Tuesday, May 11, 2021


Tom Hilton is right (and I'd say that even if he didn't mention me).

I'm thinking about this in connection with the Virginia governor's race, which is taking place this year. The state GOP just chose its nominees for governor and other statewide offices in a virtual convention, avoiding a primary, it appears, out of fear that primary voters would have chosen an extremely Trumpy candidate, like state senator Amanda Chase, who has called herself "Trump in heels" and who, among other things, urged Trump to declare martial law in order to prevent Joe Biden from being declared the winner of the presidential election; she also wears a gun on her hip on the floor of the Senate, and she's said that Derek Chauvin's murder conviction "makes me sick."

All of this would have made her a problematic gubernatorial candidate in a state Trump lost by 10 points. And yet Chase led in a couple of polls of would-be Republican primary voters.

The virtual convention, with far fewer voters than there would have been in a primary, chose Glenn Youngkin, a wealthy venture capitalist, as the gubernatorial nominee instead. And although Virginia is becomining bluer and bluer -- the state hasn't elected a Republican governor since 2009 -- Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report thinks Republicans have a shot this year.

Youngkin is no Amanda Chase. But he's not an old-school Republican moderate, either. The New York Times, for instance, expects him to run as a right-centrist, but can't help noticing that he really isn't one.
At the recent candidates’ forum, Mr. Youngkin aligned himself with Mr. Trump’s lies about a rigged 2020 election, declaring “voter integrity” a top issue and referring to Dominion voting machines — the subject of conspiracy theories on the far right — as “the most important issue” of the campaign.

He pledged to restore a state voter identification law, to replace the entire state board of education and to institute the “1776 Project,” a curriculum of “patriotic education” proposed by a commission established under Mr. Trump that has been derided by mainstream historians.

Although Mr. Youngkin is expected to pivot to reach independent voters, Democrats are sure to remind them in the fall of his most Trumpy declarations from the nominating race, and that he campaigned this month with one of his endorsers, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a bĂȘte noire of the left.
Yes, and he's certainly tried to appeal to all the right's grievances.

But if he spends as much money as most observers expect him to spend to rebrand himself as a mainstream guy, will the press let him get away with it?

That's an important question going into the elections over the next few years: Will Republicans get away with talking MAGA talk to MAGA people without being branded as extremists because their messages to everyone else sound relatively reasonable? And, ultimately, does it even matter whether an individual candidate talks the language of Trump and Tucker Carlson? Isn't the party so extreme overall that every party member deserves to wear the extremism as a scarlet letter?

As Tom says, Democrats ought to be branding the party right now, and for the foreseeable future. But the press needs to tell the truth about the party, too. The stink of Trumpism and Carlsonism is on all of them. The pre-Trump, pre-Carlson party was bad enough, but things are worse now. GOP candidates shouldn't be able to act as if nothing's wrong.

No comments: