No, I'm Not Running

Rockefeller's Retirement

Jay Rockefeller retires from a very different West Virginia than the one he moved to in the early 1960s.

I was sad but not surprised to see that Jay Rockefeller is retiring as the senior senator of my home state. I would suspect the seat is likely to go Republican, to House member Shelley Moore Capito, the daughter of the old, corrupt GOP governor who defeated Jay in his first gubernatorial run in 1972.

Jay came to the state as a Vista volunteer in the early 1960s and stayed. I believe his first run was for secretary of state in 1968, as I remember the little round campaign sticker for him that my sister had plastered onto her flute case. Dad liked him, and they stayed in touch over the years, such that when Dad got sick, Jay and his office were very helpful to us.

It was after that first loss, interestingly, that he won over West Virginians, because most people figured that he was using the state as a stepping stone to the presidency, and that once he lost and that plan seemed foiled he'd be off like a shot to Manhattan.

But he lost, and he stayed, and he became the president of a small university, not even the state university but a rinky-dink religious college, and that's when people took a second look. By 1976, after Arch Moore was exposed as what he was, Rockefeller won the governorship and served two terms. In the Senate, his great accomplishment was SCHIP, the children's health program.

Anyway it just makes me sad because it reinforces what a conservative place my home state has become. It wasn't always. When I was growing up, believe it or not, it felt like kind of a liberal place, because every elected official was a Democrat, the UMW presence was strong, and the state's supreme court was widely known as one of the country's more liberal ones. Long time ago.

I've written this before, but I remember a time in maybe the mid-1990s when I went to a display of artworks by my home county's high-school students. I took my Mom, who'd been an art teacher and was then retired but just wanted to see what was going on. I was looking at one work and noticed that the artist when to the local religious high school. What? That sure didn't exist when I was there. There would no more have been a Christian high school in Morgantown when I was that age than there would have been a gay high school. It's a pretty different place, although of course Morgantown is still a university town and therefore happily still the locus of much libertinism and iniquity.