Week in Alexandria

Shove Your Thanksgiving

Thanks but no thanks.

That was the reaction of Alexandria Gazette editor Edgar Snowden in 1876, when President Ulysses S. Grant issued a Thanksgiving proclamation. The idea of Thanksgiving as a federal holiday was something Abraham Lincoln came up with during the Civil War, and in the dark days of Reconstruction, city commerce became a way to resist Republican occupation.

“It would have needed a practiced eye to detect any appearance of thanksgiving among the passers on the streets,” Snowden observed in the Local Items section on Nov. 25, 1875. “Some of the schools of the city had holiday, and no business was transacted at the Corn Exchange.”

The Corn Exchange is the grand building at 100 King Street, infamous for an alleged curse that prevents businesses from staying open all that long. These days, it’s Mia’s Italian Kitchen. Back in the day, the large upstairs rooms with huge windows was the wholesale trading floor of the Corn Exchange, which must have struck Snowden as gauche federal overreach.

“The President’s Thanksgiving Day was observed here only partially, all the grafts of New England custom upon a Virginia stock having so far found but moderate growth,” Snowden explained.

Gerrymanderpalooza

Judges were once seen as a group of people who could operate beyond the realm of politics. From their ivory towers and wood-paneled chambers, they could take a fair and impartial look at things like redistricting. That was the thinking behind a proposed constitutional amendment creating a new commission to take the power of gerrymandering away from partisan politicians and put it in the hand of an independent judiciary.

Del. Mark Levine (D-45) disagrees.

He voted for the amendment last year; now he’s flipflopping. Levine says in a world where Bush v. Gore can determine an election and Brett Kavanaugh can sit on the Supreme Court, he rejects the idea that judges will make better mapmakers than elected officials in the General Assembly. Ultimately, he says, computers should draw the maps. Until that happens, he says, partisan politicians should continue to draw the maps.

“I can’t trust judges to be fair on the basis of the facts and the law anymore,” says Levine. “Those days, if they ever existed, they’re certainly gone now.”

Impeachment Divisiveness

Should President Donald Trump be impeached? The answer is an enthusiastic yes, according to the vast majority of speakers at an impeachment town hall conducted by U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8) at T.C. Williams High School. Speakers raised concerns about everything from emoluments and bribery to whistleblowers and foreign service professionals. A handful of speakers said it was all a deep state hoax perpetrated by people who hate the president.

“I was glad to see the opposite side out,” said Mike Webb, a Republican who waged an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination to run against Beyer last year. "Generally, the Republicans don’t come out. They don’t run for office. They don’t come to the polls. So it was good to see them here.”

Beyer explained that he’s been so busy with the day-to-day grind of Congress that people in the audience had probably seen more of the impeachment hearings than he had, although he’ll have a chance to catch up now that Congress is out of session for Thanksgiving. As for the hodgepodge of issues people brought up at the town hall, the congressman said there was a unifying thread tying them all together.

“If there’s one common theme,” said the congressman on the way out the door, "it was that we need to get over the divisiveness in our country.”

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