These leaders know Stewart’s failings. They have witnessed his suspect associations with bigots and white supremacists, links Stewart eventually disavowed. They have seen him embrace Confederate imagery and monuments as if they were holy relics. They have seen members of his campaign staff linked to white supremacists and the most recent revelations about a campaign consultant whose views on African Americans would make Archie Bunker blush.
The Washingtonian’s Andrew Beaujon said, it’s “probably just a coincidence that these guys all ended up on Corey Stewart’s campaign.” Yes, it must be. Otherwise, all this would lead us to conclude that Stewart and Virginia Republicans were intent not just on losing the Senate race to Kaine, but also putting the tiki-torch to everything else.
Few of the GOP’s top elected officials have called him and his supporters out. They prefer to focus elsewhere, hoping Stewart and his sideshow won’t affect them. They are wrong.
Some, though, have gone public with their doubts, dismay and disgust. Former lieutenant governor Bill Bolling said of Stewart’s rise, “This is clearly not the Republican Party I once knew, loved and proudly served. Every time I think things can’t get worse they do, and there is no end in sight.”
Former Rep. Tom Davis pinned the GOP’s decline on Ken Cuccinelli’s ill-fated 2013 gubernatorial run, saying, “it’s just been spiraling down” ever since.
It accelerated in 2014. Shaun Kenney, who once served as the Republican Party of Virginia’s executive director, witnessed the plunge firsthand.
And he was ignored. The bad elements got stronger. They rallied behind Dave Brat in his 2014 upset of then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and eventually found new champions in Donald Trump and Stewart.
As the fringes grew stronger, the GOP’s statewide fortunes cratered. It is not a coincidence.
As Kenney told me, the “alt-right is not a devil you can cuts cards with and expect to emerge with your soul.”
He said Republicans could have stopped the fringe from become the GOP center early on, but “we didn’t have the courage do that.”
“Now,” Kenney said, “it has half of the Republican Party in Virginia for one simple reason alone: They are willing to fight for what they believe. Conservatives are still dormant.”
They shouldn’t be.
Pick a Virginia Republican leader — be it Jerry Kilgore, Jim Gilmore, George Allen, Ed Gillespie, John Hager, Pete Snyder or even Robert F. McDonnell — and ask him when he will push back.
Ask current officeholders — Reps. Barbara Comstock, H. Morgan Griffith, Scott W. Taylor or Rob Wittman (forget Brat ) — whether they will they lift a finger to excise the rot at the heart of the state GOP.
Extend the list. Ask Republicans in the House of Delegates and state Senate. Ask Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. and House Speaker Kirk Cox whether they can abide the wreck and reek of Stewartism?
That so many have been so publicly silent tells us how terrified they are to confront, let alone correct, the irrational mass pushing the party toward oblivion.
“At some point,” Kenney said, “Never Trump becomes Never Corey and turns into Never Republican.”
“The question is, does the existing party leadership clean house immediately on our terms,” Kenney said, “or do we wait until the Democrats do it on their terms?”
Their silence tells us all we need to know.