Five minutes after the polls closed Tuesday night, the Vernon Robinson for Congress campaign knew that after all of the backbiting, false allegations, mudslinging and personal attacks they lobbed at former state Sen. Virginia Foxx, they were going to lose the GOP runoff for the 5th Congressional District race.
Robinson, a Black conservative Winston-Salem city councilman who once proudly called himself the “Black Jesse Helms,” displayed a class and humility in defeat that was nowhere to be seen during his fur-flying contest with Foxx.
“Let’s come together to kill off Democrats and get more conservatives in office,” Robinson said, standing with Foxx as he conceded the race.
The words and tone were very different just days earlier when the second-term councilman complained, “She has called me names like a bully, a clown, and she has even commented on my race and size.” Robinson called Foxx a “Hillary Clinton liberal” even though Foxx is known to be a a conservative.
And in a stunning tactic, Robinson, in one of his last television ads, accused a Pakistani man, arrested last month while filming buildings in Charlotte and charged with immigration violation, of being a “terrorist” who came to the state “to kill you.”
“I’m Vernon Robinson,” the ad continues after the announcer identified the man as “Pakistani terrorist Kamran Akhtar.” “I approve this message because Akhtar didn’t come here to live the American dream. He came here to kill you. In Congress, I will shut that border down.”
In fact, though what Akhtar was doing was clearly provocative, no court, jury, prosecutor, law enforcement or U.S. intelligence official has formerly called him a terrorist.
“If it quacks like a duck and we’re in war time, I think it’s a fair assessment,” Robinson told the Winston-Salem Journal. “He wasn’t a tourist (and) he wasn’t here to study architecture.”
When asked if the ad violated Akhtar’s rights to a fair trial or if he’s nothing more than a tourist with an expired visa, Robinson replied, “Let the voters decide.”
“Vernon Robinson is a provocative Republican. Some people may even say that he is a bomb-thrower,” Jack Fleer, a political science professor at Wake Forest University, told FOX News after Robinson came in first in the 5th District GOP primary. “He takes positions that are not appealing to large numbers of African Americans, which might help him appeal to whites, but might also be a problem in terms of whites saying, ‘Are you serious?’”
“Some will argue that Robinson took his flamboyant and aggressive style too far, that he alienated voters allied with the other Republican in the race…,” wrote John Locke Foundation President John Hood in the conservative online newsletter, Carolina Journal.
Hoping to toss out the red political meat he thought the majority conservative electorate of the 5th Congressional District desired, Robinson hit all of the bases.
“We can stop homosexual activists and racial agitators,” he once bellowed, touting a strong national defense, and end to racial quotas, and traditional family values as key agenda items he would address in Congress if elected.
Robinson was proud for being elected twice to the Winston-Salem City Council on the strength of the white, not Black vote. He felt using the tough conservative rhetoric that his hero, former Sen. Jesse Helms used to intimidate all adversaries and impress the GOP base, was the formula.
But when he vowed to “close the borders” on immigrants, one of his strongest supporters, former Vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, withdrew his endorsement, accusing Robinson of “running a very negative and aggressive anti-immigration campaign … contrary to the core values of the party of Lincoln.”
What Robinson’s future is beyond finishing out his City Council term is unclear. Now that the voters of Winston-Salem and the Piedmont see the angry politics he’s capable of, they may not
elect Robinson to anything else again.
A couple of hundred miles away in the state of Illinois, the press is having a field day following the daily diatribes of Alan Keyes, the former U.S. ambassador under Pres. Reagan, and two-time candidate for the presidency and the U.S. Senate.
Since being recruited from Maryland by the Illinois GOP to run against popular Democratic state Sen. Barack Obama for the U.S. Senate, Keyes has used every opportunity not only to bash Obama, but to talk about anything other than Illinois issues.
“The very principles on the basis of which slavery was abolished have been abandoned by Barack Obama and others in the Democratic Party,” Keyes told CNN a week ago. “And I think that that abandonment betrays the heart of many Americans who are deeply committed to the American creed. And that is the reason I have stepped into this race.”
On ABC-TV’s “This Week,” Keyes said, “I would still be picking cotton if the country’s moral principles had not been shaped by the Declaration of Independence,” adding that Obama “has broken and rejected those principles — he has taken the slaveholder’s position.”
And after saying that he believed U.S. senators should be appointed, not elected, Keyes went on the rhetorical rampage again, saying, “I don’t think [Obama is] a rising star. I think he’s actually a fading phony. I think that there’s no correspondence with what he said at the Democratic National Convention and his actual record. And the fact that he is somebody who totally rejects the founding principles of this country, who does not believe that we are all created equal, who takes stands on issues like abortion that are shocking to the conscience even of Democrats. He’s willing to allow living children who are fully born to be set aside to die like garbage—I mean, that kind of deep extremism, which didn’t come through in his DNC speech, is what characterizes him.”
Obama has been careful not to allow himself to be drawn into rhetorical warfare with Keyes, thus giving him a grander state to operate from. He’s hoping that some of Keyes’ own words will sink him.
Ironically, so do some in the Republican Party, like GOP strategist Mike Murphy.
“When voters listen to Alan Keyes, they get the perception, wow, this guy is stone-cold nuts,” CNN quoted Murphy as saying. “And they run home to hide their children. We Republicans are the free market party, so let’s look to Keyes’ prior history in elections and trust the market.”