What's Wrong With "Compassionate Conservatism"?

Letter From Virginia

When my family and I moved to Purcellville nearly ten years ago, I was surprised by how much traffic came through our little town. Purcellville had a population of less than 2,000 then, and the Old Colonial Highway, which doubles as the town's Main Street, began piling up well before 6:00 A.M. on the weekdays, a steady stream of trucks and cars crowding the two-lane road on their way to the new highway. Route 7, which leads to Washington, D.C., and its environs. By the hundreds and thousands, the economic nomads from the rural Blue Ridge area and their poorer relations from West Virginia poured through town, stopping off for gas and coffee at the 7-Eleven and its rival, the Amoco station, both situated at the crossroads between Purcellville and Lincoln. Many of these folks' ancestors made a living as farmers (and, later, as coal miners) in an era that now seems as remote as the Middle Ages, but the descendants of the mountain people have survived by working on construction sites, driving trucks, and performing other assorted blue-collar jobs. They are mostly employees now, not the yeomanry Jefferson correctly saw as the only real bulwark of a republic. Still, it's a living. Many West Virginia counties, in particular, depend on the influx of dollars from those jobs to survive, if not to prosper.

In my memory, the fate of the American working class is now connected with those lines of predawn headlights and the sights and...

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