Republican Ed Gillespie has morphed from classic establishment conservative to openly racist hatemonger, desperately attacking his Democratic opponent in next month’s election for governor with a barrage of campaign ads that vilify Latinos. It’s a grotesque strategy designed to motivate the angriest Trump supporters, and it’s borne out of Ralph Northam’s months-long lead in the polls. It was also opposed by none other than Ed Gillespie himself.
Some skillful digging by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski unearthed a 2006 op-ed Gillespie wrote for the Wall Street Journal in which he slammed fellow Republican Jerry Kilgore for having run—guess what?—an ad full of anti-Latino smears and racist dog whistles in the waning days of Virginia’s 2005 campaign for governor. The spot at issue accused Democratic nominee Tim Kaine of favoring “taxpayer-funded job centers” and supporting “in-state tuition discounts for illegals.” Concluded the ad’s narrator: “Taxpayer benefits for illegal immigrants? What part of 'illegal' does Tim Kaine not understand?”
According to Gillespie’s own piece, Kilgore’s “last-minute anti-immigration ads ... didn't move his numbers with swing voters and probably cost him important votes in the Hispanic enclaves of Northern Virginia." According to polling in the race, Kilgore had been losing ground to Kaine throughout October. The Republican’s racist Hail Mary failed: Kaine’s polling lead continued to increase, and he won the race with 52 percent of the vote.
Gillespie went on to deploy a metaphor that manages to be both pained and apt:
“Anti-immigration rhetoric is a political siren song, and Republicans must resist its lure by lashing ourselves to our party's twin masts of freedom and growth—or our majority will crash on the shoals.”
Since we’re going all-in on references to Greek mythology, it’s fair to call out Gillespie as his own Cassandra. His own use of racist anti-immigrant rhetoric in political ads has failed to cut into Northam’s lead in polls.