Is defending Confederate monuments a viable campaign strategy

The Virginia city of Charlottesville was divided this spring over a decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. A string of protests followed, including one led by white nationalist Richard Spencer that featured torches.

The controversy coincided with the primary campaign for Virginia governor. Most of the candidates took moderate stances; the two who were leading at the time, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, called it a local issue. Meanwhile, another candidate stood out by taking a much stronger position.

“Nothing is worse than a Yankee telling a Southerner that his monuments don’t matter,” Republican Corey Stewart tweeted, sparking an online firestorm. Stewart, who served as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman in Virginia, modeled his campaign after the president’s. Like Trump’s, Stewart’s election results shocked establishment Republicans and political observers: He nearly defeated Gillespie in the GOP primary, finishing just 1 percentage point back.