One of the two “national” elections this year is the Virginia Governor’s race. In Virginia, the Governor, Lt. Governor, and the Attorney General are all on the ballot. In a blue state that was once a swing state, the Democrats are favored. Indeed, based upon a whole host of factors, this election should have been an easy win for the Democrats in the era of Trump. As we head into the final week, polls have tightened, and the Virginia Election appears to be a referendum on decency.
Decency is in the eye of the beholder.
When I moved to the Commonwealth of Virginia with my wife 21 years ago, the decency, reserve, and gentility of Virginians struck me. I say that without reservation about politicians on both sides of the Isle. I saw the proof of it in my law school class as a student, later as a professor, and certainly across the Commonwealth as a lawyer. With some degree of deprecation, I always said all the kindness was hard for me to get used to as an Irish and Italian kid from New Jersey.
Like most of the country, political zealotry has gripped Virginia, and the disease of partisanship, anger, and division has broken out here in the Old Dominion too. It has created a wall of political religion through which reasonable voices cannot be heard, and over which decent people cannot climb.
Yes, I run a webpage called “committed conservative.” I am conservative. I also have innumerable friends who are not. I have supported personal friends on the other side of the political spectrum with money and kind words because I knew them to be decent people of sound values, even if they were wrong on some issues. That’s the responsible, decent, Virginian way.
For decent people, politics is about policy and making our communities better. For some people, sadly, politics is a religion, and anyone outside the tribe is an infidel.
Just several months ago, I had to unfriend a former colleague and great, liberal democrat. I didn’t unfriend him because of his views. I loved the debate. I unfriended him because his page was filled with angry strangers who attacked me daily simply for not being in the right tribe. And by attack, I mean his “friends” routines made allegations of racism and every other form of heartless, defamatory, and absurd charges. That is where we have headed here and nationally.
The decent among us are stuck trying to take cover from the vast avalanche of political indecency.
Still, Virginia is the home of the educated, community-oriented, civic-minded, decent voter. I am here to tell you, we still have large and strong numbers of those types of fine people on all side of the political spectrum.
The decent voters of Virginia will determine this election, and they will do it by examing the decency the candidates, parties, consultants, supporters, and their respective surrogates put before us.
For the Governor’s race, it looks like this:
Ralph Northam is not a great political candidate. He’s a southern Virginian, a doctor, and a veteran. He seems like a nice man. Ed Gillespie is a better politician. He is a voice of moderation and hardly a conservative boogeyman. He’s the least conservative GOP gubernatorial candidate or Governor we have had since I arrived in the Commonwealth. His appeal to voters is that moderation and decency. If these two men ran a race on their own decency, Virginians could be mighty proud and deeply conflicted on whom to pick. Heck, the race might actually come down to real issues and policies.
Unfortunately, consultants and special interests run races. Weak candidates trust them, and then the races turn nasty, dishonest, mean, and indecent as a result. Then they get worse.
This happens because consultants know that the decency factor doesn’t drive voters to the polls. That is, voters don’t come out to vote for your decency, anger, and division motivate them to come out and vote against you. Sure, 10-15% of the electorate is voting on pure issues and policy. The rest is voting on partisanship and anger.
We get the races and ads to which we respond.
For the decent voters of Virginia, this election is a test of the political consultant theorem. It is now a battle of indecency among the candidates who let this one get away from them.
Have you noticed that every single ad Northam runs mentions Mr. Trump? Of course, it does. Virginians are not Trump fans. He was buried here in the primary and the general election, and liberal Northern Virginia is the heart of the anti-Trump resistance. Ironically, the Northam campaign has been about running against what liberals consider the indecency and illegitimacy of Trump.
Gillespie was running on jobs and tax cuts. Then, he decided to run on the issue of immigration enforcement and a vote by Northam not to let local Virginia law enforcement cooperate with Federal authorities to combat violent, illegal aliens. I called this the MS-13 gamble, and in my piece, I laid out the strategy of both candidates. I have written pieces that hundreds of thousands have read. Few read that one, which I pretty much nailed.
The MS-13 gamble paid immediate dividends for Gillespie.
As a result of addressing this issue, polling showed a marked jump for Gillespie and a closing race. In addition, the Democrats showed tell-tale signs of a panic. They brought President Obama into Northern Virginia, and then they got the Washington Post on the case to try to debunk the MS-13 threat. The Post, unfortunately, proved that Fairfax County, a county with .004% of the US population had 14% of the MS-13 gang population in the entire country.
The MS-13 charge set off the left and began a cavalcade of charges of racism and anti-immigrant bias against Gillespie or anyone else who pointed out the facts. Still, Gillespie’s numbers improved.
