Democratic Fairfax Embraces Its Inner Tea Party

Even people who benefit from big government love it less when they have to live under it.


You can't get a whole lot more Democratic than Fairfax County, just outside of D.C.  Barack Obama carried Fairfax 60-38 against John McCain in 2008. That's six percentage points higher than Obama's statewide margin, which Fairfax helped inflate because it is the commonwealth's largest locality: 13.5 percent of Virginians live there. Four years before, George W. Bush carried Virginia with 54 percent of the vote – but not Fairfax, where John Kerry got 53 percent.

The county board of supervisors reflects the split as well. Seven of the 10 members are Democrats. That makes its recent stance on state government rather amusing.

Each year localities around Virginia draw up their wish lists for the General Assembly session that convenes in January. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means that localities are under the thumb of state government and must go hat in hand to the legislature to get permission to do many things. Fairfax recently completed its wish list for the 2012 session.

And what do the supervisors want from Richmond? "I think the simple message is, 'Please try to leave us alone,' " says Supervisor Jeff McKay.

How very Tea Party of them. Perhaps Fairfax should replace its county seal with the Gadsden Flag – that yellow banner, popular at Tea Party rallies, with coiled snake and the legend, "Don't Tread on Me."

That's not the only way in which heavily Democratic Fairfax sounds sympathetic to the Tea Party rabble. Like those grassroots conservatives in tricorner hats, the county also thinks it is Taxed Enough Already.

Fairfax is one of the richest counties in America. With a median household income in six figures, it comes in second only to the nation's richest county, next-door Loudoun. And yet, as reported recently in The Washington Post, the county's wish list "includes other perennial desires: that Northern Virginia taxpayers see more of the money they send to Richmond, for example."

"Overall, the county would be pleased if the Virginia General Assembly would stop using Northern Virginia as its piggybank," continues The Post. Translation: Fairfax does not want to "spread the wealth around," as Barack Obama put it to Joe the Plumber. But wait – Obama says spreading the wealth around is "good for everybody." Does the county disagree?

When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton famously replied that that's where the money is. Same goes for Northern Virginia: The heavily populated, high-income region generates a big chunk of the state's wealth. Where else should legislators look for revenue – Pearisburg (population 2,700, median household income $40,000)? 

 What happened to making the rich pay their fair share?  

Dig deeper into the county's wish list and you find other gems. It wants more state aid to localities, and opposes any funding cuts ("erosions of the social safety net") that might leave localities on the hook for Medicaid costs. Translation: Let's have lots of health care, paid for by someone else. There's limousine liberalism in a nutshell. As George Mason University's Bryan Caplan once explained, "The wealthy but uncharitable socialist ceases to be a mystery once you understand relative prices. Voluntary charity is costly to the giver, but voting for charity … is virtually free."

The supervisors also want to prohibit protests at funerals. They support efforts to fight global warming by mandating cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. They want the power to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. They also oppose the push to protect property owners from eminent-domain abuse.

In brief, then, Fairfax officials are eager to order other people about. They just don't want to take any orders from Richmond. Unfortunately, the Dillon Rule says they have to.

Funny thing about that rule. It was named after John Forest Dillon, an Iowa Supreme Court justice back in the Tammany Hall era who thought little of local government. He believed that "those best fitted by their intelligence, business experience, capacity and moral character" did not generally enter local government. So local governments needed close  watching.

That's not wildly different from how much of contemporary liberalism looks at ordinary citizens. In the eyes of contemporary liberalism everyday Americans need the firm guidance of their liberal betters lest they make poor choices or, through their choices, produce results liberals dislike, such as unbridled commerce or economic disparity.

Americans, say liberals, cannot be left to their own devices. So it is entertaining to watch a locality where such an ideology defines the political center – Fairfax is a bedroom community for federal bureaucrats – chafe under the very sort of paternalism it otherwise endorses.

There's a lesson in that. Even people who benefit from big government love it less when they have to live under it.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where this article originally appeared.

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  1. You mean liberals are hypocrites?

    I’m shocked! Shocked I tell you! Shocked!

    1. +3 (one per shocked)

  2. I would laugh, but I don’t think an over controlling government is funny, even to those whose ideals oppose my own. Karmic maybe, but not funny.

    1. I would laugh, but I don’t think an over controlling government is funny, even to those whose ideals oppose my own. Karmic maybe, but not funny.

      Which government are we talking about – Richmond or the county?

