Virginia's Gubernatorial Race Will Show if Trumpism Can Survive Trump

If Ed Gillespie's foul campaign works, more conservatives will follow suit


One burning question since Trump arrived on the political scene is can Trumpism—a noxious combination of overt nativism and covert racism—survive

Ed Gillespie
Douglas Graham / Loudoun Now/Newscom

without him? The outcome of the gubernatorial race in Virginia might offer an answer tomorrow. Late in the game, the Republican candidate Ed Gillespie went whole-hog Trumpist even though his record thus far would have suggested that he is as far from a natural Trumpist as a politico can get. A former chair of the Republican National Committee, he is a fiscal conservative whose main flaw is that he makes milquetoast look enticing.

Yet he has embraced a campaign of fear mongering and fake rage against Hispanic criminal gangs and sanctuary cities while sticking up for Confederate monuments. This has earned him praise from Trumpist organ Breitbart (and revulsion from his former Republican friends). Given this platform:

Should he scrape a victory in this blue state that Hillary Clinton won—or even lose by a narrow margin—it'll be a signal that Trump's red meat strategy is a viable one. Usually, when Republicans have played the race card—say, George H.W. Bush's Willie Horton ad—they've done so somewhat hesitantly for fear of alienating suburban moms and social moderates who connect mostly with the GOP's economic message. But if Gillespie makes headway with this message—which it seems he is doing given that he has narrowed the gap with Northam considerably in the latest polls—the Republican takeaway will be that their problem in the past wasn't that they were too aggressive in stoking their red-meat base, but not aggressive enough. A new calculus will prevail where there is much more to be gained than lost by embracing Trumpism.

And what will the left's response be? A near-hysterical campaign of fear of its own about the future minorities face under Republicans.

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