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Ugly race-baiting ad in Virginia forces a change of heart on sanctuary cities

The abhorrent Latino Victory Fund ad sparked a fierce backlash on both left and right

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Seeking the Virginia governor’s mansion, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) recently said he would sign a bill banning sanctuary cities.

Northam promised “he would sign a bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities if a Virginia locality tries to become one in the future,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

A sanctuary city is one that does not cooperate with federal law enforcement regarding illegal aliens. Last February, as lieutenant governor, Northam had to cast a tie-breaking vote in the legislature when the Virginia Senate voted 20-20 to ban sanctuary jurisdictions. Northam defeated the bill by voting against it.

Northam has found his gubernatorial campaign reeling from the issue of illegal immigration. His Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie has hit him over the head with the issue quite effectively. But his new willingness to sign a sanctuary city ban arose just six days ago. It was likely precipitated not so much by generalized criticism of Northam but by a vigorous backlash against a tasteless ad released the Latino Victory Fund, a political action committee with ties to Northam’s campaign.

Latino Victory Fund ran the following ad which was so over the top that even the Washington Post editorial page called it “vile” and “despicable”:

The newspaper added, “ It behooves Mr. Northam, while he is offering criticism, to make clear that even though the anti-Gillespie spot was not a product of his campaign, his campaign wants no part of it.”

The 60-second ad depicted a white, male Gillespie supporter driving a huge black pickup truck adorned with a “Don’t Tread on Me” Tea Party plate and a Confederate battle flag flapping in the wind. The driver is shown terrorizing Latino boys, a black boy, and a headdress-wearing Muslim girl by chasing them with his truck. At the end, the children wake up and realize it was a bad dream as the narrator says: “Is this what Donald Trump and Ed Gillespie mean by ‘the American dream’?”

This wasn’t just a case of bad taste, but also of painfully bad timing. The ad came out as the country was reeling from the Muslim terrorist attack in New York City in which a jihadist allegedly killed eight people in a park by running them over with a rented truck.

The ad brought to mind the NAACP’s attack ad against George W. Bush that exploited the brutal 1998 dragging murder of James Byrd Jr. by three neo-Nazis. Bush, the activists absurdly claimed, shared the blame for Byrd’s death because as Texas governor he opposed hate-crimes legislation.

DNC chairman Tom Perez defended the anti-Gillespie ad saying people upset about it were crying “crocodile tears.” But he was one of the few partisan players to do so.

The Latino Victory Fund pulled the ad after only a day, but the damage was done. The ad apparently alienated white, working-class voters, a group Northam will need to attract to win in Virginia. At one point Northam held a big lead over Gillespie in the polls. But the election has tightened in recent weeks, and as political pundits have noted, the Latino Victory Fund ad is the sort of game-changer that could doom Northam’s campaign.

In an editorial, the Roanoke Times condemned the ad in unusually strong terms.

The Latino Victory Fund defended the ad, saying “We held a mirror up to the Republican Party, and they don’t like what they see.”

We are not Republicans, but we don’t like what we see, either. We’ll explain why.

First, it’s factually wrong — no small thing. The ad suggests that Gillespie supporters are racist vigilantes who want to run down minority kids. Really? Really??

Secondly, the ad does not target the candidate but rather his supporters. That seems akin to Hillary Clinton’s comment about many supporters of Donald Trump being a “basket of deplorables.” […] It just shows a white guy in a pick-up truck — and implies Gillespie supporters want to kill minority kids. Umm, that’s a lot of Virginians right there who are being called not just homicidal but genocidal. […] But the message is unmistakable — Republicans are bad people. That’s not a good message to be sending in a democracy, where come the day after the election we’re all still going to be living together and working together in a civil society. Perhaps you think Gillespie is wrong on the issues, but that doesn’t make his supporters bad people.

This is not harmless campaign rhetoric. This is language that leads to tyranny. If Republicans really do want to run down kids, why shouldn’t Democrats lock them all up? If Democrats really are “criminals, communists, crackheads and weirdos” why not herd them all into concentration camps?

Democracy for America, a left-wing PAC founded by former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, pulled its support of Northam last Friday, calling him “gutless” and “morally debased” and saying he was running a “racist campaign.”

None of this would have ever happened had then-presidential candidate Donald Trump not made illegal immigration a campaign issue last year. It’s hard to imagine Ed Gillespie attacking Northam on this issue only two years ago. And it is near impossible to think a Democrat like Northam would have ever modified his position on sanctuary cities without Trump laying the groundwork. If Gillespie prevails or even makes it very close, expect more Republicans to follow Gillespie’s lead and more Democrats to have a Northam-like conversion going into 2018.

Finally, for all of those who complain that sanctuary cities is a non-issue since Virginia has none, well, at one point neither did states like California, Oregon, and New York.

So, what’s wrong with an ounce of prevention?