Right now, all the attention in the Virginia gubernatorial race is focused on Ken Cuccinelli’s losing campaign and Mark Obenshain’s competitive race for attorney general. The other statewide race, between state Sen. Ralph Northam and Bishop E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor, has gone off the radar, and for good reason. There’s no question that the far-right candidate will lose in a landslide. Jackson’s not a candidate as much as he is a sideshow, an example of the base-driven politics that has crippled Virginia’s Republican Party in the general election.
To wit, here’s a short round-up of Jackson’s statements and positions in just the last week of the campaign. On guns, Jackson says, “Every person who has a concealed weapons permit and was trained to use a firearm…should be allowed to bring that firearm to school.” On rights for gay and lesbian Americans, he says, “How in the world can we expect our military to be blessed by the hand of almighty God if we allow our military to become the equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah? God is not pleased.” On the right-wing grassroots, he says, “It was God’s plan to beget the Tea Party.” And on the question of education, he says Obama will “force schools to start teaching all children homosexuality.”
Cuccinelli has worked hard to avoid any association with Jackson; of all the events the attorney general held over the weekend, none featured the conservative clergyman and anti-gay activist. The irony, of course, is that Jackson’s candidacy is the direct result of Cuccinelli’s decision to push for a convention as opposed to a primary. Given his strong support among rank-and-file Republicans, odds are good that Cuccinelli would have won a primary for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. And he would have walked away from the contest with a sensible nominee; Jackson, as his sparsely attended events and low fundraising attest, is a niche product for a handful of voters. In a fair election against a capable opponent, he would have fallen far short of victory. As it stands, Jackson is now one of the faces of the Virginia GOP, and his presence on the ticket has been an unmitigated disaster.
After Jackson won the nomination, I wrote a bit about his place in the universe of “black conservatives,” a category distinct from African-Americans who hold conservative views. Like Georgia businessman Herman Cain or former Florida congressman Allen West, Jackson’s career—and income—is earned with outrageous statements about government, President Obama, and other African-Americans. Here’s Jackson explaining how programs like Medicare and Medicaid are to blame for the deterioration of black families: “[T]he programs that began in the ’60s, the programs that began to tell women that ‘you don’t need a man in the home, the government will take care of you,’ and began to tell men, ‘you don’t need to be in the home, the government will take care of this woman and take care of these children.’ That’s when the black family began to deteriorate.” Such beliefs are similar to West’s insistence, for instance, that African-Americans are chained to the “Democratic plantation.”
An honest look at these figures will tell you that they’re grifters. They can’t succeed in politics, but—for a fee—they can tell you want you to hear about the world. And who are the voters who want to give their money and attention to charlatans like Jackson and West? Right-wing conservatives who desperately want validation that they aren’t racist and that their views are acceptable to African-Americans as is.
That isn’t true. But as long as there’s money is in it, there will be some Professional Black Conservative who shows up to tell the Tea Party exactly what it wants to hear.