While drinking coffee at The Floyd Country Store this week, a couple of days after the Tuesday elections that put Democrats in solid control of Virginia’s government, a couple sitting in the booth behind me were not happy with the results.
“Did you see a Muslim won a state senate seat in Henrico County? What is happening to the Old Dominion?” The questions came from the female half of the couple.
“Nothing good,” her male companion said. “The “g–damned immigrants are taking over. Virginia used to be for Virginians. Not anymore.”
It was hard not to hear. They were speaking loudly. Others in the store turned to look.
“We ought to stuff them into leaky boats and send them back to wherever they came from,” the man said. “If the boat sinks, it won’t be any loss. Natives like us are the majority in Virginia. Why is this happening?”
I finished my coffee and left. I can’t stand racism, bigotry or ethnic and religious discrimination. It took a lot of self-control to not confront the couple and point out a few facts.
First, Virginia natives are just 45 percent of the state’s population of those eligible to vote is. That’s down from 56 percent in 1980.
Rural counties like Floyd outnumber metro area locations in Richmond, Northern Virginia but the population of those three areas outnumbers all of the residents in the 93 counties that Donald Trump won in 2016. That’s why Hillary Clinton won Virginia in 2016.
Current polls show nearly all of the Democratic candidates seeking the nomination for 2020 leading incumbent Trump.
“It’s a totally different world,” says Charles Poland, an 85-year-old history professor whose Loudoun County family goes back four generations. The former family farm now is filled with subdivisions. “If my parents came back today, they wouldn’t recognize the place. The changes came like a tidal wave.”
Vijay Katkuri, a 38-year-old software engineer from India and a naturalized American citizen, voted last Tuesday for the first time in his life.
“Guns, that is the most pressing issue for me,” he listed as a reason he voted for Democrats. “There are lots of other issues, but you can only fix them if you are alive.”
In 1990, the state Senate district that includes Loudoun County was home to 35,000 people in 1990. Now the population is 225,000. In Virginia, one in 10 naturalized citizens born outside of the United States are eligible to vote. In 1990, they were just one in 28.
Mr. Katkuri always thought he would be a Republican in America.
“Taxes, family values, these things are closer to our hearts,” he said. He likes Mitt Romney.
But when he got his citizenship in March and started talking with his friends about whom to vote for in the first election of his life, he realized it had to be Democrats. Mr. Trump helped him decide.
“The way he speaks, you get the feeling that you are separate,” Mr. Katkuri said. “This is not what we signed up for in America.”
Immigrants like Katkuri helped turn Virginia into a Democratic state that will take its first serious look at the need for new laws governing the sale and use of guns. The General Assembly is also expected to increase the minimum wage and work on improving health care benefits. Polls show a majority of Virginia residents support all of those legislative proposals.
Immigrants who came to our country to become American citizens helped make this possible. So did a majority of native Americans.
America was founded on the notion of diversity and inclusion. Maybe we can finally become such a nation.