One basic rule while running for office, one would imagine, would be: don't attack your voters. In a decade in politics however, Virginia Democrat Ralph Northam apparently never learned that.
Deadlocked with Republican Ed Gillespie in a gubernatorial race in a state trending heavily towards the Democrats, the Northam campaign can't limit itself to attacking Gillespie. They are going a step further and attacking Virginians who might be Gillespie supporters.
The most recent attack on Virginia voters came in the infamous and now abandoned ad released by the Latino Victory Fund. Like something out of a horror movie, the one-minute clip features a white man trying to murder minority children in a pickup truck sporting a Confederate Flag, a Tea Party license plate, and a Gillespie bumper sticker.
As barbaric as it is novel, the ad deliberately shifts emphasis from the candidate to the voters. By accusing Gillespie supporters of harboring monstrous fantasies of murder, the Roanoke Times noted that the liberal group has accused plenty of Virginians of being “not just homicidal but genocidal.”
While Northam didn’t produce the ad, his campaign didn’t distance themselves from it either. Before it was withdrawn after a terrorist murdered eight New Yorkers with a pickup truck, Northam’s campaign manager defended the Latino Victory Fund by attacking Gillespie for “fear mongering.”
We suspect the Northam campaign is a bit unclear on the definition of that phrase. Real fear mongering might be peddling the image that pickup-driving white Tea Partiers — that is, a significant portion of Virginians — are evil murderers.
Though, this isn’t the first time Northam and his allies has gone out of his way to alienate voters.
When the National Rifle Association slaps a candidate with a bad rating, campaigns normally try sidestepping the bad news. Not Northam. The campaign leaned into the negative grade, tweeting that “Ralph is proud of his F rating.”
Maybe that’d be an appropriate response had the non-endorsement come from some ideological billionaire or well-heeled lobby group. When Republicans brag of being opposed by George Soros ,or Elizabeth Warren wears Wall Street's ire as a badge of honor, that's typical populist posturing: I'm with the people, not the powerful.
But the NRA is a membership organization, whose ranks exceed 5 million just in the commonwealth Northam hopes to lead.
Northam didn’t just disagree with those voters. He didn’t try to articulate a nuanced point about tempering the Second Amendment with reasonable regulation. Northam reveled in the bad rating, as if being opposed by this group proved his righteousness. Self-congratulatory and snobbish that liberalism will help Northam in the D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia, but hurt him more in Southwest Virginia, where the Democrat trails badly.
Northam seems to be infected by the bout of virtue signaling that is en vogue on the Left these days: One establishes one's virtue by hating the right people. And the "right people" aren't a couple hundred alt-right torch-wielders, or some infamous white supremacists. The larger the group you can hate, it seems, the more virtue points you get.
Whereas former President Barack Obama thought he was among only elite friends when he wrote off middle-American whites as bitter clingers to their guns and religion, Hillary Clinton happily categorized half of all Trump supporters — nearly a quarter of the electorate — as irredeemable “deplorables.” Distilling that sentiment after the election, Slate's chief political correspondent would declare “there’s no such thing as a good Trump voter.”
Northam, it seems, makes that simple thesis his entire campaign strategy.
Less than a week before election day, polling has Northam neck-and-neck with Gillespie. If he loses in a state that both Obama and Clinton carried, Democrats may learn a lesson: Don't run against the voters.