Virginia Republicans are going all-in on some seriously racist rhetoric this election season. Gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie’s racist, fearmongering ads smearing the Latino community have been getting all the (deservedly negative) media attention, but the state GOP is taking its cues from the top of the ticket and deploying racist campaign tactics further down the ballot, too.
The party paid for a mail piece that's dropped in Latina Democratic candidate (and Daily Kos endorsee) Hala Ayala’s district, and it’s not so much rife with racist dog whistles as it is full of racist bullhorns.
Republicans are equating felons and “thugs, violent criminals, gang members, and child predators” with the person of color pictured next to the text on the mailer, which you can see at the top of this post. This breathtakingly white-supremacist piece of campaign literature further sets forth the systemically racist trope that those who have served their time don’t deserve to vote, sit on juries, or otherwise exercise their rights as citizens.
These horrifying mail pieces are only the latest in a growing pattern of blatantly racist Republican campaign communications in Virginia.
First, there was Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie’s fearmongering ad that was brimming with racist tropes and sought to target Democratic nominee Ralph Northam for allegedly supporting “sanctuary cities.” The ad claimed that Gillespie would keep us “safer” by “get[ting] tough on illegal immigration” and used racially incendiary language often used to denigrate Latinos. (Also, Virginia has no sanctuary cities.)
Then there was the blatantly racist direct mail piece dropped by a Virginia Republican’s “leadership PAC” (read: political committee that does the dirty business so GOP candidates can keep their hands clean) against Elizabeth Guzman, another Latina House candidate. The mailer uses the term “illegal alien,” a dehumanizing phrase that’s so often used to cloak racism in a veneer of moral authority while perpetuating negative stereotypes. The mailers also were designed to evoke the racist claim that giving driver’s licenses to members of this community would lead to gun violence or voter fraud. (Take a gander for yourself right here.)
Give Republicans a real reason to be afraid: Donate $1 to Hala Ayala and each of our other endorsed Democratic candidates running for the Virginia House!
Next, Gillespie doubled down on those “anti-immigration” ads by releasing multiple spots (TV and radio) that essentially equate “dangerous illegal immigrants” with MS-13, a violent street gang that actually heavily targets undocumented Latinos. The ads further equate Northam’s vote against prohibiting “sanctuary cities” with “increasing the threat of MS-13.” The TV spots even use visuals of imprisoned gang members and MS-13’s “Kill, Rape, Control” motto in an outright Willie Horton-esque attempt to stoke racial fears among Virginia voters.
All of these campaign communications are extremely racist, but they also stink of fear and desperation. Confident candidates typically don’t risk turning off swing voters with blatant racism, and they don’t deploy fear as a campaign tactic.