If you have been moping around at home for the past few months, barely able to stir from the couch because you are so despondent over the lack of excitement in politics these days—well, cheer up. Relief is on the way.
In about nine months Virginians will go to the polls to elect a new governor. If the contest sustains its current trajectory, it will make the Trump-Clinton contest look duller than a chess match in an old folks’ home.
We’ll be able to thank both Republicans and Democrats for that, but at the moment the GOP has the first claim on the public’s gratitude. This is owing in no small measure to Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of Supervisors and immigrant-basher extraordinaire. Stewart is the kind of guy who responds to Donald Trump’s most outlandish behavior with: “Not bad. Now hold my beer and watch this.”
He launched his campaign by raffling off an AR-15. Nothing wrong with the AR-15, mind you, it’s the most popular long gun in the United States. Still, the raffle is the sort of move that appeals chiefly to men with “Molon labe” stickers on the backs of their pickups. Legend has it that this phrase (“come and take them”) is how the Spartans responded when Persia demanded they surrender their weapons.
(As stories about Sparta go that one is excellent, but this one—of which there are several variations—is better: After invading Greece, Philip of Macedon sent a message to Sparta: “You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.” Sparta’s response: “If.”)
More recently, Stewart lit into Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney for reiterating the city’s longstanding policy about the police demanding to know people’s immigration status (they don’t). “Brazen lawlessness,” Stewart declared. He also invaded Charlottesville to defend the honor of Robert E. Lee after the city council decided to move a statue of him. “Only tyrants attempt to erase history,” he fumed.
Nobody was trying to erase anything, of course—just move a statue from A to B. But Stewart got some mileage out of the line, and then got some more after he was jeered by excitable liberals. “The radical left-wing ‘PC Police’ are waging an all-out war against Virginia’s heritage and history,” he declared in an email. “I believe it’s time to take a stand. Right here—right now!”
In case you’re confused, here’s the short version: Immigration police good; PC police bad. Hope that helps.
Across the aisle the Democrats are having a whale of a good time, too. Just as in last year’s presidential election, they expected their heir apparent to the nomination—in this case, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam—to cruise to the coronation by unanimous consent. Then Tom Perriello threw a wrench into the works. Or upset the apple cart, or whatever it is people do these days. (Note to self: Find Hipster, request advice regarding correct idiom.)
Perriello served one term in Congress but lost his re-election bid. The Obama administration savagely punished him for doing so by naming him to lead the State Department’s 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review and then Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Why Perriello didn’t file an Eighth Amendment challenge to this is a colossal mystery.
In Congress, Perriello—who represented a fairly conservative district—stayed close to the middle of the road. He opposed an assault-weapons ban, supported a proposal to deny Obamacare subsidies to insurance plans that cover abortion, and supported offshore drilling for fossil fuels.
Gun control, abortion rights and climate change are pretty much the Holy Trinity of Democratic politics, and now that he has started a primary fight Periello has renounced his apostasy and returned to the One True Faith. He even throws around terms like “intersectionality,” which is the secret password that gets you into the Left-Wing Identity Politics Clubhouse.
The other day Perriello was caught on tape saying the election of Donald Trump “was a bit like, you know, a political and constitutional September 11.” This did not go over well, and Perriello apologized. But the remark is bound to win him points with the Democratic base, because 9/11 was an inside job, and the Trump election was also an inside job (thanks, Comey!), so really when you stop and think about it. … uh, something or other. Anyway, RESIST!
It’s too soon to say whether Stewart and Perriello turn out to be Trumps (insurgents who won) or Bernie Sanderses (insurgents who lost). That will depend on whether they can marshal sufficient numbers of Molon Labians and Tommie Bros to overtake their principal rivals: Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie—aka “Enron Ed,” aka “Establishment Ed,” aka “Expectorating Ed.” (Note to self: Not sure about that last one. Look up definition of “expectorate.”)
Which means that, for political junkies—and the rest of us—it’s going to be a long nine months. Thank goodness.
This column originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.