Thursday, June 14, 2018

Corey Stewart Could Endanger Other Virginia Republicans

As a former Republican and activist within the Republican Party of Virginia, the selection of Corey Stewart as the party senate nominee underscores the sad reality that the Virginia GOP has become as insane as a rabid dog. As recently as 15-20 years ago, Stewart would have been hard put to be elected to a a city or county committee.  Back then, of course, moderates were still the norm within the Party.  Now, with evangelical Christian extremists and white supremacists (the two groups are difficult to differentiate) controlling the base, insanity and bigotry are the norm.  One can only hope that Stewart goes down to a horrific defeat and kills the delusional myth that Republicans have not won statewide office in Virginia for nearly a decade because their candidates were "too liberal."  Two pieces look at the likely consequences of Stewart's selection.  One is found in Bearing Drift, a conservative site, which argues there is no conservative case for supporting Stewart and refers to Stewart as the "Gauleiter of Prince William County" (for Fox News viewers, "gauleiter" is a political official governing a district under Nazi rule), and the other is in the New York Times.  First highlights from Bearing Drift:
Back in February 2014, I penned a piece warning about the rise of the nativist alt-right in Republican politics. . . . The Republican Party of Virginia . . . . has descended into a parody of itself, finally lifting from the dust the battle standard of Massive Resistance and waving it proudly in the hands of one man: Corey Stewart.
Let us be clear where things stand.  Our chairman, John Whitbeck, is best known for his jokes about Jewish people at party gatherings.  For an unprecedented 11 times, Whitbeck defended Fredy Burgos, a man whose anti-Semtism and fondness for Augusto Pinochet were abundantly clear, but never worthy of countenance until this publication forced his hand.  Yet while removed by State Central Committee by a margin so close as to be an embarrassment unto itself, Burgos was in fact rewarded for his troubles, earning a role as vice chairman of the Fairfax GOP, a full 1/8th of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The litany of stupid and the obtuse only becomes worse.  The current executive director proudly boasts of how Governor Northam has betrayed his “heritage” on social media and openly shares material from known alt-right operatives.  . . . members and activists have abandoned the party in droves.
It gets worse.  Proudly, the alt-right brags about electing two Republican congressmen (Brat and Garrett), proudly they take photos next to our candidates pledging themselves to their cause (Stewart), and the mewling from erstwhile conservatives in protest is barely audible — protecting access to power over their own conscience, excusing weakness for prudence.  It’s folly.
In 1993 nearly 25 years ago.  Back then, the Republican Party was the party of free minds, free ideas, and a free society.  Free speech was sacrosanct; free trade was the pillar that destroyed Soviet communism.  Around it all was a wholesale commitment to family and the American entrepreneurial spirit — that equality of outcome could never be guaranteed, but equality of opportunity was our first and foremost responsibility as a polity. So when is it enough? Was it enough when in 2014 Dave Brat abased himself before the likes of — the self-declared mouthpiece of the alt-right?  Was it enough when the alt-right spiked the football in 2016 with cries of “Hail Trump!” as they celebrated their election night win?  Was it enough when in 2017 they earned invitations to town halls in Charlottesville?  Was it enough when three people — two of whom were Virginia State Troopers — died during the August 2017 alt-right rallies in Charlottesville?
Is it enough now when their groomed and chosen candidate — financed by the likes of Chris Ekstrom and run by Rick Shaftan — rides the wave of white nationalism?  To a party nomination contest?  And wins?
Let’s be clear about what happened.  The future of the Republican Party of Virginia fought the past, and lost. 
For 25 years, I have believed — perhaps erroneously — that the Republican Party was the best home for my beliefs as a conservative, as a Virginian, and as a Catholic. With the nomination of Corey Stewart?  That is now an impossibility.
[W]hatever the threat political socialism presents to the American republic, the answer cannot, is not, and never will be white nationalism.  My children deserve a better future than this; their children deserve a better future.  If the great story of America is to be abruptly ended in a syrup of debt and moral relativism, I would much rather go down standing athwart history yelling STOP! rather than participate in the moral contagion of a once great party. [W]e are watching in real time as the party of freedom descends into a party of rank and bitter nationalism. . . . So unless you stand up and do something now? Get used to this sound and become comfortable with its grip.  It will have you and the people you love by the throat soon enough.
The sound referred to is a clip of a Hitler Youth singing "The World Belongs to Me."  I suspect many more will be exiting from the Republican Party of Virginia.