      1. Yes and yes.

  3. I live in Loudoun. Why? Because living in Fairfax is not an option. The loons they send to the US Congress and VA general assembly have more in common with Pelosi that Byrd – an icon of the VA Democrat party (I am not talking about Byrd from WV).

    These are the people who want others to pay ‘their fair share’ but won’t give a dime of their own. Hypocritical scum. Look up Moran, a congress critter from our delegation and you will get the drift. Fits the mold for that stretch of VA.

    1. Moran is one of those politicians who could do anything he wanted and still get elected. He could be found one night burying the body of a male prostitute in the Tomb of the Unknowns and he would still win his district 60-40. Dude’s bulletproof.

      1. My Congressman Jim Moran literally choked an 8-year-old boy in 2000 and was still elected.…..uption-sto

  4. I met the CTO of Fairfax County and he was talking about this very issue.

  5. I love reading stories about Fairfax County, because every single one validates my decision to leave.

    1. I served 14 years of hard labor in Fairfax myself.

  6. A county full of people who make their living off the American taxpayers, complaining about where their tax money is going to; the irony and the gall of it is almost too much.

    1. Lucky for them, liberals have their irony detectors removed during the indoctrination.

  7. “Overall, the county would be pleased if the Virginia General Assembly would stop using Northern Virginia as its piggybank,”

    Yeah; they should get the money from the Federal Government instead, and use the rest of the nation as their piggybank.

    Like Montana does.

    1. “Overall, the county would be pleased if the Virginia General Assembly would stop using Northern Virginia as its piggybank,”

      Progressive taxation for thee, but not for me?

  8. Left Fairfax County myself for the same reasons.

  9. Give that section of Va. back to the District of Columbia.

    1. There is no part of today’s Fairfax County that ever was part of the District of Columbia. When the District was set up, part of Fairfax County (including Alexandria, then the county seat) became Alexandria County, DC. A few decades later, the residents of Alexandria County began to grumble that the feds were never going to build any government buildings on the Virginia side, agitated for retrocession, and in 1846, Alexandria County (the portion of DC that had been carved out of Virginia) went back to Virginia, but remained a separate county. (At some point in the decades after the Civil War, cities in Virginia generally became independent of their surrounding counties, with the result that the City of Alexandria became separate from Alexandria County.) In 1917, the name of Alexandria County was changed to Arlington County–which actually *is* “a whole lot more Democratic than Fairfax County.”

      1. History Buff commenter Seamus is on his game today.

      2. You’re right, we should give it back.

  10. people who make their living off the American taxpayers, complaining about where their tax money is going

    “We stole that money fair and square!”

    1. Bill Gates: Get real, would ya? You and I are both like guys who had this rich neighbor – Xerox – who left the door open all the time. And you go sneakin’ in to steal a TV set. Only when you get there, you realize that I got there first. I got the loot, Steve! And you’re yellin’? “That’s not fair. I wanted to try to steal it first.” You’re too late.

  11. I live in Maryland because the commute is easier. And I am not dumb enough to think the dimwits in NOVA are any brighter than the ones in Maryland.

    1. We don’t refer to MD as “The Peoples Republic of Maryland” for nothing. Loudoun just got rid of the Democrats on the County board last month.

  12. “What happened to making the rich pay their fair share?”

    Since a majority in Fairfax voted for Obama, I guess they want to pay their “fair share.” And they aren’t asking for lower taxes. They’re asking for greater control over how the money is spent. Are Fairfax liberals bigger hypocrites than A. Barton Hinkle? I’ll pass on that one.

    1. Wow, you are retarded. Why the reason crew likes you is the Mystery of the Century.

    2. Are Fairfax liberals bigger hypocrites than A. Barton Hinkle? I’ll pass on that one.

      Considering that these are the types who believe that a centralized bureaucratic authority is the most preferable form of government, it’s probably best that you do.

  13. They’re asking for greater control over how the money is spent.

    They don’t want it spent on poor people in other counties.

    Cry me a fucking river. The whole point of paying your “fair share” is that your fair share is a progressive marginal rate, to be transferred to the deserving poor. If you happen to live where there aren’t any, well, guess what? Its gonna spent somewhere else.

  14. He believed that “those best fitted by their intelligence, business experience, capacity and moral character” did not generally enter local government

    The thing of it is, he’s right. See just about any homeowner’s association. Little bastions of tyranny. What he didn’t understand is that local politics is just a steping stone to higher office where those same people can do more damage.

