Archive for November 8th, 2017

Let’s Dance

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Wake Up And Smell The Klan

Essentially, Gillespie turned the Virginia gubernatorial race into a cultural war, much as Trump did with the 2016 election. The ads were disgraceful: Gillespie’s “Kill, Rape, Control” ad falsely warning that “Northam cast the deciding vote in favor of sanctuary cities” and, therefore, the MS-13 gang. The reckless ads casting Northam as protector of “sex offenders” and “convicted sexual predator[s].” And Gillespie’s ad about Confederate statues: “I’m for keeping ’em up, and he’s for taking ’em down.”

Views on race were perhaps the clearest predictor of how Virginians voted. Ninety-seven percent of those who trusted Northam more on race, exit polls showed, supported him. For Gillespie the number was 98 percent. Gillespie did have a 44-point advantage among the 57 percent of Virginians who want Confederate monuments to stay—but Northam had a whopping 83-point advantage among the 38 percent who want them down.

Gillespie’s campaign shows even more clearly than the Trump victory did that, among Trump (and Gillespie) supporters, racial animus and cultural grievances are a greater factor than conventional issues such as economic well-being.

After Trump’s win in 2016, many Trump-friendly analysts ridiculed the establishment elites, in the Washington swamp, for failing to appreciate the economic troubles in rural, Middle America that Trump recognized. But national study after study since then has reached similar conclusions: Economic factors were secondary to cultural factors among Trump supporters, particularly hostility to immigrants and racial and religious minorities.

In Virginia, there was a pure test of this. Its 3.7 percent unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country, and a large majority of Virginians say the local economy is good. And Gillespie is the very epitome of the Washington swamp: party boss, K Street lobbyist, Capitol Hill and White House staffer. He was even once a Senate parking-lot attendant. What was left to Gillespie, then, were mostly the cultural issues—and Trump voters embraced him anyway. Among the 40 percent in exit polls who approved of Trump’s job performance, fully 91 percent voted for Gillespie.

Dana Milbank


When I Worked

November 2017
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