Last night was one of the few pleasurable political moments that I have had since Trump won the presidency. I have little knowledge of the particular political virtues of Ralph Northam (the Democrat incumbent Virginia lieutenant governor), but his defeat of George W. Bush’s adviser and head of the Republican National Committee Ed Gillespie gladdened me. I know that establishment Republican Gillespie ran a Trump-like campaign (even if he kept a personal distance from Trump) that took a hard line on cultural issues like immigration, voting rights for felons, and preserving Confederate monuments, which culminated in his taking out multiple ugly ads portraying Northam as too soft on MS-13, a Latin American gang. In addition his campaign sent out a mailer referring to the NFL player protests that read: “You’d never take a knee … so take a stand on Election Day.” A characteristic Trumpian bit of ugliness — coupling racism and patriotism in its appeal.
Gillespie’s transformation into a campaigner where racial animus played a key role didn’t bring him enough rural Virginian votes to take the state, while Northam, succeeded in uniting Democrats’ centrist and progressive wings in his victory — although he upset the latter last week when he said he would be willing to sign a bill banning so-called sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants. Still, he did well, and seemed to have gained the support of most of Bernie Sanders’ supporters.
I am probably to the left of Northam, but since I have never been a political purist, I am willing to support any centrist candidate who can beat the Republicans.
Last night’s political victories are hopefully just a beginning in the resurrection of a Democratic Party (despite constant sniping about the reasons for the 2016 election loss). I know there is now a push to promote a bevy of first time candidates in local elections — many of them women. In the Virginia House of Delegates contests it seems to be paying off.
What one hopes for is that the political momentum is sustained, and some light appears amidst the darkness of sleaze, mendacity and reactionary politics that have enveloped our lives.