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Socially Radical Republicans Cannot Win
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Time for a blast from the past.
Roughly two years ago, Virginia’s then-Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, lost his bid for governor. The only surprise was that he went down in defeat by a small margin, just two points.
It is a shame he did not lose by twenty.
It is also a shame that the man who won, Terry McAuliffe, has spent his adult life in the gray zone between shady business practices and government malfeasance, if not corruption. A master fundraiser and public-private venture capitalist, he is the sort of person who voters think of when they ponder what is wrong with American politics.
When all is said and done, Cuccinelli’s loss can be chalked up to the fact that he never fit into Virginia’s left-lurching mainstream. His support of causes like instituting anti-sodomy laws, supporting legislation which would criminalize all abortions, hostility toward certain forms of birth control, and forsaking environmental conservation left a terrible impression on voters.
At the same time, however, they never did warm to McAuliffe. This is why the Libertarian nominee, Robert Sarvis, ran well above the norm for third-party candidates. His merging economic progress with social tolerance was surely the best path forward for Virginia.
Alas, it was not the path which would ultimately be taken.
In any case, Cuccinelli’s defeat was great news for the Republican Party, both at the commonwealth and national levels. The reason is not at all simple.
In early 2013, a narrow band of hard-right activists gathered at the Republican Party of Virginia’s convention to nominate candidates for statewide office. Originally, the nomination was to be held via primary, which would have allowed the public to choose a nominee.
This also would have given moderate GOPers a fighting chance. If not for the brazenly undemocratic convention process, center-right former Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling would likely be governor now.
The conservative wing wanted to flex their muscles, unfortunately, and put up not only Cuccinelli, but an obscure minister named E.W. Jackson. He went after Bolling’s job, and came nowhere close to getting it.
Since most of the Virginia GOP’s statewide ticket faltered, a strong message was sent. This message resonates with voters, donors, campaign strategists, politicians, and special interest groups alike: socially radical Republicans cannot win outside of select constituencies.
The sour icing on the cake was that, on the same night, Bill de Blasio — a former Sandinista who hardly outgrew his youthful radicalism — won New York City’s mayoralty walking away.
He has morphed his support of third world terror into a unique hybrid of racial grievance-based politics and class warfare. Not a good combination by any means.
The Big Apple boarded a time machine and traveled back to the mid-1970s. Unfortunately, with voter trends being what they are, there can be no Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani or Michael Bloomberg waiting in the wings.
New York is experiencing a live-action remake of “The Warriors.” What can one say? An overwhelming majority of people voted for this. Let us hope that, after conditions become intolerable, they do not swarm places like the Carolinas or Florida and bring their political views with them.
There is no way that Republicans can retool their messaging to win over De Blasio fans. Some constituencies simply must be considered lost causes. However, if extremists such as Cuccinelli and Jackson are eschewed, then reasonable voices will be heard by default. This should do the trick in swing areas where Democrats hold undue power.
That is the message which ought to have been heard from Cuccinelli’s loss, along with De Blasio’s emerging nightmare. By focusing on the interests of centrist Americans, the GOP truly can have a bright future.
Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at