‘We’re making our way’: how Virginia became the most progressive of the US’s southern states – By David Smith (The Guardian) / Mar 8 2021
The state that has tried to stop Black people from voting is shifting in a liberal direction to become a symbol of the new south
Having lived in Virginia most of his life, Larry Sabato can remember racially segregated schools and systematic efforts to stop Black people voting. Now 68, he observes a state that has diversified, embraced liberal values and shifted from symbol of the old south to symbol of the new.
“I have to admit, as a young man I would never have believed it was possible for Virginia to move in such a strong progressive direction,” said Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “I worked for candidates back then who were progressive. I used to joke, ‘If I work for you, you’re going to lose, you have to understand that’. And they always did.
“Virginia has taught the country and the world that America can change, and sometimes can change rapidly, and in a very progressive direction.”
Two dramatic examples came last month when the state general assembly voted to abolish the death penalty – an extraordinary reversal for a state that has executed more people than any other – and to make Virginia the first southern state to legalise marijuana for adult recreational use.