The piece in the New York Times looks at Stewart's ugly history and the possible reverberations for others on the GOP ticket in November.  Here are excerpts:
He [Corey Stewart] once stood proudly before a Confederate flag, declaring it was not a symbol of hatred, but “about our heritage.” After the march of torch-carrying white supremacists in Charlottesville last year, which led to the death of a counterprotester, he criticized “weak Republicans” who “couldn’t apologize fast enough.”
As officials around Virginia have grappled with whether to remove Confederate statues, he has compared those politicians to leaders of the Islamic State. Now Corey Stewart, a county official who for years has played to the hard-right fringe, captured the Republican nomination for Senate in Virginia.
He did so in a low-turnout primary on Tuesday when many centrist Republicans apparently stayed home, unhappy with a three-way race among candidates all professing strong loyalty to President Trump and given to fiery culture war pronouncements.
[Stewart] received a congratulatory overnight tweet from the president, who called Mr. Stewart’s Democratic opponent, Senator Tim Kaine, “a total stiff.”
Tellingly, though, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party’s campaign arm, said it would not support Mr. Stewart, who lags far behind Mr. Kaine in fund-raising and has a history of cozying up to white supremacists and anti-Semites that threatens to make him an albatross for down-ballot Republicans. . . . The real worry for national Republicans — and the hope for Democrats — is that Mr. Stewart’s nomination may cost some incumbent Republicans in Virginia their seats in Congress.
“For the G.O.P. candidates in the down-ballot House races in Virginia, having Stewart on the ticket is going to be a very tough challenge,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. “Somehow they will need to separate themselves from the more extreme elements of his message, while at the same time not alienating the Trump Republicans whose votes will be needed.”
Virginia Democrats quickly moved to join Mr. Stewart at the hip to other Republicans in competitive House races.  “There is no place to hide — you are either running with Corey Stewart and you condone his vile politics, or you don’t,” said Susan Swecker, the state Democratic chairwoman.
Mr. Stewart could especially hurt Representative Barbara Comstock, a Republican defending a seat in affluent Northern Virginia that is emblematic of how the state has been shifted from its once-fixed Republican moorings by an influx of immigrants and college-educated professionals.
The center of gravity for the Republican Party in the state has shifted “from the country club to the country,” as one Republican strategist, Tom Davis, put it.  “Every candidate will be asked if they support Stewart,” said Mr. Davis, a former congressman from Virginia. “This is more nuanced than the media would have you believe, but in high-education areas, it is a killer.”
 If the turnout pattern repeats in November, at least two other Republican House members besides Ms. Comstock could also be in trouble: Dave Brat and Scott Taylor. “Stewart’s fearmongering and division-sowing campaign will turn many Virginians to the Democratic ticket,” said Schuyler VanValkenburg, a Democratic state legislator who lives in Mr. Brat’s district, the Seventh.
Mr. Taylor, a former Navy SEAL who represents the Second District, centered on Virginia Beach, will face Elaine Luria, a former Navy commander.  “My opponent will either embrace Corey Stewart, be silent or distance himself from him,” Ms. Luria said in an interview. “Virginia favors equality, diversity and economic opportunity for all. Corey Stewart’s race-baiting rhetoric is offensive to everybody in Virginia.”
In January 2017, Mr. Stewart met with and praised Paul Nehlen, an outspoken anti-Semite who is now making his second run for Congress in Wisconsin. Mr. Stewart was also endorsed last year by the white nationalist Jason Kessler, who later helped organize the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

It is pitiful - and frightening - what the Republican Party of Virginia has become.

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