August 18, 2017 News & Press Releases · Press Releases and Announcements

Day 7: Gillespie “Getting Squeezed” By Refusing to Condemn Donald Trump’s Defense of Neo-Nazis

by Democratic Party of Virginia

Day 7: Gillespie “Getting Squeezed” By Refusing to Condemn Donald Trump’s Defense of Neo-Nazis

Silence is assent. For seven days, Ed Gillespie has refused to denounce President Trump's defense of Neo-Nazis. By failing to stand up to the President, Ed Gillespie is essentially defending Trump — at his own political peril. Amidst a massive backlash to the President’s reaction to Charlottesville, both the Washington Post and Richmond Times-Dispatchyesterday reported that Ed Gillespie's refusal to break with Trump is leaving him isolated in his own party and out-of-step with the citizens of the commonwealth.

SCHAPIRO: It sure looks like a squeeze play. Ed Gillespie's position on Confederate statues is local option. That it's up to the cities, counties, and towns to decide what stays and what goes. The Republican nominee for governor also said he personally favors keeping the monuments, but they require what the politicians are calling "context." That is, there should be signage that makes clear, for example, these generals are heroes to some but not heroes to all. That they fought to preserve slavery, and that more recently they've become symbols of defiance for neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Klansmen.

SCHAPIRO: Gillespie's Democratic opponent Ralph Northam took a similar stance. So did the Democrat Gillespie and Northam want to succeed, Terry McAuliffe. And so did the Democratic mayor of Richmond Levar Stoney. But then Charlottesville happened. People were killed. And Donald Trump, the president of the United States, refused to condemn the fringe right wingers who showed up with semi-automatic weapons, body armor, swastika and confederate flags, and who brawled in the streets with counter-protesters over plans to take down a statue of Robert E. Lee.

SCHAPIRO: Then Trump kind of condemned them. Then Trump kind of took it back. Then the Virginia campaign took another wild turn. Northam suddenly strengthened his position on Confederate statuary. Sure he's still a local option guy, but if it were up to him, Northam said, he take down all those monuments. They're hurtful and offensive and events in Charlottesville make them more so. Next, Stoney weighed in, unbidden. He named a commission to study what to do with Richmond's rebel statues, most of which stand on Monument Avenue. Stoney, however, told the commission he thought the monuments, though offensive to him as an African-American, should stay, with context.

SCHAPIRO: His Honor has changed his mind. Now he thinks the statues should go. You've got to think his commission will have a hard time rejecting that idea. Finally, McAuliffe piped up. The governor shifted his position to adopt Northam's. Like Northam, McAuliffe now believes that local government should get rid of the monuments. Maybe move them to museums. All those Democrats who were flying cover for Gillespie, well, they aren't anymore. But that doesn't have as much to do with monuments as it does with Trump. And with putting pressure on Gillespie to do what he hasn't done: publicly criticize the president, if only for Trump's post Charlottesville remarks that are being roundly condemned by Democrats and Republicans. Gillespie is a smart politician who knows a trap when he sees one. Problem is, he risks falling into one trying to avoid another. If he's silent on Trump, Democrats hammer him. If he says something critical about Trump, Republican voters might stay home. Talk about getting squeezed. For the Richmond Times-Dispatch, this is Jeff Schapiro.