Tim Anderson really burst onto the political scene in Virginia in 2019, when Democrats took complete control of the state government for the first time in decades. In the immediate aftermath of that election debacle and the Democrats’ pledge to immediately pass new gun control laws including a ban on modern sporting rifles more than one hundred counties, cities, and towns across the Commonwealth declared themselves to be Second Amendment sanctuaries, and Anderson’s daily livestreams on social media in support of the movement helped to serve as a springboard for his campaign for a seat in the state House of Delegates last year.
Gun rights aren’t the only culturally conservative touchstone for Anderson, who’s also been a part of efforts to restrict access by juveniles to sexually explicit books in book stores, but I’d say he’s primarily been known for his support for the Second Amendment… at least until this week, when he became the first elected Republican in Virginia (at least that I’m aware of) to declare that it’s time for the GOP to move on from Donald Trump.
“He will lose Virginia. Just like he’s lost two other times. And he’s going to bring us all down with him,” Anderson, R-Virginia Beach, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “I should have said this two years ago.”
Anderson, an attorney and gun shop owner with a knack for politically charged lawsuits tied to conservative causes, said he and many others in the GOP have long felt privately that Trump was bad news for the party. By going public now, Anderson said he hopes other Republicans will also find their voice as Trump prepares a third presidential bid.
“The voters, when they’re looking at all the chaos on the Democrat side, they look over at us and they say, ‘No thank you, we’re not going to vote for the Trump people,’” Anderson said. “I’m going to be the first person to come up and say: ‘No more.’ Leaders lead. And I’m trying to lead.”
Anderson, who recently led an unsuccessful legal effort to block private bookstores from selling two sexually explicit books to minors, said he believes a majority of Republicans are not Trumpists, but “Reagan people.” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, he said, understands Virginia voters better than Trump and set the state GOP on a path to attract voters to its side. But the party’s ability to win majorities in the Virginia General Assembly next year, he said, will be in jeopardy if Trump remains the face of the party.
“There’s no chance we’re going to sway light blue Democrats our way ever again if we’re going to be wearing red Make America Great Again hats,” Anderson said. “It’s just never going to happen.”
In a Facebook post Anderson argued that, regardless of what supporters might think about Trump personally, history has shown that when he’s the center of attention, Virginia Republicans end up on the losing side of elections.
While Trump was President, we lost a supermajority in the House of Delegates, a majority in the Senate and in 2019 Democrats controlled all state government for 2 years – radically changing Virginia. After Trump lost, the GOP gained Delegate seats back and won all 3 statewide offices. I call this the Trump effect. One thing Trump does very well in Virginia is mobilizing the left to vote against him and anyone who supports him.
I care about Virginia more than anything. Trump running for President is the absolute worst thing that can happen to Virginia state politics.
We must take a different direction and the Virginia GOP and Republicans must divorce from Trump – for the sake of Virginia and for the sake of the nation.
I am going to take the first step and say these things publicly that I know many of my colleagues think. It’s a new day. It’s time to move on.
Democrats held seats in the 7th and 10th this year because voters would rather the country be on fire than vote for Trump’s party. Never again.
Like Trump, Love Trump or Hate Trump – if you care about Virginia and conservative values – we must all move in a different direction.
What’s fascinating to me is that Anderson is no Never-Trumper. Quite the opposite in fact, and I expected that the replies to his Facebook post would be full of Trump supporters calling him a RINO sellout squish (or words to that effect). While there are a few of those comments, I was surprised at how many folks agree with Anderson’s take. Even if they like Trump’s policies, there were quite a few respondents who said that Trump’s personality or behavior since he left office has caused them to sour on the prospects for the Republican party if he’s the 2024 candidate.
This is just one small portion of a much broader debate over the future of the Republican party in the wake of a frustrating and largely disappointing midterm cycle, but I think its interesting that a Second Amendment advocate like Anderson is the first to kick off the discussion in Virginia, and I’m curious to see the response, if any, to Anderson’s comments from state Sen. Amanda Chase; another staunch pro-2A advocate who’s described herself as “Trump in heels.”