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

It’s not subtle anymore.

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.

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.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.