After Republican Ed Gillespie lost the race for Virginia governor on Tuesday, the president tweeted:
Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 8, 2017
That was the problem: Ed Gillespie did not embrace Trump or what he stood for enough.
He forgot that there is more to Trump than just racism: There is also corruption and incompetence.
He did the first part just fine. His MS-13 commercials were exactly the sort of nightmarish dog-horn that is Trump’s specialty. But he forgot: That is not all that “Trumpism” is. Otherwise we would not need a special new -ism for it and could just say “racism.”
No, Gillespie barely even tried. Where was the paranoia? Where were the unhinged rants about wiretapping? Where were the attacks on the legitimacy of the free press? There was, naturally, some gleeful disregard for fact, and those lines about sanctuary cities were Trump-ish, but there could have been much more. Just to show he was trying. Where were the conspiracy theories? Where was Alex Jones?
At no point in the campaign did Gillespie invite any interference from Russia! And he calls this embracing Trump? Where was the nepotism? Where was the dubiously ethical self-promotion? Where was the total apathy toward governing? Where were the unexpected fits of temper that required constant management? I didn’t see Ed Gillespie out on the road emitting a continuous stream of personal insults that, although spoken aloud, sounded somehow misspelled, but I did miss the debate, so it is possible that it happened. He had a whole campaign to do it, and did he insult a single Gold Star widow, or even hint at mocking a disabled reporter? What kind of Trumpism is this, really?
Nothing about Ed Gillespie implied that he had embraced the basic Trumpist tenet of having no idea what the job he was applying for even involved. He had some bad ideas — a hallmark of Trumpism — but then again, he had too many, and they all included specifics. Anyone could tell you that a true Trump plan would never have specifics.
Where was the self-promotion? Where were the hats? Where was the well-heeled family with problematic, undisclosed business ties? Where were the advisers of dubious provenance, some with mustaches and some without? I mean, did Gillespie even golf this election season?
Trumpism is a many-pronged pitchfork.
With no evidence that Gillespie was planning to give major responsibilities to a son-in-law incapable of filling out a simple disclosure form, how could the voters of Virginia believe that he was truly embracing Trump and what he stands for? Was Gillespie motivated by a deep desire to help increase the fortune and prominence of Donald Trump, first and foremost, and anything else afterward? No. He also wanted Ed Gillespie to be elected governor.
This is not Trumpism.
Tuesday night brought more than just Ralph Northam’s election as governor, or Justin Fairfax as the state’s second black lieutenant governor, or that a tidal wave of down-ticket races also went vigorously blue. It was not because maybe, just maybe, the state was able to rise out of Trumpist politics based on fear and choose one based on hope, where, in the words of newly elected transgender Virginia state legislator Danica Roem, “we celebrate you because of who you are, not despite it.” (Poetically enough, she will unseat the legislator who called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.”) It was not because people might want to be better than Trump, both the -ism and the man. It was not that, of course. No one is better than Trump. It must have been Russian interference, or something.