by Harvey Wasserman
originally published by TruthDig on November 8, 2017
Phil Murphy, right, won the governor’s seat in New Jersey, but during the race, his Republican opponent released a controversial immigration attack ad linking him to a convicted killer. (Screen shot via The Washington Post)
Steve Bannon’s attempted fascist putsch in Virginia and New Jersey has failed.
Is Alabama next? Can the Democrats keep it from being stolen?
Tuesday’s gubernatorial elections in the Garden State and the state “for lovers” were soundly won by moderate Democrats. The elections were widely featured in the corporate media as referendums on Donald Trump.
But the knife cut much deeper. Steve Bannon, the nation’s leading fascist activist-theoretician, offered to campaign for Gillespie, branding him a “culture warrior” in the course of the race. Although Gillespierefused Bannon’s direct aid in the campaign, Bannon praised Gillespie’s adoption of far-right Trumpist ideology and his brutally racist, anti-immigrant ads that reflect Bannon’s extreme right-wing ideology.
Bannon went so far as to say that Gillespie’s swing to the hard right was what made his race competitive. “I do believe Gillespie’s going to pull this thing out,” Bannon said Sunday, two days before the vote. “The lesson of Gillespie is Trumpism without Trump. … We now have forced the establishment to embrace our platform.”
But once Gillespie lost, both Trump and Bannon attacked him for not fully embracing their positions or their presence. Trump was the first sitting president to not campaign in a Virginia governor’s race since Richard Nixon during Watergate. As the defeat became clear, Trump tweeted from Asia that Gillespie did not represent him.
Similar images were spread in the 1988 presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush against then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. They linked Dukakis to a pardoned black criminal named Willie Horton. Bush won the election but lost his soul.
Tuesday’s victory in New Jersey was predictable. The truly awful Chris Christie left the state in ruins. His mean-spirited incompetence was staggering on more fronts than can be explained in a single article.
The victory in Virginia was less clear. The current corporatist Democrat governor was term-limited. The state has drifted to the Democrats in recent years. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton won Virginia in 2012 and 2016, respectively, and it has two “blue” U.S. senators. But 2010 gerrymandering gave both state legislative houses to the GOP.
To become governor, the Bush-style Republican Ed Gillespie took to vicious hate-mongering. A victory by Gillespie would have given the GOP an iron grip on the 2020 redistricting process.
Virginia’s 11 congressional seats are split seven to four for the Republicans. The Legislature at Richmond has been firmly in GOP hands, but may be flipped to the Democrats. Hopefully, a fair redistricting process will follow.
But what really matters is that in the former capital of the Confederacy, home of Robert E. Lee, an overtly racist campaign failed. “Trumpism”—using immigration and other cover issues to scream a racist rant—was rejected. This was actually a vote on hate. Thankfully, both Virginia and New Jersey said no.
As an underscore, both Virginia and New Jersey elected African-American lieutenant governors and two Latinas defeated incumbent Republicans for seats in the Virginia legislature. That state’s first transgender candidate also won a seat.
Meanwhile, Democrats took control of the Washington state Legislature, establishing a “Great Blue Wall” against Trump along the three West Coast states—Washington, Oregon and California.
But the next big test will be in Alabama on Dec. 12. The special election to fill the vacated U.S. Senate seat of Jeff Sessions, now Trump’s attorney general, will pit Judge Roy Moore against Doug Jones, a moderate Democrat.
Moore is the quintessential Bannon fascist. His raucous career has been defined by race hate and Biblical babble. His Deep South defeat would signal the failure of Trumpism’s core bigotry on its ancestral soil. It would also swing a crucial seat in the U.S. Senate, significantly altering the balance of national power.
Alabama is about a quarter black. To win there, the Democrats must confront a computerized Jim Crow assault aimed at disenfranchising blacks. With a Republican governor and secretary of state, the Democrats must painstakingly monitor every ballot, electronic and otherwise.
Alabama’s electoral system now features electronic machines that in many cases offer a ballot image that can be recounted. In a close race, these could make all the difference.
But the Democrats have been slow to act.
Virginia Democrats were urged by election protection activists to prepare for legal action in case a close vote proved vulnerable to theft. But according to a leader of Progressive Democrats of America who was active in the fight on election night, the party did no such thing.
Furthermore, one NAACP organizer in Virginia complained that the party failed to contact key black senior centers to ensure that elders came out to vote. A group called Carpool Vote ferried black voters to the polls.
In Alabama, the party will have to do better in mobilizing its grass-roots supporters, and will need every pixel possible from the state’s electronic voting machines.
In recent congressional elections in Montana and Georgia, Democratic candidates lost close vote counts that might well have been rigged. Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson, along with numerous experts, have expressed the belief that the June race in Atlanta conceded by Democrat Jon Ossoff was stolen.
Given the Virginia/New Jersey rejection of hate, Alabama is now in play. The Democrats have shown they can beat Trumpism.
In Alabama, they also must show they’ve learned some lessons from recent elections.
Harvey is a lifelong activist who speaks, writes and organizes widely on energy, the environment, election protection, social justice, grass-roots politics and natural healing, personal and planetary.
He hosts “California Solartopia” at KPFK-Pacifica and “Green Power & Wellness” at prn.fm. He edits nukefree.org, solartopia.org and has taught history, diversity and ecology studies at numerous colleges. With Pete Seeger and David Bernz, he co-wrote the Grammy-winning “Solartopia Song.” Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter @Solatopia