed by the rabble-rousing and plutocratic exhibitions of their party's political-entertainment complex, crave a reaffirming demonstration of high-mindedness from their party leaders. Mr. McDonnell could supply it by politely calling out Walmart.

Economically, too, there's no reason for the governor to tug his forelock to the Bentonville, Ark., mega-corporation, a destroyer of good American jobs. (Walmart's chief of purchasing is based in China, where many U.S. vendors, forced by product-gobbling Walmart to cut prices, have turned for cheaper labor.) The Walmart Effect runs counter to Mr. McDonnell's "Bob for Jobs" campaign theme, which he has executed with some success.


In addition, just last month the governor backed a "Small Business Saturday" movement, urging Virginians to support local merchants, which, he noted, generate 75 percent of new jobs. Walmart is a famous slayer of such businesses. A 2007 study by David Neumark of the University of California-Irvine found that each new Walmart store costs a U.S. county an average of 150 net jobs.

Mr. McDonnell's current position, in essence, is that the disposition of the planned Orange Walmart is a local matter (though he urges historical sensitivity). Of course that's true, in a narrow legal sense. But the consequences of what happened in those woods and fields 146 years ago are hardly of just parochial interest. The Wilderness clash marked the beginning of Grant's long grind-down of the Army of Northern Virginia, a process that would end militarily at Appomattox Courthouse and politically with a reunified nation, primed for a century of greatness, and the expungement of the stain of slavery from America's skirts. The site Walmart covets is not just some place where passing blue bellies spat tobacco juice and war horses left hoof prints, but, says Pulitzer-winning historian James McPherson, a Union administration center crucial to the battle.

The governor is a lot more than the über-mayor of Orange. He represents Virginians--perhaps more of them than he knows. G.K. Chesterton called tradition "the democracy of the dead. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about." Before the trial on the citizens' lawsuit begins Jan. 25 in Orange, let's hope that the governor casts a strong proxy vote, if only rhetorically, for all those Civil War players he named in Norfolk as worthy of remembrance--"free and enslaved; Union and Confederate."

They can't thank him. But we can. And future Virginians, their heritage intact, will.

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