Youngkin seized the education issue and won Virginia

This week: Nov. 8, 2021: The Briefing, Vol. IX, Issue 44

  • Democrats routed in first regular elections under Biden
  • Infrastructure bill passes, but social spending bill doomed
  • Nevada Democrats’ crack up could be a gift for Republicans


Judgment Day: Voters in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, among others, were given their first chance to weigh in on the Biden administration last Tuesday. Turns out they aren’t thrilled.

The main national issues in this year’s race were COVID restrictions and “critical race theory” — i.e., the insinuation of postmodern racialist ideology into public K-12 education. This latter, which became a hyper-local issue in Northern Virginia, is very real and promises to be a recurring political issue. 

Also looming in the background was the Biden administration’s overall unpopularity due to national policy questions. These include inflation, high gas prices, the disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan this summer, and the deterioration of the border situation into chaos that hadn’t been seen since the Trump administration’s diplomatic deal with Mexico largely shut down the flow of human trafficking.

Education: Republicans achieved something important in the Virginia race. They managed to change the education issue from a plus for Democrats that focuses mostly on funding levels to a plus for Republicans that focuses mainly on the content of the curriculum.

Looking back, this is a sign that the most politically significant event of the pandemic era may have been the school closures. They bred resentment among parents, whose livelihoods were thus doubly affected, but there was more than that. The year-long experience of distance-learning also enabled parents to see the kind of ideological nonsense being rammed down their children’s throats. 

Indeed, teachers unions, who of course backed Democrats everywhere in this year’s elections, may have shot themselves in the foot by insisting on closing public schools and keeping them closed. The decision has backfired so badly that AFT President Randi Weingarten is now in full denial that it even happened. Having literally threatened strikes if the schools reopened, she now pretends AFT always wanted to return to in-person learning. 

Democrats’ only answer to parental objections to racialist education is to claim they only lost because the electorate is racist and doesn’t want their children to learn about segregation or slavery. This dubious claim is similar to the one they have been making for decades after every election loss. 

Note the irony — In the 1980s, the exiting governor of Virginia, a Democrat, chose a photograph of himself and a friend dressed in blackface and as a klansman for his yearbook background photo in medical school. Republicans just elected the first black woman and the first Hispanic man statewide. Guess who’s the white supremacist? 

Summary: The most important result last Tuesday was in Virginia, where Republicans swept the statewide offices and flipped the state House (Democrats just drew the district lines). It was an unlikely triumph in a state that has become bluer and bluer, slipping out of Republicans’ grasp since 2004.

In Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears, Republicans elected the first black female statewide candidate. She will replace Democrat Justin Fairfax, who opted not to run for re-election amid credible accusations of sexual assault. Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, was defeated by Republican Jason Miyares, the first Hispanic candidate to win statewide in Virginia.

And of course, businessman Glenn Youngkin won at the top of the ticket over Clinton loyalist and former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe

The back-story is that McAuliffe was probably headed to victory until he stated in a debate that he does not want parents determining what’s in their children’s curriculum. This statement, ugly on its face, got much worse as it was revealed how Loudoun County school board members (in fast-growing D.C. suburban Virginia) had quietly transferred a “gender-fluid” student rapist to another school, where he struck again months later, then lied to the public and attempted to cover up the entire incident. The board was protecting its new transgender bathroom rules — the rape had literally taken place in a girls’ bathroom. 

McAuliffe never recovered from this. 

There’s more on Virginia below, but the other results were also noteworthy. 

In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy was nearly upset by an unknown state legislator (he narrowly survived as we anticipated) and state Senate President Steve Sweeney was in fact defeated by a political non-entity — a truck driver. Sweeney still won’t concede — so much for respecting election outcomes.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans swept the four statewide judicial elections taking place last week and routed Democrats in local and county offices. 

In New York, the GOP also won big at a local level (especially in Long Island but they even picked up a couple of New York City Council seats), but they enjoyed a few unexpected statewide victories as well. Voters rejected three important Democrat-backed ballot initiatives — two would have made enforcement of the state’s ballot integrity laws much harder, and a third was an attempt to rig the statewide redistricting commission in their favor. The last one was arguably the most important. To this day, New York has tougher ballot integrity laws than Georgia or Texas, an inconvenient fact for Democrats trying to assert that Republicans are attacking voting rights.

Infrastructure: The long-running joke about pivoting to infrastructure is over. With a little bit of Republican help, the House passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill — the small spending bill that had been held hostage by the Left to keep hope alive of passing Biden’s “Build Back Better,” a radical reconciliation bill whose gigantic price tag is probably less important than its radical ideological policy changes.

