Ed Gillespie went from potential vindicator of Trumpism to “cuckservative” in the space of a couple of hours.
The Virginia Republican, campaigning for governor in a treacherous political environment defined by an unpopular president of his own party, ran the only race he reasonably could. He distanced himself from Donald Trump personally, hoping to lessen his losses in heavily Democratic Northern Virginia, while hitting some Trumpian notes on crime and immigration to appeal to the president’s base.
Gillespie looked to be gaining fast on Democrat Ralph Northam. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, the self-declared keeper of the Trumpist flame, believed Gillespie had cracked the code by fashioning a “Trumpism without Trump.”
At least that was the party line until Gillespie lost on Nov. 7. Then he became an establishment tool who had betrayed Trumpism and the president.
The hypocrisy of the Bannon faction aside, the Virginia race revealed a problem with the Trumpism-without-Trump construct — namely, that it’s not really possible.
First, it’s not going to be convincing to Trump-haters. Ed Gillespie is not the slightest bit Trumpy. He is earnest, wonky and friendly. When he distanced himself from Trump, it was credible because he hadn’t been close to Trump to begin with. He had never met him, and all of Trump’s support on Twitter was unsolicited.
To read the entire Rich Lowry column, see the Nov. 23 edition of The Central Virginian.