Despite the accolades with which St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) chooses to laud him, Ed Gillespie is not a man we should welcome with open arms onto our campus.
Gillespie has a long history of racist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-science and pro-corruption actions. His record does not align with the St. Mary’s Way, and to attend his upcoming talk at St. Mary’s Hall’s Auerbach Auditorium without speaking up against his actions would be taking a stand for complicity and the normalization of hate.
In an all-student email on Feb. 27 the Office of the President wrote that Gillespie is a “witty and candid speaker” who is in a “qualified position to analyze the current political environment.”
The most significant thing Gillespie has done in the past year is lose Virginia’s gubernatorial election. The former chair of the Republican National Committee, Gillespie lost after running a campaign centered around fear mongering and racism. Quite literally, he is a loser. But you need not take my word for it. Here is his record; you can come to your own conclusion.
During his gubernatorial campaign in 2017, Gillespie sponsored a series of attack ads against his Democratic opponent, Ralph Northam. One ad, which is still up on his verified YouTube account as of March 1, tries to draw a correlation between sanctuary cities and the MS-13 gang.
New York Magazine referred, rightly so, to Gillespie’s ads as “borderline racist.” The Intercept said that Gillespie was “fear-mongering [and] race-baiting.” The Majority Report characterized Gillespie’s campaign as “anti-immigrant” and “thinly-veiled racis[m].” The Root writes, “his campaign has certainly been warm to racist signaling.” Not only was it racist; the ad was also “misleading” according to FactCheck.org.
This racist ad uses a photograph of El Salvadorians who, according to The Washington Post, were not members of MS-13. The ad is premised on a vote Northam made to reject legislation which would have prohibited the establishment of sanctuary cities. Virginia does not have any sanctuary cities.
“The intense focus on MS-13 comes directly from the Trump White House, which has turned MS-13 into a Latino boogeyman,” Cristóbal J. Alex, president of the Latino Victory Fund, a progressive advocacy group told The Washington Post. “It ignores the fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born individuals and that undocumented Latinos are often the victims of gangs like MS-13.”
To squash any confusion about whether Gillespie was using racist ideas to win an election, he later sent out mailers, the subjects of which ranged from claiming the removal of confederate statues (the same statues that neo-nazis marched to) was “tearing down” history to using disingenuous arguments to attack Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest of black Americans being killed at the hands of the police.
Since Gillespie lost, he has adopted a more apologetic tone about his racist ads, saying he only did so to court voters. But in the words of Ed Kilgore of New York Magazine, “poor, sad Gillespie. He had to do this to ‘move numbers.’ Could anyone blame him? Absolutely.”
Gillespie was amenable to using racism in order to appeal to racist voters. His attacks of people who wish to remove confederate monuments, mischaracterizations of protest against police brutality and usage of a “Latino boogeyman” should be viewed holistically to judge his character.
Gillespie’s legacy is not limited to racism. He also has a history of anti-LGBTQ platforms. According to GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, he has been adamant in his opposition to marriage equality and an advocate for North Carolina-style “bathroom bills.”
Zeke Stokes, Vice President of Programs at GLAAD, said in 2017, “Ed Gillespie’s clear targeting of marginalized communities falls in line with the racist and anti-LGBTQ agenda of the Trump Administration.”
While Gillespie was chair of the Republican Party in 2004, according to GLAAD he said that the GOP must “‘pursue whatever policy is necessary’ to stop marriage equality.”
Referencing people who were asking him to be tolerant of the LGBTQ community, in that same year Gillespie said, “Those who say I must turn my back on the tenets of my faith — in order to be accepted by them — are the ones being intolerant, and it’s nothing less than religious bigotry.”
In 2014, in the same statement in which he uses his faith to deny a woman’s constitutional right to choose what she can do with her body, Gillespie carves out his bigoted view of marriage. According to The Free Lance-Star, he said, “I believe in my faith, which says marriage is between a man and a woman … so I don’t believe in government sanction of same-sex marriage.”
The Washington Blade reported on Gillespie’s transphobic statements; he said his position on the “bathroom bill” is “it’s … about compelling teenage girls to share locker room showers with teenage boys. It’s about compelling teenage girls to have to stay in a hotel with a teenage boy or an overnight band trip.”
He has since become less firm on his positions with regards to LGBT rights. “While I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, I don’t believe that it’s the proper role of the United States Senate to enact a federal marriage amendment,” Gillespie explained at a debate in 2014. But he should be held accountable for ever having these views.
In addition to all of that, Gillespie refuses to call climate change as it is. According to Energy Policy, Gillespie “released a [seven-page] plan … to address sea-level rise for Virginia’s Hampton Roads area that omitted any mention of climate change, global warming, or greenhouse gases.”
On economic issues, Gillespie’s proposed tax plan would have “further tilt[ed] the tax code in favor of the wealthy [and] Virginians in poverty wouldn’t receive tax cuts from Gillespie’s plan,” according to an analysis from the Center for American Progress, a left-of-center think tank.
If all of that is not yet enough, Gillespie formed a partnership with Karl Rove and founded American Crossroads, a conservative lobbying group. Rove is famous for his “dirty tricks,” including calling voters in 2000 and asking “Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain … if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?” according to The Nation. And, more recently, hinting that Hillary Clinton has brain damage, according to The Atlantic.
Gillespie must have seen promise in Rove, as he elected to start American Crossroads with him. Gillespie once told The Daily Press that “I was never on the board, never an employee, never a consultant,” but The New York Times, Slate and The Center for Public Integrity all refer to him as the group’s co-founder.
American Crossroads is a political group which in 2010, according to Federal Election Commission filings, got 91 percent of its funding from just three billionaires.
Those three billionaires capitalized on the Citizens United court case decisions which allows wealthy individuals to spend unlimited sums of money influencing our system. Professor of law at Harvard University Lawrence Lessig says that the Citizens United Supreme Court decision creates “the influence of special-interest super PACs [which are a] corrupting influence on American democracy.” In President Trump’s terminology, Gillespie is a swamp monster. His group amplified the political opinions of those three donors, corrupting our system into a quasi-oligarchy.
Despite all that money, in 2012 Bloomberg reported that American Crossroads was one of “biggest losers on Election Day.”
Gillespie is not a person who follows the St. Mary’s Way. His record with climate change shows that he does not “respect the natural environment.” His ads show they he does not follow our “tradition of tolerance.”
As I said before, what you do with this information is your own decision, but here is my recommendation: seeing as to how he has not “take[n] individual responsibility for [his] work and actions,” nor shown his opponents “honesty, integrity, and trust,” SMCM students should engage “in an ongoing dialogue,” and if they attend Gillespie’s talk, speak up. Otherwise, boycott it.