VA Election: Gillespie Loss Proves Establishment Dead, Dems Still in Trouble, By guest contributor Anthony J. Fani
The Virginia election pitted establishment lackey Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie against Democratic challenger Ralph Northam. Gillespie has campaigned proudly for the Bush family and establishment golden boy Sen. Marco Rubio in the past. A career beltway insider who rejected Trumpism, Gillespie found himself predictably on the losing side for the second time, despite the fact the Democratic Party remains in complete disarray.
In the closing weeks of the campaign, polls showed Gillespie struggling. It was only in the final few weeks that he began to gain ground, but only after desperately stealing pages out of Trump’s populist playbook. However, the voters knew he didn’t embody the newly adopted principles. The result: utter defeat.
The coalition of working class voters who put Trump over the top stayed home, unconvinced and unmotivated to cast their ballot for a Beltway-approved candidate turned pseudo populist for governor. Despite pundits’ claims, Gillespie’s loss is not a signal of Trump’s unpopularity, but an ominous warning of his staying power and the populist ideology attached to Trumpism in the search for the soul of the GOP.
As decrepit elements of the party, including congressmen Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and Bob Goodlatte go on to retire, the vacuum for a transformative ideological swing within the party will broaden. One year after Trump’s electrifying ascension to the White House, the civic nationalist paleo-conservative ideological strain is cementing itself within the voting base.
While general elections have higher turnouts, Trump had over half a million more Virginian votes than Gillespie, a critical indication that something more happened here. Northam outperformed Hillary Clinton’s general election performance by a few percentage points, lending evidence to how awful a candidate she truly was.
Upon further inspection of Northam’s past, he has admitted to voting for George W. Bush twice in past presidential elections. Northam is from a rural portion of the state. He is a doctor by trade and attended a military college. All indicators point to a likely affiliation with the Republican Party. Northam appears to be quite moderate.
The reality is that Democrats had to run a de facto Republican to secure a gubernatorial victory. In fact, Northam was booed off the stage following his victory in Virginia by nascent progressive elements of the Democratic Party who are highly critical of Northam’s support of a ban on sanctuary cities.
The Democrats can still win with moderate candidates, but their future party leaders, who obsess with identity politics, will continue to reject them. This is an enormous long-term problem for Democrats, who saw working class white voters abandon their party in droves in the 2016 presidential election.
In the end, the Democrats’ election victory in Virginia reveals very little, if anything at all, about Trumpism. Gillespie wasn’t a Republican populist in the mold of Trump, and Democrats resorted to running a moderate candidate much of their base is unhappy with. Had Republicans picked a better candidate, the race in this blue state would have likely been much closer.
Anthony Fani (full bio here) graduated from The George Washington University cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history. While in college, Anthony interned with several Republican congressmen and think tanks in Washington, DC.
Editor’s Note: Guest contributions represent a wide array of views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the New Revere Daily Press. Many of the views presented by contributors contradict those of NRDP.
PHOTO: Ed Gillespie. Photo by Gage Skidmore.