The Virginia governor’s race was a referendum on Trump, and he lost. Badly.
Ed Gillespie was the quintessential establishment Republican: senior advisor to President George W. Bush, chairman of the Republican National Committee, founder of a bipartisan lobbying firm. He was also the GOP’s nominee for governor in Virginia, and he was losing.
Then he embraced Trumpism. He began running bizarre, fearmongering ads about Hispanic gangs and sanctuary cities. The polls narrowed, Democrats panicked, Trumpists began celebrating. Two days ago, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, told the New York Times that Gillespie had “closed an enthusiasm gap by rallying around the Trump agenda…in Gillespie’s case, Trumpism without Trump can show the way forward.
This was the Democrats’ worst nightmare: that Trumpism might work better without Trump. That Gillespie could take Trump’s culture-war playbook — his attacks on immigrants and diversity and disorder — and, in severing it from Trump’s erratic personal behavior, do what Trump couldn’t: win blueish states like Virginia.
Except Gillespie lost. He lost by more than Trump did. He lost by more than other statewide Republicans running in Virginia. Trumpism without Trump didn’t just fail to win. It collapsed.
The reason, I suspect, is that Bannon had it exactly backwards. The age of Trumpism without Trump isn’t ahead of us. It’s behind us, at least for now. Trumpism without Trump was possible before Trump was president. It might be possible after he’s president. It’s not possible while he’s president.
In 2016, Trump had the advantage of being a true outsider: he had no record to answer for, no unemployment rate to explain, no votes to justify. For all his oddities and eccentricities, he was a blank slate — a businessman to those who wanted a businessman, a culture warrior to those who wanted a culture warrior, a pragmatist Read More Here