Please repeat after me: “Donald Trump is not an aberration, he’s a manifestation of everything the GOP base has been dreaming of.” And the result this past weekend in Virginia’s 5th congressional district GOP primary, where first term Rep. Denver Riggleman lost to Bob Good, a Christian-sharia-loving, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant bigot, is just the latest example of where the GOP is heading with or without Trump.
There are some who deny this reality. They believe Trump is an outlier and when he’s gone the GOP will become less extreme and more tolerant. (Stop laughing.) Trump fits perfectly with where the GOP has been heading for decades when it comes to bigotry—he simply swapped the dog whistle for the bull horn.
In fact, the results of this past weekend’s GOP primary in Virginia’s 5th District, that spans from the Virginia-North Carolina border to the center of the state and includes Charlottesville, back that up. What did Riggleman, who had been endorsed by Trump on Twitter as a “true CONSERVATIVE leader,” do that caused him to be soundly defeated in the GOP party convention by a 16-point margin of 58 to 42 percent?
Well the headlines say that Riggleman–a military vet who was part of the conservative Freedom Caucus—had officiated at a same-sex wedding of two campaign volunteers in 2019. But when you dig deeper, Good’s campaign was based on a slew of what we might call far right-wing social views that actually serves as a glimpse of where the grassroots of the GOP have been heading.
Good, who had worked for years at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, made it clear he was running as a “bright red biblical and constitutional conservative.” How does that translate into policy positions? On abortion, it means no exceptions for abortion at all—not for rape, not for incest, and not even to save the life of the mother. Good made Riggleman’s embrace of the three GOP traditional exceptions for abortion a centerpiece of the campaign, painting him as not truly pro-life.
Now if you think that is out of the step of where the GOP is heading, it’s because you haven’t been paying attention. Grassroots anti-choice organizations have been increasingly pushing GOP officials to end exceptions for abortion if the mother is raped or a victim of incest. Indeed in 2019, Alabama enacted a total ban on abortion except if there’s was a "serious health risk" posed to the mother. (This law is on hold as it winds it ways through the courts.)
But we are also seeing other “pro-life” groups push for rejecting abortion even when the life of the mother is at risk, arguing that no one should choose one life over another. For example, the American Life League states on its website: “Exceptions break the rules as set by God; exceptions kill people. They are unacceptable under any circumstance.” Good is simply giving us a preview of where we can expect GOP candidates to be heading on abortion.
Then there’s Good’s views on immigration. Good, like Trump, wants to end birthright citizenship, slamming children born here from undocumented parents as “anchor babies.” And like Trump, he, too, wants to end “chain migration,” which non-bigots call family unification. But Good goes further than Trump, pushing for English to be the national language because he wants to “stop accommodating immigrants and their native tongues, because it’s our unity that’s our strength.”
On LGBTQ issues, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that Good is opposed to equal or any rights for this community. Good, who served in the past as a Campbell County supervisor, bragged during his congressional campaign that as a county official he fought measures to allow transgender Americans to use the bathrooms of the sex they now identify with. He’s also still vocally opposed to marriage equality, and blasted Riggleman’s officiating at a same sex marriage as showing his “contempt for the conservative base of the party.”
Now there is a difference between Good and Trump in terms of spewing racist garbage. Trump unabashedly did that starting the very first day of his 2016 campaign after descending his escalator. When it comes to Good, he let his surrogate do that for him and then refused to denounce him.
We saw that in the closing days of this campaign, when a 2017 video of Good surrogate former county supervisor Eddie Deane surfaced in which he shared his racist views. "You had a black man in the president [sic] for eight years and you're crying foul, or white supremacy?” he said. “You give the devil an inch, and he'll be your ruler. These minorities will not be satisfied." Deane defended his comments, telling a reporter he made it after a Black Lives Matter protest blocked local traffic. Deane also despicably stated about gays in another video, “They're a bunch of queers and that's the word I used years ago, that's what I use now. They're strange people, and they want your rights and you cannot appease them."
Good ducked media inquiries in the final days of the campaign on whether he would denounce these comments. But obviously if these words troubled Good, he would have slammed them.
The result of Good’s win is that Cook political report has moved the general election from “Likely R” to “Lean R,” with other experts saying given Good’s extreme views the district is in play this November. (The last time a Democrat won there was in 2008.) If Good loses—and loses badly—it could deter other Republicans from advocating such far-right views. But history tells us don’t count on it. Trump and Good are not aberrations—they are the manifestations of what the GOP base wants. For that reason, expect to see a lot more of both in the years to come.