Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin cozies up to conspiracist groups, hopes voters don’t notice

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee in Virginia's 2020 governor race speaks to supporters at a campaign rally. Photo: rachlepp/Twitter

First published at Daily Kos

Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin is working hard to win over the state’s right-wing voters while working even harder to keep moderate suburbanites and independents in the dark about it.  

Youngkin’s most recent act of duplicity came at the Virginia Tea Party’s “Backlash to Socialism” summit, where Youngkin pre-recorded a video address to attendees of the event sponsored by the far-right John Birch Society. Birchers are the original conspiracists, once sidelined by conservative leaders in the ’60s for promoting baseless wackadoodle ideas, who have made a comeback in the GOP in recent years.

True to form, reports the Daily Beast, the event’s headliner was a New Zealand conspiracy theorist named Trevor Loudon who believes Democrats and the left are “working with so-called Islamists to overthrow the United States,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

At the event, Loudon said the U.S. military wasn’t to be trusted because “the leadership is not on our side” and cast Democrats as in league with every major U.S. adversary.

“Can you imagine if we did march on Washington, how long it would be until the Democrats brought their Russian and Chinese and Iranian friends onto American soil?” Loudon said, as if the Jan. 6 Capitol siege never happened.

But perhaps more interesting than Youngkin cozying up to attendees at the event (“Please know I am with you all in spirit,” he said via video) is the fact that Youngkin was clearly at pains to cover his tracks. The Daily Beast notes that after making the obvious choice not to appear in person at the event, Youngkin also didn’t post about it on his Facebook page, choosing instead to feature pictures from another campaign stop that day. Youngkin also wasn’t included in any of the event’s promotional literature, apparently because organizers were belatedly notified that he would be submitting a video address.

Youngkin spokesperson Matt Wolking later offered, “Glenn Youngkin did not attend this event and was not aware of other speakers or sponsors.”

But the GOP candidate’s message certainly catered to the audience.

“McAuliffe is also waging war against people of faith,” Youngkin told the audience. “He actually said that ‘so-called religious freedom legislation is just a license to discriminate.’ He is committed to making it impossible for all of us to live out our faith in peace. Make no mistake, McAuliffe is an extremist. He’s a dangerous, dangerous threat to our constitutional rights, more so than we’ve ever seen here in Virginia.”

Youngkin’s efforts to woo fringe GOP voters while covering it up are legend at this point. On Tuesday, Youngkin went straight up antisemitic, telling rally attendees at the Burke Volunteer Fire Department that Virginia school boards had been infiltrated by “George Soros-backed allies.” 

When Democrats called out Youngkin for spreading baseless antisemitic conspiracy theories (the campaign failed to produce supporting evidence), Youngkin spokesperson Matt Wolking dismissed the claim as “ridiculous partisan nonsense.”

At a Steve Bannon-headlined event last week, Youngkin supporters pledged allegiance to an American flag they said was carried on Jan. 6 during the coup attempt and desecration of the U.S. Capitol. Donald Trump himself called into the rally in support of Youngkin, and signs donated by the Youngkin campaign were distributed.

After being pressed on the event, Youngkin finally denounced it the next day, saying, “I’ve been so clear, there is no place for violence—none, none—in America today.”

And then there’s the recording of Youngkin telling an undercover progressive activist over the summer that he can’t campaign as an anti-abortionist because it “won’t win me independent votes that I have to get.”

However, Youngkin noted, “When I’m governor and I have a majority in the House, we can start going on offense.”

Youngkin added, “You’ll never hear me support Planned Parenthood. What you’ll hear me talk about is actually taking back the radical abortion policies that Virginians don’t want. And in fact they’re the radicals, they’re the radicals. And we’ve got to take it back.”

That was one of the first instances where, even though he didn’t know he was doing it, Youngkin told Virginians who he is. And he’s an imposter—a shapeshifter—who is selling himself to moderates as a business-minded ally while clandestinely appealing to fringe elements within the Republican Party and Trump’s radicalized base. And once Youngkin gets the keys to the governor’s mansion, oh boy, “We can start going on offense.”

That’s who Glenn Youngkin is in his own words.