|Charlottesville - August 12, 2017|
Virginia's 2018 election for U.S. Senator is going to be a moment of truth, if you will, for a number of Republican "friends." With the Trump/GOP tax cuts having destroyed any shred of a fig leaf argument that the GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility, Trump trashing free trade, and destroying safety regulations, support for the Republican Party is boiling down to one thing: white nationalism. Now, these "friends" who view themselves as moral, refined and educated will have to decide if they are going to vote for Corey Stewart, an avowed Neo-Confederate loved by white supremacists and the Al-Right. Will they define themselves by politically aligning with these frightening, racist elements? Will they at last tacitly admit that they are racists by voting for Stewart? A lengthy piece in the New York Times looks at Stewart and the ugly company he keeps. My Republican "friends" need to read the article and know that the rest of us will know the truth about them if the back Stewart. Here are article highlights:
Corey Stewart stands at the end of a long driveway that leads back in time, to his 18th century plantation manor hidden in woods behind a modern housing development. Mr. Stewart, the Republican Senate nominee from Virginia, treats the brick home like a living museum, complete with buttons from Redcoats, a Civil War soldier’s belt buckle and a room dedicated to George and Martha Washington, who were once visitors.
Mr. Stewart has styled himself as a champion of the Confederacy and its statues, and, as he puts it, “taking back our heritage.”
This has made him a popular figure with white nationalists, much to the horror of many Virginia Republicans. While Mr. Stewart has disavowed some on the extreme right, interviews with dozens of his friends, colleagues, supporters and fellow Republicans yielded a portrait of a political opportunist eager to engage the coarsest racial fringes of his party to advance his Trumpian appeal.
Some white nationalists volunteer for Mr. Stewart’s campaign, and several of his aides and advisers have used racist or anti-Muslim language, or maintained links to outspoken racists like Jason Kessler, the organizer of last year’s violent rally in Charlottesville, Va. Mr. Stewart has not distanced himself from those aides.
[A] profound political dilemma of the Trump era is whether to support the growing number of candidates like Mr. Stewart who make racially divisive remarks — particularly about immigrants — and back causes that are championed by white nationalists.
PresidentTrump’s own language and policies have energized Mr. Stewart and other far-right candidates, and Mr. Trump has high approval ratings from Republicans, but it is not clear how many rank-and-file voters will embrace like-minded politicians like Mr. Stewart.
Sitting in the living room of the historic brick home he bought in 2012, Mr. Stewart praised
PresidentTrump’s statement that there were “very fine people on both sides” at the Unite the Right white nationalist protests in Charlottesville last August. . . . He does not accept that slavery was at the heart of the Civil War. . . . He contended that the term “white supremacist” was a concoction of the left.
In an extraordinary sign of discomfort with Mr. Stewart, some Republicans have been eager behind the scenes to provide opposition research aimed at discrediting him, with disaffected party members circulating racially inflammatory tweets and Facebook postings authored by one of Mr. Stewart’s advisers.
Shaun Kenney, former state party executive director, lamented that “the alt-right has taken over the Virginia Republican Party.” After Mr. Stewart secured the nomination in June, John C. Whitbeck, Jr., the party chairman who once accused Mr. Stewart of “racist” language, resigned.
But many Republican leaders haven’t publicly disavowed Mr. Stewart, mindful that Mr. Trump is supporting him, and that [Trump]
the presidenthas strong influence with the party base . . .
Virginia has not elected a Republican statewide since 2009 and voted for Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump in 2016. With its strong economy and elite public university system, Virginia has become a symbol of Southern moderation and tolerance, but the far right sees an ally in Mr. Stewart who will push back against the leftward drift and demographic changes underway in the state.
He also refashioned himself as a booster of the Confederacy, especially in his unsuccessful 2017 race for governor. He has appeared at the Old South Ball, an antebellum-dress event in Danville, and likened his own political crusade to that of Confederate rebels. “You’ve got this guy who is a transplant coming into Virginia trying to out-Southern folks who’ve been here for 400 years,” said Brian Schoeneman, a Fairfax Republican and former legislative candidate.
Over the years, Mr. Stewart became increasingly outspoken. He dismissed one Republican rival as a “cuckservative” and assailed David Hogg, the teen gun control activist, as “that punk” who has “been brainwashed.” He became an ardent defender of Alabama’s Roy Moore amid allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls. “I think they all disappeared since, didn’t they?” he said of Mr. Moore’s accusers. (They have not.)
At a board meeting this summer, one that Mr. Stewart did not attend, several speakers blamed him after Klan fliers landed on local lawns. “This isn’t a coincidence that this happened in my neighborhood,” said Maggie Hansford, a local teacher who has decided to run for a board seat. “Our chairman can’t stop talking about the Confederate flag.”
A “Corey Stewart for Senate” sign flanks the gravel driveway leading to George and Donna Randall’s southern Virginia home. An avowed secessionist, Mr. Randall is eager to explain himself, welcoming a visitor onto his porch.
“I’m a secessionist because the federal government is anti-Christian and we’re different culturally,” explained Mr. Randall, a retired heavy equipment operator whose forebears include Confederate veterans. “The government never surrendered, only the Army. We’re still under Reconstruction.”
George Randall and his wife Donna have helped organize “meet and greets” for Mr. Stewart. The 60-year-old brothers have been seen frequently with him and are known to provide volunteer security for Mr. Stewart at public events, a task they both confirmed, though Mr. Stewart denied it, saying “that was one of those crazy rumors.”
Both brothers took part in the Unite the Right rally and also belong to the League of the South, a Southern nationalist organization that honors John Wilkes Booth “for his service to the South” and seeks to secure ”a future for white children.”
Mr. Stewart’s associations with Mr. Kessler, the Charlottesville rally organizer, and Mr. Kessler’s ties to a Stewart aide, Brian Landrum, have raised the most serious questions.