The leftist organization Democracy For America (DFA) officially unendorsed Virginia Democratic candidate for governor Ralph Northam on Thursday, attacking his “racist” campaign. Northam has tarred his Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, as a “genocidal” white supremacist, but DFA said Northam was doing too much to “cave … to a virulently racist Republican campaign.”
That’s right, DFA unendorsed Northam for not calling Ed Gillespie racist enough. They also attacked the Democrat himself as racist.
DFA noted that Northam had previously taken the “racist action” of removing his party’s black candidate for lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, from roughly a thousand pieces of campaign literature. After this, DFA removed Northam’s name from Get-Out-the-Vote calls, “but, for the sake of Democratic comity, we refrained from publicly discussing that decision.” No more.
After “seeing Northam play directly into the hands of Republicans’ racist anti-immigrant rhetoric on sanctuary cities, we refuse to be silent any longer and even remotely complicit in the disastrous, racist, and voter-turnout-depressing campaign Ralph Northam appears intent on running,” DFA Executive Director Charles Chamberlain declared Thursday.
For context: Gillespie attacked Northam on his record of stopping a ban on sanctuary cities. The Republican tied the Democrat to an uptick in violence from notorious gang MS-13.
Northam, revealing utter desperation, launched a mailer directly tying Gillespie (and President Donald Trump) to the white nationalist rioters in Charlottesville this past summer.
This was an utterly vile attack, considering Gillespie’s immediate condemnation of the racist rioters.
“Having a right to spew vile hate does not make it right,” Gillespie said in a response to the Charlottesville riots. “It is painful to see these ugly events in Charlottesville last night and today. These displays have no place in our Commonwealth, and the mentality on display is rejected by the decent, thoughtful, and compassionate fellow Virginians I see every day.”
Even so, Northam’s campaign and the Virginia Democratic Party launched the mailer, and Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe defended the mailer.
“I think the hatred and bigotry that we saw … the hatred, the white supremacy, the KKK, the alt-right is the same divisive Trump politics that Ed Gillespie is using in his ads today,” McAuliffe said last week. But he went even further: “There is no difference. They are bringing hatred, fear, bigotry to our state.”
Perhaps ironically, neither Northam nor McAuliffe have defended the Charlottesville attack on the grounds that Gillespie supports preserving Civil War monuments (even though he made it clear Virginia was “on the wrong side of history” at the time). Perhaps they realize that 57 percent of Virginians also support keeping the monuments. Does this mean a majority of Virginians are genocidal racists?
This attack would be utterly vile and beyond the pale, even if it had stopped there. However, this past week Northam defended an even worse attack, even after the group launching it had removed it from the Internet.
The leftist group Latino Victory Fund (LVF) launched an ad on Saturday branding Gillespie supporters as “genocidal” racists. The brief video depicted a group of minority children running from a pickup truck with an Ed Gillespie bumper sticker. As the truck closes in, clearly about to run over the kids, a voiceover asks, “Is this what Donald Trump and Ed Gillespie mean by ‘the American dream?'”
The closing shot featured a man who looked like Gillespie watching footage of the riots in Charlottesville.
The editors at The Roanoke Times put it well: “The ad suggests that Gillespie supporters are racist vigilantes who want to run down minority kids.” Just like Hillary Clinton’s infamous “basket of deplorables” comment, the ad harshly condemned everyone who would support a Republican. “Umm, that’s a lot of Virginians right there who are being called not just homicidal but genocidal.”
Any candidate should forthrightly condemn such a vile ad. Instead, when asked his opinion on it, Northam equivocated.
While the Democrat insisted he would never run such a campaign, he argued that Gillespie “has run a campaign of negativity, of divisiveness … and it’s been very offensive to a lot of communities in Virginia and these communities have responded, and that’s their right.”
He offered this defense after LVF had already pulled the ad. Financial disclosures might reveal why.
Northam’s campaign actually reported the ad as an “in-kind donation” from the LVF.
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) November 2, 2017
Phil Kerpen pointed out that under Virginia law, “to qualify as an in-kind contribution, the candidate or an agent of the candidate’s campaign committee must have either expressly requested or suggested to the person or committee that the expenditure be made.” Northam for Governor did officially accept the ad as an in-kind contribution.
In the hubbub over the unspeakably horrible LVF ad, Northam altered his position on sanctuary cities, promising that, if a bill banning sanctuary cities were to reach his desk as governor, he would sign it.
Ironically, this comparatively minor issue proved to be the last straw for DFA. The leftist group declared that, if Northam loses the election Tuesday, blame should fall on “consultants who urged the campaign to cave on core Democratic values in the face of a virulently racist Republican campaign — and whose obsession with flipping white, Republican-leaning votes and ignoring voters of color has consistently failed.”
Northam has really gotten himself into a pickle. He chose to double — if not triple — down on the logic that Ed Gillespie is a genocidal white supremacist, an attack he launched to distract from Gillespie’s MS-13 ads. Meanwhile, he used the hubbub to hide his reversal from supporting sanctuary cities to opposing them, finally invalidating the MS-13 ads (but, of course, Northam’s record is still in favor of sanctuary cities).
Ironically, this slight step of moderation — which theoretically cost Northam effectively nothing, compared to the apology he should make for tarring Gillespie as a white supremacist — ended up costing Northam DFA support, and leaving the impression that he has “ignored” “voters of color.”
DFA also comes out of this looking foolish, however. While the criticism of Northam removing black candidate Justin Fairfax might be fair, calling Northam a “racist” for flip-flopping on sanctuary cities is unfair and extreme.
DFA was founded by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean in 2004, and it is headquartered in South Burlington, Vt. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the leftist group backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2016 Democratic primary.
This leftist organization’s attack on Northam might end up branding this Democrat candidate as an establishment/crooked Hillary Clinton type. The group certainly has positioned itself as the purist “progressive” champion of minorities, suggesting Northam is a false friend to people of color.
The darkly ironic situation? Northam, while attacking Gillespie as a white racist, has also alienated people of color. The very voting bloc he intended to win by falsely connecting Gillespie to Charlottesville turns on him — because he was trying to cover up the MS-13 attack, which inspired his desperate white supremacist angle in the first place.
Northam deserves to lose next Tuesday. It is important for Virginians to send the message that these Charlottesville-style attacks are beyond the pale. But DFA also deserves to lose its gubernatorial candidate — a sentence it has declared for itself.
All Gillespie has to do at this point is sit back and keep the Republicans together. No matter how bad his MS-13 ads, they cannot compare to Northam’s vitriol.