Although conservatives are sure to be upset over the passage of the infrastructure measure, it was always destined to pass. It enjoyed bipartisan support — the only hope of stopping it was that House leftists would be so intransigent that nothing could pass at all. For a time, that seemed possible, but a lot of Democrats suddenly got religion after the defeat of Terry McAuliffe in Virginia.

The infrastructure bill’s solo passage does give Joe Biden a minor victory on his agenda, but it also ends any possibility of Build Back Better going anywhere. Moderates in the Senate, who wanted the infrastructure bill, now have no incentive to support BBB, so it is probably a dead letter at this point.

Governor 2021

Virginia: There has been quite a bit of comment about Glenn Youngkin’s performance as a soft-spoken, hyper-disciplined candidate. He proved capable of courting moderate voters without alienating conservatives. He made no major mistakes and he ruthlessly exploited his opponent’s missteps. He embraced local issues with zeal and ran on them, allowing the Biden administration to dig its own hole for Virginia’s Democrats.

But there was, as Sherlock Holmes once said, a dog in this election that did not bark. 

As National Review’s John McCormack pointed out, Texas’ controversial abortion law passed months before last week’s election day. This law is unique in that, instead of banning abortion after a certain point in pregnancy, it takes a page from the Endangered Species Act. It allows anyone to sue an abortionist who performs an abortion after the sixth week of pregancy. The courts refused to enjoin the law, leaving it in place. The result has been a near shutdown of the state’s abortion industry due to liability concerns.

It has been a longstanding assumption on the Left that whenever the Roe v. Wade abortion decision is overturned, pro-life politicians will be quickly massacred in the next election. With the Supreme Court now considering cases that stab at Roe’s very heart, it is worth examining this assumption. Because to all appearances, it was incorrect.

The Democratic nominee, McAuliffe, made the assumption that the Texas law would be viewed very unfavorably by Virginia voters. He hammered the abortion issue in the last weeks leading up to the election, suggesting that Youngkin, his opponent, had similar plans for Virginia. 

And in the end? According to exit polling, those voting on the issue of abortion (8 percent of the electorate) broke for Youngkin, as usually occurs with this issue. Youngkin, who had declared himself pro-life with the common exceptions of rape and to preserve the life of the mother, received the votes of six in ten abortion-focused voters. 

It doesn’t appear that the Texas law refocused the minds of liberals onto this issue. In fact, between the time the Texas law passed and election day was the time when McAuliffe’s situation rapidly deteriorated.

Pro-life voters and campaigners need to take a lesson from this. It doesn’t mean that a courageous stance against abortion will not have negative electoral consequences in some places. But they should look forward to the overturn of Roe with optimism. Even where abortion cannot be stopped, there will be a chance to enact a far more humane and rational policy than the one mandated by Roe. It will also — and this will be the main result of Roe’s reversal — be far easier to defund the abortion industry, the organizations that underpin it, and their propaganda war to make abortion seem much more popular than it really is.

Senate 2022

Nevada: Just in time for a potentially damaging midterm election in which they have an unpopular incumbent senator and a governor to defend, Silver State Democrats are in the middle of a civil war. It bears a passing resemblance to the fight Republicans went through several years ago, after which the party’s regulars worked around a state party taken over by Ron Paul supporters. 

Bernie Sanders supporters, ideologically zealous but not especially adept at running a state party, have seized control of the Nevada Democratic Party at the expense of the well-oiled political machine built by former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid. 

Nobody is interested in playing nice, and the cost could be very high. Donations to the party have dried up since the Sanders faction’s accession, in part because of the new chairwoman’s anti-Israel zealotry. 

There is also a lot of bad blood just because members of Reid’s faction, seeing the writing on the wall before the leftists took over, transferred nearly half a million dollars in state party money out to the DSCC before quitting en masse. 

The Reid people have since created a shadow party in the state meant to get the Democratic vote out next year, and the Sanders people retaliated with a proposal to revoke the charter of any local party organization raising money in the state party’s name without their permission. The fight has reportedly left the campaigns of both Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Gov. Steve Sisolak without the voter data they will need to win, because the state party won’t share with the shadow organizations.

The fight has gotten ugly enough that there is talk of the DNC changing the party structure to de-emphasise local and state parties. Such proposals are predictably not going over well with state party leaders. 

It is a situation worth watching. Note that Joe Biden’s victory in Nevada was very narrow. Although Reid’s machine has kept Nevada locked down since 2018, there is a chance of significant slippage this year, and the Democrats know it after watching what just happened in far-bluer Virginia. The worst case scenario would be a repeat of the Democrats’ catastrophic 2014 blowout losses.