Back to the Past? 

For those who didn't get to watch the show, one of the main attractions was the show's popular 1969 Dodge Charger (dubbed the "General Lee"). By design the producers emblazoned what they said was the Confederate flag on the roof of the car. (It had originally been slated to go on the hood.) Thus, Mr. Jones and his supporters say he is only using this Confederate-flag imagery to remind people of his fame as a way to innocently bring attention, and recognition, to his campaign.

Naturally, there is no way to know for sure what is in Mr. Jones' mind. However, we do know this. He is running as a "Harry Byrd" Democrat. He is very dismissive of those who disagree with him on the use of the Confederate flag. He regularly castigates what he says are the "liberals" (he never gives names) in the Democratic Party who look down on Southern heritage. On the flag issue, it came as a big surprise when Framme backed Jones' use of the flag after Gov. Mark R. Warner had said publicly that he thought it was wrong.

No previous chairman, including Mr. Framme himself when he served under former Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, has ever publicly disagreed with a sitting Democratic governor on a policy issue, not to mention such a supercharged one. We all thought such public action would undercut the governor and his leadership, making it harder for him to deal with other issues. So Mr. Framme's opposition is quite striking.

Yet what is even more striking is the dismissive way Mr. Jones deals with the legitimate concerns others have on the issue. When questioned at a debate Sept. 21, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported as follows:

"Asked about his display of the Confederate flag on the General Lee, the 1969 Dodge Charger that was a popular feature on "The Dukes of Hazzard" show, Jones made no apologies. He has been criticized by former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, Gov. Mark R. Warner and Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for using the flag during his campaign. 'Get a life,' Jones said."

This comment raises a question: Has Mr. Jones always wanted to provoke a situation where he could paint himself as the fighter for Southern heritage against certain Democratic straw men and women?

Take this CNN interview excerpt in which Bruce Morton says, "Most of the [7th] district is not this rural. It is the Richmond area. ... But Cooter Jones says he can run as a conservative Democrat and win." Ben Jones then says: "A lot of people now, who used to be yellow-dog Democrats are yellow-dog Republicans. They are not sure why. It's just that they have a bad image of the national Democratic Party and see it as a bunch of leftists and hippies and radicals, which, of course, isn't the case. In the South, though, we can still speak the language."

Who, pray tell, is Mr. Jones talking about? Moreover, this tactic of raising a straw man to then knock it down is classic Sen. Harry Flood Byrd who used to rail at those "liberals" coming into Virginia with no appreciation for Virginia culture. Which leads to this whole notion of running as a "Harry Byrd" Democrat. Under the ruse of "fiscal integrity," and "pay as you go" the Byrd Machine refused to invest in our schools, our roads, our health-care system, our safety net. Plus, Mr. Byrd was the 20th-century Virginia politician most responsible for denying equal political and legal and economic rights to African-Americans, women, Jews, Catholics and other minorities. The modern Democratic Party in Virginia was built on opposition to Harry Byrd's destructive social policies and antibusiness, anti-education fiscal policies. So let me close by asking: Has the modern Virginia Democratic Party ever condoned the deliberate use of the Confederate-flag imagery as Mr. Jones is doing? The answer: No. So why start now? S

© copyright. All rights reserved. Paul Goldman. 2002

Paul Goldman was chief political strategist for the campaigns of Warner and Wilder's winning campaigns, and was credited with leading a "revolution in American politics" by The New York Times for his role in breaking America's 300-year-old color barrier in national politics.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.



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