    1. Im pretty much convinced at this point that all politicians (except the Pauls) become politicians so they can have power over others.

      1. Yep. There are three kinds of people in this world:

        1. Ambitious assholes who want to rule over everyone. (Very few of these, which is more than enough)

        2. Non-ambitious assholes who want to rule over everyone else vicariously through their duly elected despot. (~95% of the country)

        3. Those suffering from Libertarian spectrum disorder. (Everyone else.)

  15. “You can’t get a whole lot more Democratic than Fairfax County, just outside of D.C.”

    Actually you can, and you don’t have to go far–Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in MD, as well as DC itself, are basically one-party jurisdictions. Fairfax County leans Democratic but it’s not overwhelming.

    1. yeah, go next door arlington county which hasn’t had a republican state rep since 1968. Fiarfax at least has a few in their delegation.

    2. Yeah, Fairfax was majority Republican when I moved to the area in the early ’90s, and had two Republican congressmen. Squishy Republicans, albeit. There was always a strong military & defense contractor presence in Fairfax that made it that way.

      However, the area has grown so much in recent years that a lot of the same bureaucrats and lawyers that made Arlington so left-leaning have spilled over into Fairfax. Loudoun County is still solidly Republican, as far as I know.

  16. Great article, Bart. Props for your ongoing advocacy of libertarian principles in a clear and accessible fashion.

    “…chafe under the very sort of paternalism it otherwise endorses.”


    Definitely buy you a pint next time I see you at Legend.

    1. Bart hangs out at Legends?

    2. Yes. Haven’t seen him there recently, but I haven’t been there that much, either. Bart is one of the old timers, although I think my mug number is lower than his. Ahem.

      BTW, it’s “Legend”. No “s”

      Anyone for Richmond Reason meetup?

      1. Bring it to Manassas Park and you’re on.

  17. lol, OK man thats what I am talking about. Wow.

  18. “Tea Party rabble”? Seriously? Perhaps Hinkle was thinking of the OWS rabble.

    1. I think that was tongue-in-cheek. Although I really didn’t understand the link image they ran with.

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    Not saying Reason should sensor their ads, just voicing an opinion about a huge douche bag.

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  23. This article has a consistent typographical error.
    It uses the word wrong word for Democrat: creating an incorrect usage of the word Democratic.
    There is no such thing as the “Democratic party,” and Democrats are not democratic other than wanting mob rule and other liberal, anti-American sentiments, so statements such as “You can’t get a whole lot more Democratic than Fairfax County” should read “You cant get a whole lot more of a Democrat mind-set than Fairfax County,” et al.

  24. Well, these laws are for “over there” not right here. I thought that was understood.

    I live in Patty Murray’s district in Washington.

    I’m happy that people I meet can even SEE something resembling fiscal responsibility.

    Imagine going to a town council meeting and the pool of popular sentiment (acutally, strike that, “common knowledge”) is progressive, green redistributionist, more taxes, public transport, the next boondoggle.

    But point out to them that if they followed their ideals to their conclusions, there would be much less wealth, a much shoddier legal system, the same or worse problems with education and union foolishness, more crime and no Boeing…and they give the cold shoulder.

    They’re overgrown children.

  25. Yet again another stirling example of STUPID people getting the government they so richly deserve…

  26. There is a word in Yiddish, “yenem’s”
    which means the other person’s. Leftists
    like to take “yenem’s” and give it away.
    Never their their own.

  27. One brief comment: “….jackasses, hypocrites…Democrats…” That says it all about these folks.

  28. Like other commenters, my wife and I left Fairfax after living there for almost 50 years. We fled to Idaho, looking for a little sanity and respite from the unrelenting liberalism and uncontrolled illegal immigration (and attendant crime) that has characterized the last 15 years. We got tired of handing over so much of our money and seeing it used for liberal causes rather than for maintenance and expansion of infrastructure and law enforcement. We voted and worked to counteract the trends, but were overwhelmed by the influx of liberals attracted by, or working for, a liberal federal government. Northern Virginia has become a sad waste of a once beautiful place to live and raise a family.

    1. Wait, you think the government should maintain and expand infrastructure? AT THE POINT OF A GUN???? Which are you, a moocher or a looter?

  29. This is a prime example of why I moved out of Fairfax County.

  30. It gets worse. They are planning to expand the Metro Silver Line to Tyson’s Corner. Imagine having to take the failed boondoggle Metro to go shopping. This is your future; wake up sheeple!……80.932030

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