Our View: Bye, George
Posted: November 17, 2012
George Allen loved coming to Winchester. Folks in these parts undoubtedly recall Mr. Allen, during his U.S. Senate tenure, riding in the Apple Blossom Festival’s Grand Feature Parade — on a horse.
But Mr. Allen found his way to Winchester more times than merely the first weekend in May. He favored a certain local business — Bartley’s on the Old Town Mall — for restoration of his signature cowboy boots. So we grew accustomed to seeing him, well, if not frequently then every so often.
Now, Bartley’s, which closed some years back, is no more. And, likewise, George Felix Allen, at least in terms of electoral politics. Earlier this week, but a few days removed from an unsuccessful quest to regain his Senate seat, Mr. Allen announced his departure from the electoral arena.
Though understandable and far from surprising, this decision nonetheless carries a certain jolt, coming from a man whose age, 60, suggests political prime. A decade ago, such a scenario would have been difficult to envision, for Mr. Allen’s career was on such a trajectory. The sky seemed the limit, as his name was mentioned in the same breath as the words “White House.”
But then came that August day in 2006 when, at a senatorial campaign event in Breaks, he uttered a word which altered that trajectory and, in no small way, halted a career. “Macaca,” used to address a “tracker” in the camp of opponent Jim Webb, is now part of the American political lexicon.
Seemingly unbeatable until that moment, Mr. Allen ended up losing that race by fewer than 9,000 votes. Six years later, he was back, fighting to reclaim that same seat, albeit as a different man — one more measured and tempered, and obviously chastened by humbling defeat. His convictions unchanged, he spread the same gospel — rock-ribbed conservatism emphasizing freedom and opportunity — but the fire had been damped, perhaps internally.
George Allen’s place in Virginia’s rich political history is unquestioned, or should be. As governor back in the ’90s, he successfully crusaded for big ideas — welfare reform, abolition of parole and truth-in-sentencing, academic accountability — and so his legacy is far from insignificant.
Still, as he exits — Stage Right, of course — a specter seems to follow. The specter of “what might have been.”