This year, I have the privilege of being Virginia's 10th Congressional District Elector.
I consider this to be a rather incredible honor, and also an example of my family's story coming full circle, in a small way representing how my party and my nation has followed an arc of progress up to today.
Follow below the orange gothic graphic for an admittedly self-indulgent tale.
My name is Evan Macbeth, with a small “b,” just like the play. Because of that spelling quirk, I’m related to just about every “Macbeth” with a small b in North America. This includes my great-great-great-uncle, Charles Macbeth, who was a prominent Democrat in South Carolina in the mid 19th century.
In 1856, 156 years ago, he served as one of South Carolina’s 8 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Cincinnati. (Incidentally, that convention was called to order on June 2nd of that year, the same date as this year’s Virginia state Democratic Convention.) History reminds us that the 1856 Democratic Convention was highly contested and divided, with over a dozen ballots and state delegations switching loyalties until finally James Buchanan was nominated to be the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer. He would go on to become the last slavery President of the United States. My predecessor served on the Rules Committee of that convention (as I served on the Rules committee of the Virginia state convention 156 years, to the day, later) and at various points through the convention, supported three different candidates for the nomination until settling along with his delegation on James Buchanan.
In 1857, Charles Macbeth was elected Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, as a Democrat. He was mayor when that city started the Civil War. And he, as Mayor, surrendered the city to the 21st United States Colored Troops, an African-American regiment of the Union Army on February 18th, 1865. Change had come to the cradle of rebellion, and my family played its part.
(Incidentally, a descendent of PGT Beauregard and I had breakfast together in Leesburg, Virginia last week as part of an NPR Marketplace roundtable about the election. It seems likely our predecessors also had breakfast together at one point, given that Gen. Beauregard was in command of Charleston. Both of us descendants of Confederates were volunteers for President Obama this year.)
My ancestor exemplified the Democratic Party of the mid 19th century, and helped lead it. He also exemplified the flaws and errors of the nation and the Party of that era. To own another human being is unimaginably cruel to me today, but it was a commonplace injustice in my ancestor's era.
Today, I am Chair of my County Democratic Party in Loudoun County, Virginia. During the Civil War, Col. Mosby and his Rangers called this place home, and when school integration was mandated, Loudoun was a fierce participant in massive resistance. Today, it is a diverse, growing county of young families, and ground-zero of the exurban swing vote that decides national elections.
On May 12th, at the Democratic Party’s 10th Congressional District Convention, I was honored to have been elected as President Obama’s Elector for Virginia’s 10th District. That means, with President Obama's win Virginia this November (including a 7100 vote win in my own Loudoun County), this great-great-great-grandson of slaveholders, and Democrats, will have the privilege of going into the well of the Confederate Capitol in Richmond, and casting an Electoral College ballot for the re-election of the first African-American President of the United States, also a Democrat.
It is a testament to how far my family, my party, and my country have come that I have the opportunity to exercise this right. Because President Obama’s re-election is more than Change I Can Believe in, it is Change that I, my family, my party and my nation have lived.