Elections that follow a Presidential race routinely trend against the party in the White House, so Republicans were expected to do well in the assorted votes that took place around the country this week.
But no one quite expected Tuesday’s results.
In Virginia — a state Biden won by ten points last year and that has been blue since the Obama years — the GOP snatched the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General.
Glenn Youngkin defeated Democratic candidate and former Governor Terry McAuliffe, while Winsome Sears took the lieutenant governor position and Jason Miyares becomes the state’s new Attorney General.
Republicans are also on track to take back the state’s lower legislative chamber, erasing a ten-point Democrat majority.
Even more surprising was the GOP’s performance in New Jersey. Blue since the days of Bill Clinton, New Jersey was supposed to be a walk in the park for incumbent Governor Phil Murphy, who enjoyed a ten-point lead in the polls. While Murphy is still projected to win, Democrats are rattled: if Murphy succeeds, he will only be putting down his Republican rival by a thousand or so votes.
In another blow for New Jersey Democrats, former truck driver Edward Durr, who spent only $153 on his general election campaign, is set to oust Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney. Sweeney is the longest-serving legislative leader in the state’s history.
Meanwhile, the Daily Wire reports that the New York GOP this week posted its best statewide results since 2016, and Republicans turned from blue to red a Texas seat that has a 75 percent Hispanic population.
Tuesday’s election results have been widely seen as a repudiation of the Biden agenda. Biden’s approval rating has fallen more at this point in his presidency than any other commander-in-chief since the Second World War.
Soaring inflation, worker shortages, a supply chain crisis, a collapsed southern border and the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal have seen Biden’s approval numbers bogged in the low 40s for several months.
Across the board, commentators have suggested that these results spell disaster for Democrats at next year’s midterms. Pollsters have echoed the same. “Needless to say, tonight’s results are consistent with a political environment in which Republicans would comfortably take back both the House and Senate in 2022,” tweeted Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman.
So whence the red tsunami?
If there is a single takeaway from this week’s results, it is that American voters are far more engaged in the culture wars now than in any past election. While the economy and Covid mandates were also on the table, the role of parents in education was a leading concern. This was especially true in Virginia.
“Republicans are looking to education as a winning issue ahead of next year’s midterm elections after putting it front and center propelled the party to a clear victory in Virginia on Tuesday,” reported The Hill.
The New York Times was even more blunt: “After Terry McAuliffe stumbled to defeat … a mild suggestion seems in order: Democrats probably need a new way to talk about progressive ideology and education.”
Virginia has been ground zero for a nationwide showdown between parents and school boards. For parents, the issues have been at least twofold: the sexualisation of their children through transgender bathroom policies and curriculum; and critical race theory which is souring race relations, especially in urban centres.
Youngkin stood with parents on these issues; McAuliffe stood in their way. The rest is history.
It also didn’t help that nationally, Democrats and their progressive institutions have been characterising dissenting parents as “domestic terrorists” and a threat to national security.
As conservative pundit Candace Owens put it, “I’m very surprised to learn that classifying parents as domestic terrorists for not wanting their children to learn racist and pornographic material in school is not a winning election strategy. Who knew.”
Clearly, calling Republican and Independent voters “racist” for harbouring such concerns was unsuccessful. But this hasn’t stopped progressive commentators from repeating the same slur in Tuesday’s aftermath.
Too bad for them that the face of “white supremacy” is now a son of Cuban migrants, and the first foreign-born black woman to assume a statewide office in Virginia.
Too bad for them that making race and gender incidental — not central — is how to win the culture war. And elections.