When Virginia Lt. Gov.-elect Winsome Sears won her election last November, it was a historic moment and a coup for the Republican Party. She, along with Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, is set to take office on Jan. 15. The newly-elected Lt. Gov. did something that is rare for Republican politicians and perhaps others like her should take note.
On Jan. 6, while the left was trying desperately to convince the nation that the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol building was worse than 9/11, Pearl Harbor, and the Holocaust combined, Sears decided to do something productive: She visited her constituents. But she did not just visit the normal folks one would expect from a politician of either party.
The Lt. Governor-elect met with people incarcerated at a correctional facility. She tweeted:
Today, I visited the inmates at St. Bride’s Correctional Facility. As Lieutenant Governor-Elect, they are my constituents. They can’t come to me, so I must go to them. All Virginians need hope and a future. #everforward #Virginia #LG-Elect
Today, I visited the inmates at St. Bride's Correctional Facility. As Lieutenant Governor-Elect, they are my constituents. They can't come to me, so I must go to them. All Virginians need hope and a future. #everforward #Virginia #LG-Elect pic.twitter.com/gDnqyFkiGS
— Winsome Sears (@WinsomeSears) January 6, 2022
This is a small gesture. But, if it is any indication of how Sears plans to govern, it is a positive sign. If we’re being honest, we know Republicans do not typically engage with prisoners in this way. Being proponents of law and order, we are not as willing to show understanding and compassion with those who have committed crimes. Indeed, this is something one might expect from Democratic politicians who would simply use this as a photo opportunity to show how much they supposedly love nonwhite people.
However, it seems the GOP might be coming around on this issue. With former President Donald Trump being a vociferous promoter of criminal justice reform and the First Step Act, others like Sears might follow suit. Perhaps this might help the Republican Party become the big tent it claims to be.
From the moment Sears won her election, it was clear she would be a powerhouse. During an interview with the New York Times, she discussed getting the conservative message to the black community, recognizing that the Republican Party still has much to learn. “The message is important,” she said. “But the messenger is equally important.”
The Times wrote:
This is the question that Ms. Sears embodies: whether she is a singular figure who won a surprise victory or the vanguard of a major political realignment, dissolving longtime realities of race and partisan identification. Democrats say there is little evidence for the latter, and that Ms. Sears won with typical Republican voters in an especially Republican year. But Ms. Sears insists that many Black and immigrant voters naturally side with Republicans on a variety of issues — and that some are starting to realize that.
“The only way to change things is to win elections,” she told the Times. “And who better to help make that change but me? I look like the strategy.”
Sears noted that the GOP rarely tries to attack the ties between black Americans and the Democratic Party, and this, in part, motivated her to seek office.
“I just took a look at the field, and said, ‘My God, we’re gonna lose again,’” she said. “Nobody was going to reach out to the various communities that needed to be heard from: women, immigrants, you know, Latinos, Asians, Blacks, etc.”
Sears is right in her assessment about the lack of outreach to the rest of America, but I’ve seen some promising signs that this trend is changing. Unlike what Democrats would have you think, she is an indicator that, in the words of Bob Dylan, times are a-changin’ on the right. The shift might be gradual, but the more we push the GOP to adopt a new strategy, the faster conservatives can win support from a wider array of American voters.