Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is this year’s Republican nominee for governor, but he might be too extreme to win -- even against Democrat Terry McAuliffe (himself not known for generating great press). This weekend, the Virginia Republican Party came up with an unusual strategy for making Cuccinelli seem reasonable and moderate: give him a running mate who is even more extreme.
Cuccinelli’s running mate will be Bishop E. W. Jackson, a black minister with no experience as an elected official and a penchant for saying outrageous, hateful things. Last year, Jackson ran in a Republican primary for U.S. Senate and got less than 5 percent of the vote. Jackson won this time because the Virginia Republican Party picks its candidates for state constitutional offices through a convention of party activists instead of a primary. If you were an anonymous British political insider, you might say the convention process empowers the party’s “mad, swivel-eyed loon” element.
Buzzfeed has a list of the “10 Most Anti-Gay Statements” from Jackson. Jackson has said that gays are “frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally”; that there is “a direction connection” between homosexuality and pedophilia; that the gay rights movement “attempts to poison our children, divide them from their parents and the teaching of the church and basically turn them into pawns for that movement so that they can sexualize them at the earliest possible age”; and that liberals, by seeking to normalize homosexuality, have done more to kill black men than the Ku Klux Klan.
Jackson’s ire isn’t limited to the gays. In 2010, he wrote that “Obama clearly has Muslim sensibilities. He sees the world and Israel from a Muslim perspective.” In 2012, he wrote Democrats have "an agenda worthy of the Antichrist.”
Jackson's worldview is not so different from Cuccinelli's, but Cuccinelli tends to be a bit more careful in his formulations. For example, here’s Cuccinelli in 2009 on what he sees as the problem with policies banning discrimination against gays and lesbians who work for the government:
My view is that homosexual acts, not homosexuality, but homosexual acts are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that.
In 2010, Cuccinelli sent letters to Virginia’s public colleges and universities telling them to rescind their policies barring discrimination against gays and lesbians. He has sought to enforce the state’s law against sodomy. Yes, Cuccinelli’s defenders like to point out that the sodomy case his office chose to defend in federal court involved a man having sex with a 17-year-old girl; but that’s already a crime under other Virginia law. And as a State Senator, Cuccinelli opposed an effort to narrow Virginia’s sodomy law to exclude consenting sex between adults.
With a Cuccinelli-Jackson ticket, the Virginia Republican Party is staking out a strong position against increasingly dominant values about tolerance, equality and sex. The party will continue to loudly insist that it’s not OK to be gay. That’s not a politically sound position, and as Virginia gets less Southern and more suburban, and public attitudes about homosexuality continue to change, it’s going to be more disastrous politically.
But the Republican Party can’t change because there are so many Republican voters who, though they may be on the losing side of the fight, want candidates that pander to their bigotry. Conservative elites might not need to contain such intolerance to win this governor's race, but it will be crucial to the Virginia Republican Party's long-term success.
(Josh Barro is lead writer for the Ticker. Follow him on Twitter.)