Winsome Sears is the first African-American female elected to statewide office in Virginia. Douglas Wilder was the first African-American so elected.
Virginians elected Wilder lieutenant governor in 1985 and governor in 1989. He became the first African-American to serve as governor of any U.S. state since Reconstruction and the first ever elected governor.
Wilder had some thoughts on Tuesday’s election results. He told the Washington Post that by nominating and electing Sears and Jason Miyares, the Latino who won the race for Attorney General, Republicans now hold a symbolic advantage over Democrats.
Republicans, they can say: ‘We not only one-upped you but you provided no reason why Democrats should continue to be blindly supported by those communities,’
Why didn’t Terry McAuliffe put money in his budget for [historically black colleges and university’s] when he was governor [as the Republican candidates this year said they would]? Why didn’t the current administration?
The people are not stupid. I’ve always maintained that Democrats cannot win a statewide election without strong Black support and you can’t take the community for granted.
This is good analysis, but I question whether it goes far enough. Sears’ promises to Blacks weren’t limited to giving more money to HBCUs. Sears also strongly advocated government-funded school vouchers. Democrats hate this idea. And even if they didn’t, their close ties to teachers unions would preclude them from endorsing it.
And there was more to Sears’ campaign than just spending promises. As the Post observes, she ran as an unabashed social conservative, supporting the Second Amendment and restrictions on abortions.
She also wore her religious faith on her sleeve. One Virginia political analyst told the Post, “there are certain places where [Sears’] faith-based politics will get a hearing in the African-American community.” Maybe it already has.
There’s an even deeper level at which Sears rests her appeal. It was evident to anyone who watched her victory speech early Wednesday morning.
Sears is as big a booster of America as I have seen in a long time from a politician. She positively gushes over this country. She can barely stop expressing her gratitude for what America has meant to her and her father, both immigrants from Jamaica.
In this sense, Sears is the anti-CRT, anti-BLM candidate. She’s an arrow pointed at the heart of CRT and the BLM movement.
Sears denies that America is a racist country. She does not hold Blacks out as victims. Her unstinting message is that Blacks are not prevented from succeeding in America by “systemic racism.” They can succeed, as she has succeeded — the same way members of other races and ethnicities succeed.
Will this message carry the day with African-Americans? Probably not, at least not soon.
But I think it can make inroads. Maybe it already has.