Yes, Virginia, there is still a Jim Crow. And his name is Ralph Northam, who deployed the most racially charged, dishonest, divisive and incendiary campaign in decades to get elected governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Mr. Northam, nee Crow, won the must-win race Tuesday in which history and decadeslong political trends were so heavily in his favor that it should have been impossible for him to lose.
In addition, he entered the race as a moderate, widely respected and serious person who easily appealed to the pro-government Republicans in the populous region of Northern Virginia that thrives around the federal government swamp in Washington, D.C.
Over the past 40 years, only once has Virginia elected a governor from the same party that won the White House the previous year. With Republican Donald Trump in the White House, Mr. Northam, nee Crow, was all but guaranteed to win this off-year election in a walk.
This trend has only intensified in the favor of Democrats in recent elections as the state turns bluer and bluer because of population in the swampy northern part of the state. Add to that the unique distaste for the government-bashing Mr. Trump, an outsider who is loathed by all the swamp creatures who commute into the District from Northern Virginia.
The state, after all, is the only Southern state that did not support Mr. Trump in last year’s election. Mr. Trump lost Virginia by 5 percentage points. (Newsflash: He won anyway, thank you very much.)
Ed Gillespie, hardly a D.C. outsider in the manner of Mr. Trump, nonetheless ran a smart campaign focusing on many of the issues that won Mr. Trump the White House without trying to ride on the president’s double-sided coattails.
Proving just how potent those populist, nonpolitically correct issues are — even in Virginia — Mr. Gillespie closed the gap.
Mr. Northam’s walk became a jog. Then a race.
But no one expected what happened next. Because they thought they know Mr. Northam. And they respected him. They thought he was a decent, honorable guy.
Under pressure, he turned.
Mr. Northam accused Mr. Gillespie of “fear-mongering” for highlighting the growing threat from the Salvadoran mafia MS-13, which has metastasized in the county’s uncontrolled illegal population.
Then Mr. Northam seemed to embrace the concept of sanctuary cities — illegal enclaves where jurisdictions would allow illegal aliens to live illegally — in Virginia. Over the course of the campaign, he eventually flip-flopped back against allowing sanctuary cities.
But it was in the final weeks of the campaign when Mr. Gillespie began closing strong that Mr. Northam, nee Crow, truly revealed himself.
In coordination with his campaign, Northam supporters released an ad trying to score political points off the horrid tragedy over the summer in Charlottesville, where a lunatic from out of state ran down and killed a woman protesting neo-Nazis from out of state.
The ad depicted a white man in a ball cap driving a pickup truck driving around in search of little minority children to run down and kill with his pickup truck — the vehicle of choice, obviously, for all those racist white rednecks who live outside Northern Virginia.
On the back of the truck: an Ed Gillespie bumper sticker.
In other words, if you support Mr. Gillespie, you are a racist murderer. Even more politically powerful, if Mr. Gillespie wins, the Virginians all across the commonwealth who supported him will prowl the streets to run down and kill minority children.
The single most disgusting, racist, dishonest ad in modern political history.
But, hey, it worked. Right, Mr. Crow? Er, I mean Mr. Northam?
• Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @charleshurt.
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