Virginia’s Confederate history is again at the center of the State’s electoral politics. Republican Gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie vowed to preserve monuments in a new ad for an election CNN is calling a “culture war.”
“I’m for keeping ’em up,” Gillespie tells Virginia voters in the ad, launched Wednesday, adding, in reference to his general election opponent Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, “and he’s for taking ’em down. That’s a big difference in November.”
By contrast, Northam told a Richmond, VA, radio station, in August, that, with regards to that city’s Civil War monuments, “I will do everything that I can, that I have authority to do to remove the statues at the state level.”
Incumbent Democrat Terry McAuliffe, under whom Northam has faithfully served, has been among the nation’s leading anti-Confederate monuments officials, calling them “symbols of hatred.” He repeatedly pushed for their removal, despite Virginia law not granting him that power.
In the 1861-65 war, Virginia was host to the Confederate Capitol and the home of many of the South’s greatest leaders, including Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, and Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. The state is littered with monuments to these men and memorials to the tens of thousands of other sons of Virginia who perished in Confederate service. These statues have, in recent years, become greater and greater targets of leftist fury – with activists, and now politicians, working to erase the historical memory of the Confederacy from Virginia’s public places.
On Thursday, the monuments issue caused CNN’s Eric Bradner to claim, “The Virginia governor’s race has turned into a culture war.”
Bradner notes President Trump’s support for Gillespie, citing his monuments stance.
Ed Gillespie will turn the really bad Virginia economy #'s around, and fast. Strong on crime, he might even save our great statues/heritage!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 26, 2017
On the other side of the campaign, Democrats have fallen back on trying to link Gillespie to “hate” and racism, distributing mailers superimposing Gillespie and Trump above an image from August’s torchlight white nationalist march in Charlottesville. Gillespie’s campaign manager called the move a “new low”:
— Eric Wilson (@ericwilson) October 25, 2017
Gillespie has stated that “white supremacists have no place in Virginia.” The Northham flyer makes no attempt draw a logical, ideological, or causal link between Gillespie and the “Unite the Right” rally, or racism more generally, but CNN’s Bradner posits the “basis” for the ad is Gillespie’s not sufficiently condemning President Trump’s entirely accurate remarks following the Charlottesville rally.
The president, to the chagrin of substantially all the mainstream media and a great mass of both major parties’ political establishments, claimed, in effect, that many people attending the rally, ostensibly to defend Charlottesville’s Confederate monuments, were not “white supremacists” or “neo-Nazis” and that leftist counter-protesters, including “Antifa” gangs, shared responsibility for the violence.
Meanwhile, another Virginia Democratic Party campaign flyer came under fire for conspicuously omitting their black nominee for Lt. Governor, Justin Fairfax. In earlier flyers, Fairfax had appeared, in proper order of precedence, between white Gubernatorial nominee Northam and Mark Herring, the also white attorney general candidate. As the race neared its conclusion, and polls put Gillespie up by as much as eight points over Northam, flyers reportedly distributed in Northern Virginia showed only Northam and Herring, creating the impression of an all-white ticket. The Northam campaign claims it created the Fairfax-free flier at the behest of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, who endorsed him and Herring, but not Fairfax.