Everyone remembers this iconic exchange between John Adams and John Dickenson in the play 1776 (adapted for film in 1972) when the two congressmen come to blows and are finally separated by Deleware’s Caesar Rodney:
RODNEY: Stop it! Stop it! This is the Congress. Stop it, I say! The enemy's out there. DICKENSON: No, Mr. Rodney, the enemy is here. RODNEY: No. I say he's out there -- England! England closing in, cutting off our air. There's no time... no air...
Rodney — old, out of breath, and expending the last few ounces of his energy — collapses into his chair before he is taken home, returning to cast the deciding vote for Delaware to secede from the British Empire.
The Republican Party is a coalition. We have always been a coalition of dissimilar interests united for one reason: the social and economic changes being orchestrated by the political left in this country did not work for our interest, for our families, and were entirely disconsonant with our values.
Democrats are wise to pit us against one another.
We are terribly unwise to rise to such bait. One sees the argument that Gillespie was insufficiently supportive of President Trump. This is total nonsense, as exit polling demonstrates that 95% of Trump supporters linked themselves with Gillespie.
Another such argument is that Trump has wounded the old paradigm, causing the defeat of 13 of 17 Virginia House of Delegates seats. It’s an interesting data point, but running away from the Republican base doesn’t solve a thing. Democratic opposition to Trump is a constant, not a variable — you rush the barricades, you don’t abandon them.
Fact of the matter is, Gillespie and Trump very nearly mirrored one another’s results from 2016 to 2017. Trump gathered 9% of the black vote in Virginia in 2016; Gillespie managed to earn 12%. In 2014, Gillespie got 10% of the black vote — a 20% improvement in a demographic Republicans have all but abandoned in recent years (for reasons as yet unclear to this writer).
There is going to be tremendous temptation to point to the low-hanging fruit within the Republican Party and blame one another for what was an inevitable loss. The math bears it out — HOD districts that voted Clinton in 2016 swung to the Democrats in 2017.
We are in the middle of a realignment. This is no one’s “fault” for winning or losing these seats.
Where there will be fault is in the voices looking to blame some part of the Republican coalition for short term financial gain.
Paul Weyrich was fond of quoting Pope John Paul II in this regard: Politics follows culture.
We cannot expect the culture to change at the whim of a politician and at the speed of elections. Americans haven’t become more virtuous over the last 20 years. We haven’t returned to the faiths of our fathers over the last 20 years. We haven’t restored a respect for institutions and traditions over the last 20 years…
…why on God’s green earth should we expect political change when we can’t even fix our own households?
Rather than blame the new reality of a post-Trump realignment, Republicans would be better served by surveying the landscape and understanding how we should make the argument. Republicans haven’t had a good national idea since the Laffer Curve.
In Virginia, we have golden opportunities to create a free market health care solution and offer a genuine investment in public education that gets the unfunded mandates off the backs of localities while ending the local knife fights in 134 different localities. Two areas where Republicans could lead right now that would set the tone for economic prosperity while demonstrating to Virginians that we actually give a damn.
…or we can keep doing what we’re doing with the same set of folks and see if that gets us anywhere.
Republicans should be wary of engaging in and even hostile towards in the blame game. There are plenty of new Democrats who will now be held accountable to all the voters of Virginia, not just their narrow constituencies back home. Republicans still hold majorities in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. Republicans still have 7 of the 11 U.S. House congressional seats. Republicans still hold the vast majority of local elected offices in Virginia.
If we get tax reform — however imperfect it might be — that will only be a start. Knifing fellow members of the Republican coalition isn’t just a bad answer for the times, it’s sophomoric and juvenile at best.