Partisan politics aside, there was one morally satisfying implication from Ralph Northam’s decisive win over Ed Gillespie in the Virginia governor’s race last month: Had Gillespie won, in 2018 Republicans all over the country might have emulated his borderline racist ads about gang crime, ex-felon voting, and threatened Confederate monuments. This hatefest, after all, was widely thought to have pulled the normally boring Republican into contention after he nearly lost his primary to fire-breathing Trumpite Corey Stewart.
In his first interview (with David Axelrod) after losing to Northam, Gillespie was asked about the nasty ads, and you’d have thought he had nothing to do with them:
“Are those the issues I would have chosen to run on as opposed to the tax cuts and frankly even the criminal justice reform innovative proposals I put forward?” said Gillespie. “That’s what I’d rather the race had been about, but those weren’t what was indicating was going to move numbers and help me win.”
Gillespie said his campaign message about Virginia’s economy lagging didn’t resonate as well in the prosperous D.C. suburbs — which is why he had to focus on public safety to sway votes.
“The issue that looked like it was going to move voters in the suburbs of Northern Virginia was public safety,” he said. “Clearly, [the MS-13 ads] didn’t work. Did it create a backlash? I don’t think so. But I don’t know.”
After reading this, I went back and watched the first and arguably worst of these ads, which suggested that Northam was in cahoots with the Latino MS-13 gang, whose alleged “Kill, Rape, Control” slogan superimposed on images of gang members was injected into Virginia’s political bloodstream like a virus. Right there at the end appeared the legally required disclosure: “I’m Ed Gillespie, candidate for governor, and I sponsored this ad for a safer, stronger Virginia.”
Poor, sad Gillespie. He had to do this to “move numbers.” Could anyone blame him?
In the same interview, Gillespie blamed Donald Trump for obliterating the fine nuances of the Virginia candidate’s defense of Confederate monuments by calling it a matter of “heritage.”
“I never talked about defending heritage because that’s not how I see the issue or view it,” said Gillespie. “But when the president tweeted about it himself, he tweeted about heritage, and that injected it into the discussion in a way I would not and never did … but that tweet contributed to the — again, it polarized it even more.”
Here’s Gillespie’s own non-polarizing ad on the subject, in which he condemns his opponent for wanting to “take our statues down”:
Guess that’s another issue that Gillespie wishes he didn’t have to run on.
He says now he won’t run for office again. That’s good. The man doesn’t have the courage for the despicable convictions he appealed to in his last race.