Donald Trump just made the Virginia governor's race about Confederate monuments

Trump tweeted that Virginia governor candidate Ed Gillespie "might even save our great statues/heritage!"

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 26, 2017 11:43AM (EDT)

Ed Gillespie     (AP/Steve Helber)
Ed Gillespie (AP/Steve Helber)

Despite doggedly trying to avoid making the Confederate monuments controversy into an albatross around his campaign's neck, Virginia's Republican candidate for governor has been forced to the right on that issue by President Donald Trump.

Gillespie has subsequently retweeted both of those tweets.

Trump's tweeting may have put Gillespie in an awkward situation. His campaign has struggled to appease Trump's far right base by not denouncing the Confederate monuments in Virginia and criticizing his opponent, Democrat Ralph Northam, for wanting to take them down.

"I’m for keeping ’em up, and he’s for taking ’em down. And that’s a big difference in November," Gillespie claimed in a recent campaign ad.

At the same time, Gillespie has also worked hard to somewhat moderate his pro-monument tone. On his campaign website, Gillespie has specifically denounced "seeking to sustain the evil institution of slavery in the Civil War" of Virginia and Virginians acting as "leaders in oppressing people and denying them their freedom." Gillespie also argued that the issue of what to do with Confederate monuments could be best resolved at the local level and cited the approach of Richmond as one that he would like to emulate.

"While not removing statues, they are weighing how to put them in proper historical context," Gillespie wrote. "There is a balance that can be struck here, one that recognizes the outsized role Virginia has played in our history, while acknowledging that we have not always been on its right side."

The issue of taking down Confederate monuments is especially sensitive in Virginia. In August, white supremacists marched on and caused violence in the Virginia town of Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee. A few days later, Trump stirred up controversy when he defended the racist protesters as "very fine people" and openly opposed removing the Confederate monuments.

Things have not calmed down in the months since that controversy. Earlier this week, the DeKalb County Commission in Georgia voted to remove a 109-year-old Confederate monument in Decatur. Meanwhile new monuments have been put up by Confederate sympathizers in states like Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Overall, the Southern Poverty Law Center has estimated that more than 30 Confederate monuments have been put up since 2000, indicating that the issue is not merely one about protecting and preserving monuments that may in and of themselves have historic value.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012, was a guest on Fox Business in 2019, repeatedly warned of Trump's impending refusal to concede during the 2020 election, spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2021, was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022 and appeared on NPR in 2023. His diverse interests are reflected in his interviews including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), director Jason Reitman ("The Front Runner"), inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, World War II historian Joshua Levine (consultant to "Dunkirk"), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), seismologist John Vidale, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), Fox News host Tucker Carlson, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Confederate Monuments Donald Trump Ed Gillespie Virginia Governor Election