When I started blogging about Virginia politics, back in 2005 – and yes, in many ways that does seem like ancient history, even though it’s only 13 years ago – the type of Republicans I observed, wrote about and interacted with were mostly conservatives, mostly reasonable/sane, and mostly not rabid xenophobes or “white nationalists.” For instance, the statewide GOP ticket in 2005 was the relatively milquetoast Attorney General Jerry Kilgore for governor (vs. Tim Kaine), mainstream Republican State Sen. Bill Bolling and…ok, Bob McDonnell, from the party’s theocratic/Pat Robertson wing, but probably not someone comfortable with Ken Cuccinelli, let alone with Corey Stewart.
Also, go back and look at the Republicans populating the Virginia General Assembly in 2005 – a lot of fairly normal, sane Republicans (e.g., Bill Bolling; Jeannemarie Davis, who was a moderate or even liberal Republicans before she went off the far-right deep end; Russ Potts; Walter Stosch; John Watkins; Tom Rust; Vince Callahan; , some of whom were conservatives and some of whom were truly moderates, most of whom were ready to work with Democrats for the good of Virginia. More to the point, it’s hard to find any of those people (ok, there were a few crazies back then too: Dick Black and “Sideshow Bob” Marshall were both in the House of Delegates in 2005; Nick Rerras and Ken Kookinelli were in the State Senate) who would EVER stoop to the vitriol, viciousness, anti-LGBT bigotry, “ruthlessness,” xenophobia, stoking of hatred, empowerment of white supremacy and anti-Semitism, etc. that we see with Corey Stewart, now the Virginia GOP’s nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018.
Fast forward to June 14, 2018, two days after Corey “Trump Mini-Me” Stewart completed his takeover of the Virginia GOP (also as Trump has apparently completed HIS takeover of the national GOP). Today, someone like two-term Lt. Governor Bill Bolling (R) expresses my thoughts exactly, when he says:
And then there’s the astonishing piece by long-time conservative activist and former Virginia GOP Communications Director and Executive Director Shaun Kenney over at Virginia conservative blog Bearing Drift. I’ll provide highlights of that piece, but first here’s an intro from Tom Perriello:
Now, for a bit more on what set off Shaun Kenney off, here’s a photo he posted of Corey Stewart posing with “white nationalist”/”Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler and some other folks who…you can read about them here (hint: it’s not a pretty picture).
With that, here are some highlights (bolding added by me for emphasis) from conservative and former Virginia GOP Communications Director/Executive Director Shaun Kenney’s brutal take down of the Virginia GOP.
- Kenney notes that “Back in February 2014, I penned a piece warning about the rise of the nativist alt-right in Republican politics. ” At that time, Kenney urged his fellow Republicans to “drive ’em out,” referring to the xenophobes and nativists in the party.
- Unfortunately, Kenney now writes, that did NOT happen. Instead, today’s Virginia GOP “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.”
- Kenney calls out Virginia GOP Chairman John Whitbeck, by name, for making “jokes about Jewish people at party gatherings”; and for publicly defending “Fredy Burgos, a man whose anti-Semitism and fondness for Augusto Pinochet were abundantly clear.”
- Kenney notes that the Virginia GOP’s current Executive Director – the position Kenney once held – “openly shares material from known alt-right operatives.”
- Kenney bemoans the Virginia GOP’s abandonment of being the “party of free minds, free ideas, and a free society” and “equality of opportunity” (note: I don’t agree that the GOP of the Reagan/Bush eras actually WAS those things, but that’s a debate for another day), in exchange for now becoming the party of “identitarianism in the mold of Corey Stewart and Richard Spencer…[o]r of the likes of Jason Kessler née Gentry who fawns himself as a white supremacist while enjoying the invitation of congressmen and prospective gubernatorial candidates to press conferences and rallies alike.” Ouch.
- Kenney says he refuses to “live in fear of my fellow Americans” or “to trade American pluralism for European-style nationalism.” And he says that, with the nomination of Corey Stewart, it is now “an impossibility” for the Republican Party to be “the best home for my beliefs as a conservative, as a Virginian, and as a Catholic.”
- A key line by Kenney is that, “In vain, I have looked for like-minded allies in this fight.” I’ll point out here that I have so far seen ZERO condemnation of Corey Stewart by Virginia GOP officials, or by Virginia Republican House members/nominees (Barbara Comstock? Scott Taylor? Dave Brat? Denver Riggleman? Ben Cline? Rob Wittman? Morgan Griffith? Hello?) – and that this silence speaks volumes.
- The bottom line, Kenney asks, is whether there any Republican Party left to save, or whether “we are watching in real time as the party of freedom descends into a party of rank and bitter nationalism.” Personally, the answer seems obvious to me – as I believe it is to Kenney and should be to anyone who looks at the nomination of Corey Stewart with clear eyes. The big question is what Republicans of good will, people like Bill Bolling and many others, will DO about this situation? Will they firmly and unequivocally declare their rejection of Corey Stewart and refusal to vote for him? Will they vote for Tim Kaine? Will they simply not vote at all this November? Other options? I’m not really seeing any…how about you?
P.S. On a somewhat related note, just to show how far the Republican Party – and the corporate media, and possibly society in general etc. – have fallen since 2006, I was chatting with Ben “Not Larry Sabato” Tribbett about how, if the infamous George Allen “macaca” incident took place today, instead of severely harming a Republican candidate, it would probably be shrugged off or barely paid attention to. That’s a seriously frightening thought, but Ben and I agreed, an unequivocally true one…