This past week, an outside group called the Latino Victory Project ran the most obscene, racist, outrageous, ad I have seen in my adult life. I suppose it was meant to counter the MS-13 ads, which some strangely suggested were “anti-Hispanic.” Who on earth is not opposed to MS-13?
By every calculable measure, the ad in support of Northam has broken new political ground. In Virginia, it has taken us to a place of indecency we have not seen previously in our politics. This resulted in a startling revelation on our site.
My colleague, Ken Falkenstein, posted a piece about this ad. He’s a committed conservative and a man who epitomizes decency. He is an outspoken critic of President Trump, and he has criticized the GOP harshly for lurching into nationalism over conservative principles. Like good conservatives, we don’t always agree … but we always agree to debate the merits of issues. It’s a Virginia decency thing.
When I ran my piece on Northam and MS-13, Ken wrote me a short note to say he liked the piece, but he could not share it or get involved in this race. His reason was simple, Virginian, and human decency.
Five years ago, Ralph Northam saved the life of Ken’s son.
Yesterday, Ken was forced to break his vow because of the racist ad by the Northam supporters, and Northam’s failure to repudiate it were too much for Ken. A remarkable father and husband of a very special family, Ken was torn to pieces by this decision. For our regular readers, they know all about Ken and his family and his defense of and love for children.
When a man saves your son’s life, you can swallow nearly any level of political discord from him, no matter your own views. Somehow, the Northam team and its supporters managed to find a way to break that bond and violate that loyalty.
The sheer indecency of the ad cannot be ignored. It cannot be ignored by decent people, and it will not be ignored by decent people. In fact, just today, the Washington Post, and open cheerleader for Northam criticized the ad and Northam for not repudiating it. The question in this election is simple, how many decent people are there?
The decent among us are dwindling … and by that, I mean … those willing to cross partisan lines to simply say … enough. That is a small group, and soon we will meet in a phone booth.
I don’t know if this ad will truly backfire. The consultants probably have analytics that predict for any vote lost Mr. Northam will pick up votes among partisan true-believers. I hope those bastards are wrong this time, and I note with interest that the organization now has pulled the ad, though not apologized for it
I have enormous faith in the decency of Virginians. And, I know that many fine Virginians planned to vote with Northam as a show of their personal stand against the indecency of Trump. That makes this latest Northam gaff even more ironic and sad.
Northam wasn’t a great candidate, but he seemed like a decent man. Now he appears to be neither. I am wondering how strong the decency vein runs in Virginia political culture. If Northam loses, I think it might be remembered as the Falkenstein effect.
I am not saying that Ken’s column itself will reach hundreds of thousands and change partisan minds. It won’t. I am saying that I believe in Virginian decency. I think Virginia still has a remarkable core of decent people, and when they view this ad they will not be able to vote for Northam.
In the Virginia election, decency is the referendum.
Trump is not on the ballot here in Virginia, not in name. That leaves Virginians with the choice between the nice, moderate, lobbyist guy who wants to combat MS-13 and the pediatric neurosurgeon who wants you to believe Gillespie voters are driving around the Virginia suburbs with confederate flags and Gillespie bumper-stickers, hunting and harassing children of color.
Decent is as decent does.
Washington DC’s Fox five affiliate broke a story tonight based on this campaign filing shows that despite denials from the Northam camp and Northam about any knowledge of the racist, inflammatory ad, the Northam campaign has strong financial ties to the ad maker, the Latino Victory Fund.
The Fox 5 report ties the Northam campaign to the actual ad, undermining all of Northam’s denials. Fox 5 has not yet linked the explosive report from its live broadcast to its webpage, but when it does I will update with a link.
The Fox 5 story on Northam is here.
Author: Richard Kelsey
Richard Kelsey is the Editor-in-Chief of Committed Conservative.
He is a trial Attorney and author of a #11 best-selling book on Amazon written on higher education, “Of Serfs and Lords: Why College Tuition is Creating a Debtor Class”
Rich is also the author of the new Murder-Mystery series, “The ABC’s of Murder,” book one is titled, “Adultery.”
Rich is a former Assistant Law School Dean and Law Professor. At Mason Law Kelsey conceived of, planned, and brought to fruition Mason’s Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property, known as CPIP, drawing on his expertise as a former CEO of a technology company specializing in combating cyber-fraud.
In 2014 he was elected by the graduating class as the faculty speaker at their graduation.
He is a regular commentator on legal and political issues in print, radio and on TV. Rich has appeared on hundreds of stations as a legal expert or political commentator. He provided the legal analysis for all stages of the Bob McDonnell trial and appeal for numerous outlets including NPR and WMAL.
Rich also writes on occasion for the American Spectator and CNSNews.com.
In his free time, Rich is part of the baseball mafia of Northern Virginia, serving on numerous boards and as a little league and travel baseball coach.
His Twitter handle is @richkelsey.