I did a couple of hot takes on the mid-term elections right after they ended and I wanted to wait a week to give a broader view of what is going on in Virginia. I am still in shock that Mark Warner was kept under 50% in his reelection bid. I would have never guessed, ever, that something like that would happen. I hear the complaining about Robert Sarvis costing the GOP the election, but that’s not true. Neither party are entitled to your vote, they must work to earn it. If Sarvis can get on the ballot and convince people to vote for him, that is the way the system should work. Voters should not be forced to choose only between generic Republican A and generic Democrat B. You don’t like what Sarvis has done, go figure out where his votes are coming from and try and win them over
But the overwhelming chatter is about Ed Gillespie, and to hear many Republicans across the blogs, Facebook, and everywhere else we should be ready to deify him. He absolutely ran a tremendous race, did everything right, and worked hard. But make no mistake, he had some remarkable breaks. An unprepared incumbent, a depressed Democratic turnout, a very unpopular president, and a strong Northern Virginia open-seat congressional candidate among other factors. This really is something of a miracle that it was this close, that all of these events somehow manifested themselves all at the same time.
The point is to throw some cold water on Republicans who think we are ready for a breakthrough and furthermore, think Ed Gillespie is the man to lead it. Democrats won’t be caught sleeping like this in 2017 and they have two very good statewide potential candidates in Herring and Northam, or even Warner if he chooses to run for governor. It is a statement on Republicans that someone like Gillespie is now our savior, apparently. Ed Gillespie won’t solve all of our problems, no matter how many people talk about how much they respect his character or his wife or however else people are turning this guy into the next Linwood Holton or something. I remain unconvinced that our future lies in the hands of a professional lobbyist/DC insider. This isn’t meant to be an attack on Gillespie, who I’m sure is a fine man and did a great job uniting the party in 2014. But let’s not act like there was some giant civil war he overcame, the general consensus among most people about this race was “sure, at least Gillespie won’t embarrass us.” That wasn’t a high threshold to leap. This wasn't 2013, the passions had cooled and none of Gillespie's opponents could be taken seriously for a state senate race, let along US Senate. He was a sacrificial lamb who would protect our congressional candidates by not pulling an Akin.
The fact remains that for most of the last ten years, our electoral bench has been decimated in Virginia. Our sweep of 2009 has been swept away as Bob McDonnell looks to be headed to jail, Bill Bolling will never be accepted by conservatives, and Ken Cuccinelli lost a winnable race thanks to the betrayal of Bolling. In addition, Eric Cantor’s lose and the fall of Northern Virginia to the Democrats has been difficult to overcome. Ed Gillespie is not the answer to these glaring weaknesses.
So, you might ask, give us an answer then. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but we need statewide candidates that challenge voters about their preconceived notions about Republicans. Generic Republicans won’t cut it anymore because the same thing that happened last week, and has seemingly happened the last decade, will happen again … the Republican takes a big lead until Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia are counted and it all comes crashing down. We need candidates, whether establishment or grassroots, who run on issues and beliefs that are different or tweaked from what voters think. This isn’t necessarily an argument between the grassroots and the establishment, because each had their candidates (Cuccinelli and Gillespie) and each lost. Both came close, but both lost. Right now, I don’t see much of that out there but hopefully it will come as we begin to move out the old bulls and replace them with young cubs. I’m excited to hear that dinosaurs like Bill Howell, Emmett Hanger, and Steve Martin will be getting primary challengers. Hopefully there will be more of that. Fresh faces with 21st centiry ideas, ready to challenge not only Democrats but the voters in general to show that the GOP is different.
When I look at the future, I don’t look at Ed Gillespie. Gillespie was a nice placeholder, a guy that everyone liked who could hold down the fort until we get our shit together. What I see in the future from both the grassroots side and the establishment side are people like Barbara Comstock and Dave Brat. Each won their races and jumped on the scene by doing exactly what I was talking about, tweaking and adjusting people’s normal perceptions of generic Republican candidates. Brat was a breath of fresh air in a district long ignored by the national ambitions of an ambivalent congressman, and instead argued for a more libertarian form of conservatism that appeals to swaths of new GOP voters across the state anxious to move past the good ‘ol boys days of small government talk but big government votes. Comstock was a living and breathing refutation of the war on women; an accomplished lawyer, public servant, delegate, and mother who drove liberals crazy because she was everything they claim women can be, but a conservative.
Instead of boring, DC-based candidates who mean well but are connected with the past rather than looking to the future or right-wing social conservative fanatics obssessed with homosexual sex; I hope all factions of RPV look for more candidates like Brat and Comstock rathern than Gillespie. Feeling good about a tough lose is a substitute to the feeling of actually winning. Brat and Comstock won, Gillespie didn’t.
Let’s find out what works for those who won instead of lionizing the honorable man who lost.