The irony could not have been richer. A few days after Glenn Youngkin won his surprise gubernatorial victory in Virginia campaigning on a repudiation of government radicalism and incompetence, I received a piece of mail from the government of Fairfax County on behalf of the “Confederate Names Task Force.” Written in English, Spanish, and Korean, the notice asks: “Should Lee Highway (Route 29) and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway (Route 50) in Fairfax County be renamed?” Could such a worthless bureaucratic initiative be any more representative of precisely what Youngkin and the Republicans campaigned against?
Not that I’m terribly surprised to see my native Fairfax County — whose leftward lurch has intensified in recent years — pursuing such programs. In the last couple of years, schools named after Confederates such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, and John S. Mosby have all been re-christened. Even schools bearing the names of founding fathers George Mason and Thomas Jefferson have been rebranded for the sake of anti-racism. So too T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, of “Remember the Titans” lore.
Nevertheless, I’m not sure there is a better example of the disconnect between Virginia voters and Virginia bureaucrats over what matters in 2021. Distance learning during the lockdowns was a disaster stemming from the gross incompetence and arrogance of our technocratic elites. When parents sought ways to remedy this educational crisis, Fairfax County Public Schools discouraged private tutors for kids stuck at home for the sake of “equity.”
Northern Virginia schools promote transgenderism to kindergarteners and its libraries carry books with disgustingly perverted sexual content. They’ve pushed a curriculum that is anti-police and informed by the woke ideology of “anti-racism” and critical race theory.
And that’s just the mismanagement of public education in a couple of Northern Virginia counties. Early in the pandemic, the attorney general for the Commonwealth of Virginia sought to enforce restrictions on the number of people in closed spaces by targeting non-compliant churches. There was also an alarming spike in violent crime and murders following the 2020 riots and demonization of police forces. Not to mention the hit to small businesses, with many negative downstream economic effects.
All of this fell on the deaf ears of Northern Virginia bureaucrats, who have kept their attention focused on remaking the region according to radical racial, gender, and sexual ideology, a strategy that may appeal to their predominantly leftist constituency but provides excellent fodder for opponents like Youngkin, who made gains even in Fairfax and Loudoun. Thus we get entirely unnecessary things like the “Confederate Names Task Force,” which “has met regularly since August.”
There have thus far been three “in person listening sessions,” a virtual listening session, six “task force meetings” (with two more scheduled before the end of the year), and two “community outreach subcommittee” meetings. There are 28 members of this task force. There’s also an online survey — available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Urdu, and Vietnamese — for local residents to voice their opinions.
Might one ask if people unable to even read English should have a say on the names of local roads? Or we could perhaps ask how many hours have already been spent by Fairfax County bureaucrats in discussing this issue, rather than say, all the pressing issues local residents actually care about.
We could also ask how many employees have been directed to manage all the aspects of the task force, including organizing all the various sessions and meetings, and creating the survey, translating the survey, and analyzing the results. And we could ask how many taxpayer dollars have already been spent since the creation of the task force.
Indeed, that’s just for the task force’s initial findings. If, as I suspect, Fairfax County decides to rename Lee Highway and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway, there will be the cost of changing all the road signs, which, given these are pretty long roads in a highly populated area, will be at least in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or, if similar initiatives in other jurisdictions are any indication, perhaps millions of dollars. Yet county bureaucrats have the audacity to put on the ballot a vote on whether Fairfax County shall “contract a debt, borrow money, and issue capital improvement bonds in the maximum aggregate principal amount of $360,000,000.”
Expect More Renaming
Moreover, one would be pretty naive to think that the task force will disband once these two roads are renamed. There are hundreds, if not thousands of other roads and other locations in Northern Virginia with names deemed problematic by the activist left. Heck, Lord Fairfax was a slave owner. Think about how much money it will cost once the county decides that the entire county, and even Fairfax City, also need to be rebranded to appease “anti-racist” ideologues.
I wager the Confederate Names Task Force will become a permanent organization, a bloated bureaucratic office pumped full of taxpayer dollars to continually identify, research, and cancel all manifestations of systemic, institutional racism in Fairfax County. Thus anti-racism, like so many other activist movements, is transformed from an anti-institutional protest movement into an integral component of government bureaucracy, just like “diversity and inclusion.” You have to hand it to liberals — they know how to make their political activism pay.
This is Why Youngkin Won
Yet these far-left programs provide exploitable opportunities for savvy opposition politicians. Certainly that’s the case in the recent Virginia gubernatorial election, in which Youngkin made noticeable gains across the Commonwealth, including Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Youngkin campaigned against the precise kind of bureaucratic incompetence and absurdity that the Confederate Names Task Force represents. Woke campaigns to rename everything are less attractive given the economic and socio-cultural problems voters face, especially once they understand how much money bureaucrats aim to waste on their particular pet causes.
If readers, like me, live in Fairfax County, I urge them to take the time to fill out the survey on Lee Highway and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway. Make your complaint not based on historical revisionism, woke progressivism, or chronological snobbery (although those are all legitimate complaints), but on the feckless, tone-deaf ineptitude of county leaders. In the face of a pandemic, rising inflation, joblessness, increased crime, drug addictions, and destructive sexual and racial ideologies being pushed on public schoolchildren, why are local governments wasting money and government resources on renaming roads and schools?
Indeed, if I were Youngkin, I might suggest opening an investigation into how much of our taxpayer dollars have already been spent, and are projected to be spent, on these useless programs. The answer to questions like those might even persuade voters in dark blue Northern Virginia to have second thoughts about their local representatives.