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SCOTT DREYER: “Red” Herring Gets the Pink Slip (Part 1) 

If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools. – Plato

As an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, I enjoy seeing my students get a kick out of English sayings like, well, “get a kick out of something,” etc. (I recently explained Terry McAuliffe’s remark “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” with the idiom “stirring up a hornets’ nest.”)

Another common idiom is “red herring” which refers to anything fake or misleading that is designed to distract attention from a real subject. The phrase has an intriguing origin. Herring are small ocean fish that, in the days before refrigeration, were salted and smoked till they took on a reddish color. Allegedly, English fox hunters would sometimes drag a red herring (if a dead fox or cat were unavailable) across the ground to train the hounds to follow the scent. 

“Red herrings” in the US today abound. Here are just a few:

  • President Biden on Day One in office cancelled the US Keystone Pipeline in order to fight “climate change,” yet he is now begging OPEC and China to boost oil production. 
  • While some people are arguing about pronouns, prices for almost everything are going through the roof, putting a terrible squeeze on those on fixed incomes. 
  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and many other Democrats rail against racism and argue for removing Confederate war memorials and renaming streets and military bases etc., yet Sen. Kaine and his family chose to live on CONFEDERATE AVENUE in Richmond for 28 years. 
  • Some voices in the media and politics (often two sides of the same coin) blame the GOP victories in Virginia this month on “racism” but those same voters elected the Old Dominion’s first black woman lieutenant governor and Hispanic attorney general. Also, those same voices condemning Virginia’s recent election results were strangely silent for those 28 years while Kaine lived on CONFEDERATE AVENUE…first as a school board member, then Mayor of Richmond, then Virginia Governor, and now US Senator. Kaine likes to boast about how he has never lost an election. With such a compliant media in his pocket, no wonder.  

You get the drift.

Nowadays in America “red” refers to conservative or Republican, while “blue” refers to liberal or Democrat. However, it was not always that way. From the Russian Communist Revolution of 1917 until the end of the Cold War around 1991, “red” denoted Communism and leftism. Hence, we had references to “the Soviet Red Army,” “the Red Scare,” “Red China,” etc.

Therefore in light of his leftwing politics, and his own craftiness for misleading the public with specious issues, I find “Red” a fitting nickname for outgoing Virginia Attorney (AG) General Mark Herring.  

Herring, from Northern Virginia, won his first statewide race in 2013. In what should serve as a double lesson that A.) voting is important and B.) Virginia is a closely-divided state politically, Herring narrowly won that race over his GOP challenger Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg). On election night, out of almost 2.2 million votes cast, unofficial tallies showed Obenshain beating Herring by less than 1,000 votes. However, after more votes “trickled in,” Herring was over Obenshain by 165 votes. Due to the tiny margin, the state paid for a recount that ultimately named Herring as the winner by 907 votes. Keep in mind, this was out of some 2.2 million ballots cast. 

(As further evidence of how some elections can be so razor-thin, in 2005 Bob McDonnell (R) ran against Creagh Deeds (D) for attorney general, and out of over 1.9 million ballots cast, McDonnel narrowly won by 360 votes.)

In 2013, as I remember, Virginia did not yet require photo ID to vote. I am not claiming fraud, but I find it interesting that no photo IDs were required that year; the margin was razor-thin; the GOP candidate was ahead on election night; but in the end, the Democrat won. It was painful for me to watch, and I remember two elections in Washington State and the Minnesota Al Franken-Norm / Coleman Senate race where the Republican was winning on election night, then more votes trickled in here and there, recounts, and lo and behold, the Dem was finally declared the winner.  

But Herring won the AG race in 2013 and again in 2017. Notably, at least twice when Herring–white, by the way–ran for that position, he defeated a black challenger in the Democrat primary. Maybe I did not catch them, but I do not remember howls from the corporate media about “racism” in Herring’s primary victories. 


What does “Red Herring” mean and where does it come from? 

The incredibly close 2013 election 

–Scott Dreyer

Scott Dreyer M.A. in his classroom. Dreyer, of Roanoke, has been a licensed teacher since 1987 and now leads a team of educators teaching English and ESL to a global audience. Their website is

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