The Republican Campaign in Virginia Is All About Preserving “Our” Confederate Statues

It’s not subtle anymore.

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Virginia will choose its next governor in less than two weeks. On the surface, the dynamics of the race seem pretty favorable for Democrats. The state is doing very well economically under Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is term-limited, and President Donald Trump is extremely unpopular. The Democratic nominee is McAuliffe’s second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. And the president’s party tends to do poorly in the first midterm and off-year elections.

So Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie has tried something different. Instead of awkwardly triangulating between his president and the opposition in any substantive way, he has simply adopted Trump’s campaign wholesale—by connecting Northam to a Latino gang, MS-13, and appealing desperately to white nationalists in the campaign’s final stretch.

To wit, Gillespie’s most recent campaign ad is the second spot this month that attacks Northam for proposing to take down Richmond’s memorials to Confederate generals. Over the summer, Northam called for the statues to be taken down after a white nationalist rally at a Confederate monument in Charlottesville ended in the murder of a counterprotester. (Northam has also sent mailers linking Trump and Gillespie to the Charlottesville white nationalists.)

“Ralph Northam will take our statues down,” the narrator says in the latest ad. “Ed Gillespie will preserve them.” Then Gillespie comes on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMpKbQULZZ0

It doesn’t take a degree from Wharton to understand who the “our” in that sentence is. “I’m for keeping ’em up, and he’s for taking ’em down,” the Republican says, driving home the point. “And that’s a big difference in November.”

Trump, for his part, understands exactly what’s going on:

Gillespie is from New Jersey. Trump is from Queens. If the Confederacy had had this kind of support up North during the Civil War, we might be living in a much different world.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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