In 2017, Republican Ed Gillespie lost Virginia's gubernatorial election to Democrat Ralph Northam by roughly nine percentage points. The chattering class assured voters that Northam was a moderate, while Democrats and the media endlessly accused the Gillespie campaign of running a racially-charged campaign. It's true that Gillespie, a mild-mannered mainstream conservative, did make a campaign issue out of confederate monuments (most Virginians agree with his stance), but the attacks from Democrats and their allies were wildly disproportionate. One ad in particular was memorable for its ugliness and vitriol, casting Gillespie voters as violent and menacing racists. Remember this?
Northam didn't pay a price for his racial tactics (he barely distanced himself from this appalling slander), riding anti-Trump sentiment to a fairly comfortable victory. A little over a year later, Northam's "moderate" image has taken a significant hit, with many voters recoiling at his shocking defense of a radical late-term abortion bill. During a radio interview, the governor appeared to excuse infanticide. His image suffered an additional and related blow, when a former medical school classmate -- reportedly disgusted by Northam's comments -- leaked Northam's former yearbook page, which included a photo of two men posing in blackface and a Klan hood. Northam at first acknowledged he was featured in the photo, then reversed himself, bizarrely attempting to claim it wasn't him. What's known for certain is that he personally selected the picture for his page, and that he's acknowledged wearing blackface in at least one other circumstance. Amid near-universal cries for his resignation among Virginia lawmakers of both parties, Northam has refused to step down, as has the state's Democratic Attorney General (who is also embroiled in a blackface scandal).
What does Gillespie make of all this? He's kept a low profile since losing the race, but one can imagine that he must harbor at least some strong temptation to spike the football on the man who repeatedly assailed his campaign as racist. Northam relied on heavy racial demagoguery to defeat Gillespie, and now Northam's governorship has become tainted by racism. Gillespie attended a recent event at the Heritage Foundation, during which the moderator put him on the spot (Gillespie was in the audience) by asking him to reflect on the mess at the top of his state's leadership. He handled his answer with extraordinary thoughtfulness and grace:
Many conservatives applauded this response, and rightly so. Dana Perino, who worked with Gillespie in the Bush administration, approvingly shared it on Twitter. Fox News analyst Brit Hume urged readers to watch the clip and "bear in mind that Ed Gillespie is the man Ralph Northam and his political allies sought to brand a racist." Writer Ben Domenech did not mince words: "If you want final proof that Virginia chose poorly, and that everyone who suggested Ed Gillespie was some kind of racist is an idiot, this is all you need." And David Marcus wrote that Gillespie's careful and considered reply amounted to a "master class on how Republicans should discuss racism:
Ed Gillespie, the former GOP candidate for governor in Virginia, not only tackled the question, he knocked the answer out of the park, and created a template for all conservatives. As we all know now, the Democrat who defeated Gillespie while painting Republicans as racists found himself mired in a blackface scandal. Ralph Northam will survive whatever role in racist 1980s Southern campus behavior he engaged in. That ought to tick off Gillespie, but when asked about it, he took no shots at Northam. Instead, he elucidated a nuanced approach to his state’s relationship to race that was absolutely admirable...The remarks are good, because they ask us to be our best...Good on Gillespie for pointing us all in the right direction.
This is a far healthier approach than Northam's desperate, power-clinging flailing, replete with an ostentatious 'wokeness re-education' regimen. Some of his cringeworthy apology tour has already gone off the rails. I'll leave you with an unsubtle, racially-tinged comment from Virginia's Democratic Lieutenant Governor, who faces allegations of sexual assault from two women:
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Embattled Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax compared himself to Jim Crow-era lynching victims in a surprise speech Sunday, as he resists widespread calls to resign prompted by allegations of sexual assault. https://t.co/eN0e2VomuP— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) February 24, 2019