Lord, I hate to do this, but it’s time to call a daughter home to the Commonwealth. Especially since she has a job to do.
I’m not talking about myself, although the Commonwealth has been screaming for me to come home for donkey’s (as in Democratic) years, but for my sins I’m doomed to bide my time in Kent and hope I don’t end up pushing up daisies in Kentish dirt alongside Nancy Astor and Pocahontas, two other Virginian women.
I’m talking about that Virginia gal with the prescient name of Krystal Ball.
Krystal was the Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 1st Congressional District, which runs from Fredericksburg down the Tidewater coast and encompasses the historic cities of Jamestown and Williamsburg. You’ll recall that her campaign, in which she hoped to become the only woman representing the Commonwealth on a national level, was blighted by the publication of pictures taken years ago on a cellphone at a private Christmas fancy dress party, which showed Krystal dressed in a halter top andn short skirt, leading her then-husband by a leash. The husband sported reindeer’s antlers and a red dildo as a nose, which Krystal was later photographed licking.
Honestly, I’ve been photographed doing worse at fraternity parties thirty-five years ago. But the pictures, published on a conservative website (where else?) sought to portray a pejorative image of a promising young woman intent on a political career. To her credit, Ball responded, quickly and forcefully, to her detractors:-
Politics is a nasty game. I knew that coming in. I thought I could take it. But the day that I bought my first radio ads, my opponent called the station and inquired as to the size of the advertising buy. Two hours later, these photos were released by a right-wing smear blog with close ties to my opponent. I don’t believe these pictures were posted with a desire to just embarrass me; they wanted me to feel like a whore. They wanted me to collapse in a ball of embarrassment and to hang my head in shame.
After all, when you are a woman named Krystal Ball, 28 years old, running for Congress, well, you get the picture. Stripper. Porn star. I’ve heard them all. So, I sat in my husband’s arms and cried. I thought about my little girl. I couldn’t stand the idea that I had somehow damaged the cause of young women running for office. I couldn’t stand the idea that I might shame my family, my friends or my supporters in some way.
The tactic of making female politicians into whores is nothing new. In fact, it happened to Meg Whitman, one of the world’s most accomplished business women, just last week. It’s part of this whole idea that female sexuality and serious work are incompatible. But I realized that photos like the ones of me, and ones much racier, would end up coming into the public sphere when women of my generation run for office. And I knew that there could be no other answer to the question than this: Society has to accept that women of my generation have sexual lives that are going to leak into the public sphere. Sooner or later, this is a reality that has to be faced, or many young women in my generation will not be able to run for office.
…My biggest support during this whole sad episode of my life has come from supporters of Hillary Clinton. In effect, they have been telling me that what happened to me could have happened to one of their daughters. They will not see their daughters called whores when they run for office just because of some college or post-college party. They will not watch the tide of everything they fought for washed away by the public exposure of female sexuality. Once again, like the heroes that they were a generation ago when they made their careers, they are stepping up to protect young women like me and to support us and to help us to grow up. We are young women. And we are dedicated to serving this country. And we will run for office. And we will win.”
Needless to say, I wanted Krystal Ball to win that election – which, of course, she didn’t. But, when she lost, I had hoped to see her try again. Maybe for the Virginia House of Delegates or the State Senate, get a name there. Goodness knows, I wish she lived closer to Fauquier County than Fredericksburg, considering my State Senator is the incredibly vile Republican Jill Holzman Vogel.
However, it seems like Ball’s moved onto pastures – or rather pavements – new. She’s now employed by MSNBC and billed as a Democratic strategist.
Yes, a strategist.
I’m sorry, but a strategist is someone who has an organised and extensive plan, mapped out intricately, with a view to achieving a goal. For a political strategist, the goal is to help the candidate of his choice achieve office. James Carville and Paul Begala come to mind as political strategists. Karl Rove (and I choke on saying his name). David Axelrod. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s guru in the UK. They all worked the backrooms and turned their men out successfully on the day.
Whatever Krystal’s strategy was, it clearly didn’t work. Maybe that was something to do with the pictures. Maybe it wasn’t. But her strategy didn’t work, because she lost. So now she’s – what? – a Democratic strategist.
