On the menu today: Savor this, conservatives. Election Day 2021 went about as well as it possibly could go for Virginia Republicans, who swept Virginia’s statewide races and won back control of the general assembly; the New Jersey’s governor’s race is still too close to call; Minneapolis rejects abolishing the police; and an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-endorsed socialist mayoral candidate in Buffalo loses to a write-in bid.
Welcome to the Backlash, Democrats!
And how are you this morning? Here in Virginia, the sun is shining a little brighter, the birds are chirping sweetly, the leaves are turning vibrant colors, and Republicans just stomped the bejeebers out of Democrats up and down the ballot. A “bloodbath,” as University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato told Rachel Maddow last night. “A five-alarm fire,” as Van Jones declared on CNN.
Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia governor’s race by about 70,000 votes over Terry McAuliffe, Winsome Sears won the lieutenant-governor’s race by about 56,000 votes, and Jason Miyares won the state attorney-general’s race by about 34,000 votes. Democratic incumbent AG Mark Herring was the guy who called upon governor Ralph Northam to resign, despite his own past wearing of blackface. The night was so bad that McAuliffe’s surrogates canceled on Chuck Todd and wouldn’t come out and eat their humble pie.
Republicans picked up six seats to win control of the House of Delegates — the oldest continuous legislative body in the Western Hemisphere — with 51 seats to the Democrats’ 49 seats. This is one of the indicators that even though Terry McAuliffe was a deeply flawed candidate, the problem for Democrats was not just him. (With McAuliffe’s defeat, the last gasp of the Clinton political legacy ends.) This should dispel the defeatist “Virginia is a blue state now” talk among Republicans.
We’re used to thinking of “culture war” issues as abortion. And with the Supreme Court potentially reconsidering Roe v. Wade, maybe that issue will indeed return as the centerpiece of America’s debate about social issues. But I suspect we’re witnessing a redefinition of what kinds of non-economic, non-foreign-policy issues are at the forefront of voters’ minds.
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, every parent suddenly faced a slew of unprecedented big questions. When will my child’s public school reopen? Because online “distance learning” just isn’t as good as face-to-face interaction with a teacher and peers, how much is my child falling behind? When my child’s public school does reopen, how many days a week will it be open? And when can kids have lunch the way they normally do? How much longer will kids be required to wear masks? All along, school administrators and teachers’ unions always seemed to drag their feet on every single step back toward pre-pandemic normality.
Once schools did come back, some parents didn’t like what they saw in their children’s curricula and also how schools handled some big issues. What did it mean if teachers were instructed to “embrace critical race theory,” “engage in race-conscious teaching and learning,” “teach code-switching in positive, nonjudgmental ways,” and “re-engineer attitudes and belief systems”? What kinds of materials are appropriate for sex education, and what kinds of materials are age-appropriate for school libraries? Do schools quickly and accurately report sexual assault and violence, or are they trying to sweep it under the rug?
And when parents objected, the National School Boards Association labeled them “domestic terrorists” and demanded “the resources of the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service, and its National Threat Assessment Center” to investigate them.
As Robby Soave summarized, “The public school system abused families’ trust during the pandemic, and the reckoning has just begun.”
Nebraska senator Ben Sasse contended that the teachers’ unions delivered the governor’s mansion to Youngkin.
“The Virginia GOP’s MVP has to go to Randi Weingarten, the leader of a radical teachers’ union that ignored actual teaching, politicized everything, shut down schools, and literally tried to tell parents to shut up. Congrats, Randi, you really turned out the vote,” Sasse declared in a released statement. “Congrats to Glenn Youngkin as well, on a sane, well-run campaign — and may all American politicians finally reject drunken, anti-parent rage from radicals like Randi Weingarten.”
Next time someone mentions the political genius of Barack Obama, remind them of the former president’s appearance on behalf of McAuliffe: “We don’t have time to be wasting on these phony trumped-up culture wars, this fake outrage that right-wing media peddles to juice their ratings.” When push came to shove, Obama adopted that same argument that parents had a “false consciousness” that prevented them from realizing that the public schools and school boards knew what was best for their children. Obama is as out of touch with the reality of the lives of suburban Virginia parents as any other multi-millionaire with a Martha’s Vineyard mansion whose private-school-attending children have long since left the nest.
If Virginia was the loss Democrats dreaded, New Jersey is the potential loss that is hitting them like a meteorite crashing through the atmosphere. As of this writing, shortly before 7:30 a.m., the New Jersey governor’s race is too close to call. Republican Jack Ciattarelli leads incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy by 1,193 votes, 49.65 percent to 49.6 percent. The remaining ballots will probably put Murphy over the top, but it’s amazing how few Democrats even contemplated that Murphy and his pandemic policies could possibly generate a backlash.
Note that a few polls in the past weeks showed Ciattarelli within about four percentage points, but others had Murphy ahead by eight to eleven percentage points. Once again, we see evidence that pollsters are systematically missing a considerable chunk of Republican-leaning voters.
Away from the governor’s races, the news was good for conservatives and bad for progressives.
The city of Minneapolis rejected a ballot initiative to replace its existing police department with a “public safety department,” 56 percent to 44 percent. The city of Buffalo rejected an openly socialist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-endorsed Democratic mayoral candidate and reelected the incumbent mayor as a write-in candidate. On Long Island, Republicans won the district-attorney races in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Rising Republican star Francis Suarez, the incumbent mayor of Miami, was reelected with 78 percent of the vote.
In Texas, voters approved eight state ballot initiatives, including one barring the state from limiting religious services and allowing residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to designate one essential caregiver who cannot be denied in-person visitation rights. In three counties in Virginia, ballot initiatives to remove or relocate Confederate monuments were rejected, and none won more than 33 percent.
The progressive Left got its collective and collectivist butts kicked just about everywhere it was on the ballot.
The Lincoln Project is utterly humiliated. (Then again, those former GOP consultants can now accurately brag that they helped elect a Republican.) On September 27, the Lincoln Project pledged, “We’re coming for you, Glenn Youngkin.” Considering that organization’s scandal-tarred past, we should emphasize that “Youngkin” is one word.
Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema must feel awfully vindicated this morning. Do you think that either senator woke up this morning and felt compelled to make more concessions so that both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and Build Back Better legislation can get to the president’s desk? Or do you think Manchin’s proposal for a “strategic pause” on spending “trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding” makes more sense?
Democrats lost for a lot of reasons last night, but a big one is that the economic concerns that Democratic officeholders and candidates are talking about — Weatherize buildings for climate change! Incentives for solar-panel production! Implement universal preschool! Remove the cap on state and local tax deductions! — are not connected to the biggest economic concerns on voter’s minds: Why is my grocery bill so high? Why is it so expensive to put gasoline in my car? Why do so many stores have such terrible supply-chain issues? Why does every store, restaurant, bar, and company seem so understaffed? Why does the sea outside of the country’s biggest ports look like rush-hour traffic with so many cargo ships full of imports just sitting there?
The average Democratic official isn’t living the same life as the average voter and isn’t worrying about the same problems — and that widening gap caught up to Democrats last night.
ADDENDUM: The cherry on top of the ice-cream sundae of last night is a wonderful sports moment. After Major League Baseball moved the All-Star Game out of Atlanta to protest Georgia’s voting-law reforms, the Atlanta Braves went on to win the World Series.
Once again, angry progressives didn’t think this one through.