Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Virginia’s Republican candidate for governor, Glenn Youngkin, has walked a fine line in his embrace of former President Donald Trump. He’s declared Trump “represents so much of why I’m running,” and has said he’s “honored” by Trump’s endorsement in the tight gubernatorial race against Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Before casting their ballots on Tuesday, Virginia voters deserve to know exactly what part of Trump’s past would cause Youngkin to feel “honored” to have his support.
True, Youngkin has tried to maintain some distance from Trump, including avoiding publicly campaigning with him and apparently not engaging in an upcoming tele-rally Trump is holding for the candidate. But the truth is if Youngkin had any decency, he would be disgusted by Trump’s endorsement and would have publicly rejected it long ago.
Forget left/right politics. How can Youngkin – or anyone for that matter – feel “honored” by a Donald Trump endorsement? Does Youngkin feel “honored” by Trump’s role in setting the stage for the January 6 insurrection, which resulted in roughly 140 police officers being injured (including some with rib fractures, concussions and partial loss of a finger)? Is Youngkin “honored” to have Trump’s support given Trump’s behind-the-scenes efforts – which we are still learning more about – to overturn the votes of more than 81 million Americans?
Youngkin has said he’s “honored” to have Trump in his corner, but how does he feel about Trump’s repeated defense of men accused of sexual harassment and assault of women, from Roy Moore to the former head of Fox News, Roger Ailes? Or Rob Porter, who in 2018 resigned as White House staff secretary amid allegations of abuse from two ex-wives; does Youngkin’s embrace of Trump’s endorsement include Trump’s defense of Porter, who denied the accusations? The women of Virginia – who supported Joe Biden over Trump in the 2020 presidential election by 61% to 38% – deserve that information before they vote in the state race on Tuesday.
Perhaps Youngkin is “honored” by Trump’s support given the former president’s call for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims coming into this country during his 2016 campaign? If so, that would be important news to the large Muslim American population in Northern Virginia before they cast a ballot. Likewise, Virginia’s African American community – which amounts to 20% of the state population – deserves to know why Youngkin would be honored to have the endorsement of a politician who continually trafficked in bigotry, from declaring “Black Lives Matter” is a “symbol of hate” to calling Black NFL players who protested institutional racism “sons of bitches” who should be fired.
Or maybe Youngkin is “honored” to have Trump’s endorsement because of his documented lies about the threat posed by Covid-19? Obviously, the nearly 14,000 families in Virginia who lost a loved one to Covid, and the more than 38,000 Virginians who were hospitalized during the pandemic, would likely want to know why Youngkin feels “honored” to be backed by someone who repeatedly misled the public about the dangers of this virus. If Youngkin is on board with how Trump handled Covid-19, it could illustrate how he would deal with another pandemic or health emergency during his own term.
And the list goes on and on of vile and dangerous acts committed by the former president, including when Trump infamously defended White nationalists involved in the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally, which was held in the very state of Tuesday’s election.
As many have noted, Youngkin is attempting to walk a political tightrope as he woos Trump voters while avoiding being seen campaigning with him. In fact, just last week President Biden chided Youngkin, asking, “What’s he trying to hide? Is there a problem with Trump being here? Is he embarrassed?”
Youngkin’s tactics do make political sense in normal times, given that Trump lost Virginia by over 10 points in 2020. But what Trump did – especially in his efforts to overturn our 2020 election and deny the will of millions of Americans – can never, ever be seen as normal.
So whether Youngkin campaigns with Trump isn’t the issue. It is that Youngkin says he’s “honored” to be endorsed by a politician with a well-documented track record of attempting to disrupt our democracy, spreading dangerous lies about a deadly virus and despicably trafficking in bigotry and cruelty.
The state of Virginia deserves far better than a leader who can claim to be “honored” by Trump’s endorsement – Republican or not. And this Tuesday, the voters of Virginia have a chance to send a message nationwide that any other candidate who welcomes being endorsed by Trump doesn’t deserve to hold office in this country.