Not Just Here: Sanctuary Debate shakes Virginia’s Gubernatorial Race too

A relatively traditional Republican struggles to gain traction in an off-year gubernatorial race. The candidate releases a vicious ad that leans heavily on white voters being scared of black and brown faces, and a tenuous link between the “Sanctuary State” and acts of violence committed by immigrants. Sound familiar?

Yup, it’s happening in Virginia — the cycle’s only other gubernatorial race. Vox’s The Weeds dives into that dynamic and it’s well worth a listen. Here’s an excerpt (29:15):

But also from Gillespie’s perspective, I think there’s another narrative that’s gotten a little less attention. Which is that he himself, many of his campaigns are half empty. He is a more traditional Republican candidate so in a way he is using these ads to try to mobilize Trump voters and people who wouldn’t traditionally be so excited to come vote for a corporate lobbyist.

So to pull this together, what we have is on the Republican side is a candidate who has experience appealing to the non-Trump segment of the Republican party and who is making a concerted effort to appeal to the Trump segment of the Republican Party. And on the Democrat side a candidate whose only response to the strongest attack on him is for the party to waive their hands and say that’s racist, while not tying their opponent to the President of the United States who is widely understood in the state to be divisive and racist. 

There’s a lot more conversation that is super relevant to this moment in New Jersey, and to the wider challenge Democrats will be facing in 2018. That includes a discussion at the end of the podcast about the difference between generations of Democrats in their views on immigration.

I found these parallels striking. These tactics are what it takes to engage the Republican base, and we can expect to see them in other gubernatorial races and congressional races. The focus on immigration is also shaping Democratic resistance. Some are staking the kind of turf common in the early 90s, where Democrats can move to the center on undocumented immigration policies by being lenient to those here but increasing security. But other Democrats, and certainly local activists, are pivoting left to make a clearer contrast with Trump — arguing for Sanctuary States, but making a broader argument that President Obama’s deportations and wider strategy of enforcing borders as a means to compromise on a path to citizenship is flawed strategy. These Democrats actively support the undocumented on principle even though it may be unpopular nationally. As always, Democrats will be balancing strategy, principle and policy in navigating those waters. But they’re sure to come up again in 2018.

Take a listen, and let me know what you think.

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