Jeff Schapiro joins WCVE's Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include the political fallout from the rally in Charlottesville, and how its effects have changed the campaign for governor, as well as the ramifications nationwide.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 18, CRAIG CARPER
CC: From WCVE News in Richmond, I’m Craig Carper. Joining me now from the Richmond Times Dispatch is political columnist and WCVE’s political analyst, Jeff Schapiro. Jeff, good morning.
JS: Hi there, Craig. Welcome back and congratulations, Dad.
CC: Thank you so much. I’m happy to be back and enjoying time with our daughter. Jeff, we are one week out from the tragic events, the violence in Charlottesville and we are still discussing the political fallout from those events.
JS: And part of that political fallout is this increasingly loud debate over confederate monuments. The democratic nominee for governor, Ralph Northam, is toughening his position on these monuments. He’s getting some support from the mayor of Richmond, Levar Stoney, and the democrat, he Northam, hopes to succeed as governor, Terry McAuliffe, all of them had a position similar to republican, Ed Gillespie - that is, local option. Let the cities, counties, and towns figure out whether they want to preserve all of this confederate iconography. Though Gillespie was of the view, and certainly Levar Stoney as well, that a lot of this stuff should stand, but it should include what the politicians are calling “context,” signage that pointed out that some of these confederate figures were heroes to some, villains to others, that they became symbols of white resistance to desegregation and the extension of the franchise to African Americans. So now all of these democrats, Stoney, McAuliffe, Northam, are on record as saying the monuments should come down, that post-Charlottesville these are hurtful and painful symbols. Now perhaps the maneuvering has little to do with the monuments themselves and has more to do with putting pressure on Ed Gillespie over Donald Trump. The idea here clearly is to force Gillespie to criticize the President over the President’s widely condemned remarks on the violence in Charlottesville. And this is something that the democrats will punish Gillespie for should he remain silent, and of course it’s possible republican Trump voters will punish Gillespie should he say anything critical of the President. And Gillespie is going to need their votes and others in November. And of course, the continuing comments of Corey Stewart, who came close to defeating Gillespie in the primary and has comported himself as a small bore, maybe even lower decibel Donald Trump, of course Stewart now running for the Senate. That he keeps sounding off in defense of the heritage crowd and some of its sketch allies, among them the white supremacists, this is only dinging the Republican brand, and that’s not good for Ed Gillespie.
CC: And Jeff, as Virginia debates whether its monuments should stay or go, the world is watching.
JS: And I would suggest it sort of changes the focus of our gubernatorial election. Suddenly we’re not just talking about choosing Terry McAuliffe’s successor. We’re talking as Virginians about the image of our state and the signal that we want to telegraph beyond Virginia’s borders. Remember this was a state that was the seat of the slavery defending confederacy, where, you know, idol worship, if you will, of these confederate figures was very much the norm. But now Virginia is a suburban state. It has a knowledge-based economy. It is a fully multi-hued state, and it is a place where the majority of people who live here came here from somewhere else. So, do these new Virginians want their state seen in a, shall we say, unflattering light? Maybe this is going to shape up as a message election, say on the magnitude of the 1989 election when Doug Wilder became the nation’s first elective black governor. It was clear through Virginians’ selection of Wilder that they wanted the world to see that Virginia had shaken its segregationist past. Now that election was 28 years ago, and does Virginia want to risk appearing to retreat on that progress.
CC: And protest over confederate monuments are happening around the country and in other parts of our Commonwealth. A group had sought a permit to protest here in Richmond that has since been withdrawn. But could this violence brew somewhere else in the country, possibly here in the Commonwealth?
JS: Well, that is clearly a concern, and that the September 16th event at the Lee monument, which is a state asset, that it’s been called off I think is a source of considerable relief to people. And I don’t mean to use this term in a disrespectful manner, but I think the argument could be made that Richmond is very much “ground zero” in this debate over confederate symbols. Remember Richmond was the capitol, the second capitol of the confederacy, but the capitol of the confederacy for most of the conflict. One of the reasons why this protest was called off, by the way the September protest is one to which Corey Stewart, that Trump sound-alike had been invited, is that the organizers of that event said they did not want to draw to Richmond the fringe elements, and perhaps that’s a charitable term, that swarmed through the streets of Charlottesville a week ago.
CC: And Jeff we have seen one memorial service thus far for the three deaths in Charlottesville. I believe one is scheduled for today and another for tomorrow.
JS: Yes, Heather Heyer, the counter-protestor who was allegedly mowed down with a car driven by a white nationalist who had travelled to Charlottesville from the Midwest and is now charged with second-degree murder. Today there will be a funeral for Berke Bates, one of the state police helicopter pilots who died when their copter crashed and burned monitoring the violence. On Saturday, tomorrow, Jay Cullen’s funeral will be held.
CC: Thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist for the Richmond Times Dispatch. Jeff, we will catch up again next week.