Dr. Teresa Whitehurst
October 25, 2005
Kilgore's Ugly ProDeath Campaign Insults Virginians—and Is Beginning to Backfire
Jerry Kilgore’s ugly, ugly death-penalty campaign is beginning to backfire. We see his smiling face and his "Christian family man" image on television and election mailers, as he assures us that by killing prisoners that Virginians will thus have their "values" satisfied and will suddenly be safe from crime. But it isn't working -- in fact, it's beginning to backfire: Some people who initially planned to vote for him have decided against it, now that they see how low he can go.
Could it be that Republicans as well as Democrats are getting fed up with this new form of Christianity that's represented by an electric chair, and with "Virginia Values" summed up by a lethal injection syringe?
Voters are learning that Jerry Kilgore is a man fixated on killing, death and revenge. A quick visit to his website makes clear the fact that he has no plans to serve all the people, white and black, young and old, rich and poor, healthy and sick, in the Commonwealth of Virginia -- despite all the colorful photos wherein he's posing with people of color.
Kilgore's "Virginia Values" have nothing to do with real Virginians. He's not devoted to serving the needy or improving services to Virginians struggling against illness without health insurance, unemployment and poverty. Instead he's catering to the James Dobson/Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell wish list for a theocratic and decidedly unfree America.
Kilgore's ProDeath Position
But I'm not upset only at the Republican campaign, vicious, misleading and manipulative as it is -- Kilgore's TV ads, which appear to have been written by a 15 year old skinhead, have referenced Kaine in conjunction with Adolf Hitler, ad nauseum -- I'm also disappointed in the Democrats' "if you can’t beat 'em, join 'em" response.
How on earth did this reckless fundamentalist radical manage to dictate the terms of the governor's campaign? Have the Democrats lost their marbles, or their chutzpah, or both?
When you allow your opponent to set the playing field, you can only play defense -- and you can bet that field will be uneven. Tim Kaine should have come out swinging, letting it be known that the prodeath position is inconsistent with the Christian beliefs of many, many Virginians. Furthermore, he should have presented the research revealing that death-penalty states have higher rates of violent crime than states that don't execute prisoners.
Would he lose, were he to refuse to play Kilgore's sick game? Maybe, but maybe not. Kaine did say that his religious values are in opposition to capital punishment, and this I applaud. But did he really need to respond to Kilgore's challenge by declaring that he, too, would keep those executions coming?
Candidates for public office are just about the only people today with even a brief opportunity to speak for humanitarian values on television -- still the most persuasive medium for the majority of voters -- against the rising tide of "zero tolerance" and theocratic authoritarianism now gripping this country.
I'll vote for Kaine because he seems less sweaty with delight than Kilgore about killing people, but I do wish that Kaine would stand up and speak the truth about what Virginians really need in a governor. I wish he and other progressives would redefine the playing field by talking about the issues that matter most to the vast majority of people out here in the real world, rather than play dueling political banjos with the likes of Jerry Kill-em-Kilgore.
* * *
Dr. Teresa Whitehurst is a clinical psychologist, author of Jesus on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles That Will Transform Your Family (2004) and coauthor of The Nonviolent Christian Parent (2004). She offers parenting workshops, holds discussion groups on Nonviolent Christianity, and writes the column, "Democracy, Faith and Values: Because You Shouldn't Have to Choose Just One" as seen on her website.