Well, according to the Washington Post, here’s her current strategy in a nutshell:-
After her campaign ended, Ball appeared several times on Fox, often as the Democrat on a panel filled with Republicans. She also went on CNN. Now she has a paid deal with MSNBC and is essentially on call for that network.
Ball, her husband and their 3-year-old daughter spend the bulk of their time in New York, close to MSNBC’s Manhattan headquarters. She no longer has a house in Virginia, though she can stay with her parents back home in King George, 20 miles east of Fredericksburg, when she’s in the area.
Her recent booking was about the latest jobs numbers, but Ball also has to be comfortable talking about anything from Libya to labor policy. On Friday, she got the day’s topics roughly two hours before the show, giving her time to scroll through a few articles on her pink-cased iPhone.
“You pretty much have to be prepared to talk about whatever the news is,” she said. “Running for Congress was good practice for that.”
Ball’s sole political experience is her congressional bid. She has never advised, been employed by or volunteered for any other campaign or elected official. But the more she appears on television identified as a “Democratic strategist” and political expert, the more she is known as one.
OK, so now I understand (and really, I’ve been away from home too long, so forgive me) … as long as a person appears enough times on television – cable or mainstream – and is identified by persons who should know (nudge nudge wink wink), then if they are called a Democratic strategist enough, they’ll actually be one.
Gee, if I got enough screentime on the old telly and had someone regularly call me “Mrs George Clooney,” do you think I’d be in with a shout of actually spending time with the man?
But I suppose that’s the way it is now in America. As for Krystal, she hasn’t ruled out a future run for political office:-
Ball is definitely not running for Congress or anything else in 2012, but the future is less clear.
“I haven’t ruled out another run for office at some point,” Ball said. She doesn’t think her move to New York would imperil her prospects back home: “I’ve lived in the state almost my entire life, so I think if I ever wanted to come back and serve in Virginia, it would be pretty hard to paint me as a carpetbagger.”
Look, I’m no politico, but I’m an older and wiser Virginian, and I have some strategical advice for Krystal Ball.
Honey, it wouldn’t be hard at all for Virginians to paint you as a carpetbagger. The longer you stay away, even if you go back two or three times a year and stay with your parents, the longer the locals are going to identify you with the place where you live. I’ve lived in the UK for 30 years, making sure I make an annual pilgrimage back to Virginia, and there are scores of people there who identify me as British. So, it stands to reason, that the good folk of the Old Dominion are going to come to identify you as a creature of Manhattan. Worse than a carpetbagger … try scallywag.
I think it’s wonderful what you’re doing with the She Should Run program, encouraging more young women to get involved with politics, and I hope you’re standing tall as a Democratic candidate for the US Senate from Virginia – if not in 2016, then in 2020, when President Kaine or President Warner is running for his second term in office. But you have to realise that one of the reasons Sponge Bob and that poor man’s Fonzarelli are doing so much damange to women’s rights in the Commonwealth is because they were elected by Virginians. Yes, they were carpetbaggers. The worst sort. But they lived here long enough to be identified with the place where they live.
Hell, Bob McDonnell even sounds Southern, and his South was South Philly.
You have to come home. You have to get involved with a political campaign or working for a politician – Tim Kaine or Mark Warner or Bobby Scott. Gain their ear, learn from their expertise. And go out amongst the people of the Commonwealth – up and down the Tidewater coast, your district. Into the rural belly of the state, that long stretch of countryside from Charlottesville down to the Carolina border. Into the Roanoke and mountainous Blue Ridge Southwest so dear to James Webb’s heart. Come on up torural NoVa – Fauquier, Warren and Frederick Counties, near to the West Virginia line. That’s one of the reason’s Virginia’s so unique – you can go from cosmopolitan to “down home” in twenty minutes.
Talk to the people. Listen to them. Talk about their health concerns, their economy, their fears, what they hope to achieve. Talk to them.
You can’t do that from New York, and you can’t do it coming home for a visit. Virginia isn’t New York; if we can’t have our politicos born and bred here, we, at least, like them to live amongst us and adopt our ways.
And one final piece of advice … get another type of Valley Girl accent … the Shenandoah variety.
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