Tired of the pompous punditry prattling on about the Virginia election? Well, here’s the skinny from a Virginian living in what many call traditional Virginia, which means most anywhere except the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC.
In traditional Virginia, most folks are not dependent on the largess of the Leviathan to get by. Many actually work for a living. As a rule, folks whose pay is tied to productivity usually don’t fall for feel-good utopian claptrap and aren’t particularly worried that something they do or say might offend someone somehow somewhere sometime. That is not how they live.
To fully understand the Virginia political earthquake that happened on November 3 you need to know that politically the Commonwealth of Virginia is two planets – the DC suburbs and the rest. The steady growth of northern Virginia, which in outlook and orientation has much more in common with Washington than does the rest of the Commonwealth, has made it an uphill slog for the GOP in state-wide elections.
It is also helpful to know that five weeks out, the chattering class told us that Virginia was going blue. Democrat former governor Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton confidante, was in the driver’s seat. After all, just a year ago Joe Biden carried the Commonwealth by 10 percent. Even GOPers were saying that Republican Glenn Youngkin, an upstart businessman, confronted a daunting challenge.
Another helpful tidbit: Glenn Youngkin isn’t your typical politician. He grew up middle class in Richmond and Virginia Beach, working along the way at the kind of low-paying jobs that teach us about human nature. He studied hard, was an athlete and at 6’7” received a basketball scholarship to Rice University.
Then he scored an MBA from Harvard and has since had a successful career in finance. He has done well enough that among his assets is a US$6-million property in McLean VA that he rents to a church for a dollar a year and a 358-acre farm valued at $9 million that he rents to a Christian retreat for the same amount.
To describe him as Trump-lite is way short of the mark because he has a completely different personality than The Donald. But like Trump in 2016, this was his first-ever run for elective office.
Terry McAuliffe, on the other hand, is a seasoned political veteran. He started out as a New Yorker who went to university in DC, then moved across the Potomac to the Virginia side and stayed. He was successful in business, was Chair of the Democratic National Committee and served as governor from 2014 to 2018, finding it an excellent though all-too-fleeting sinecure from which to score valuable business contacts.
He is a confidante of the Clinton family and was chairman of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
So what happened on McAuliffe’s march back to the Governor’s Mansion? The perfect storm – genuine political climate change!
The debate debacle
Things began to unravel for McAuliffe on September 28, in deep blue Alexandria, just across the river from DC. The occasion was a debate between the candidates.
Debates are an inconvenience to the folks-who-know-better-than-the-rest-of-us. They are obligatory events essential for keeping up appearances about “democracy” along the cakewalk to the coronation.
At this one, the klieg lights were on and as usual everyone was all smiles. The moderator was NBC’s PC potentate par excellence Chuck Todd, and softball questions were flying. The jousting was underway.
And then came the query: “Should protections for transgender students be statewide or determined locally?” (The Virginia Department of Education had already laid down the law to local school districts: “transgender” students can use the bathroom of their choice, regardless of what the other 99+ percent think).
Republican Youngkin replied: “What we’ve seen over the course of this last 20 months is our school systems refusing to engage with parents. In fact, in Fairfax County this past week, we watched parents so upset because there was such sexually explicit material in the library they had never seen, it was shocking.”
Mr Youngkin went on to say that McAuliffe, as governor, “vetoed the bill that would have informed parents that they were there. You believe”— he told McAuliffe –“school systems should tell children what to do. I believe parents should be in charge of their kids’ education.”
McAuliffe took the bait. Hubris kicked in. He couldn’t help himself, and shot back that, under the evil, rube-inspired Neanderthal legislation he had vetoed, parents would have “had the right to veto books. I’m not going to let parents come into schools, and actually take books out, and make their own decisions. I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
McAuliffe to parents: Drop dead.
McAuliffe for Governor: Damage control mode.
Pesky parents have a habit of asking too many questions. They are a fly in the education industry ointment and woke educrats would be fine with it if they were just taken out of the equation à la Huxley’s Brave New World.
It was instantaneously obvious that Terry’s comments were not going to play well in traditional Virginia. Some of his savvier operatives advised him to, as journalists say, “walk back” his comments. But not Mr Tone Deaf. Pumped up by Joe Biden’s 2020 win and being a corporate leftie to the core, arrogance and cocksure Clintonesque confidence prevailed.
A few days later he was asked the same question and doubled down:
“Listen, we have a board of ed working with the school boards to determine the curriculum for our schools. You don’t want parents coming in in every different school district saying, ‘This is what should be taught here’ and ‘This is what should be taught there.’”
I guess when you’re going through hell, you keep going.
McAuliffe’s remarks did indeed not play well and birthed a new narrative: “Parents Matter.” The slogan was posted at rallies, heard on talk radio and echoed by candidate Youngkin. Virginia parents had the audacity to believe they mattered and should have input into their children’s public school education. McAuliffe’s dismissal of that energized an already growing and quite active base of pro-family voters.
Now follow the timeline from that fatal debate of September 28.
On the 19th, it came to light that Virginia’s largest public utility, Dominion Energy, had donated $200,000 to an anti-Youngkin PAC. How did this come to light? Dominion publicly asked for their money back. McAuliffe and Dominion had been very cosy when he was governor, and the relationship seemed suspicious. Believe it or not, Dominion claimed they had not been aware of the PAC’s true agenda when they made the donation. Most folks didn’t believe that, and it made worse optics for the Democratic slate.
Then, on October 22, out of the blue, former Governor Doug Wilder, the only Black to have held that office, announced that the Democratic party did not deserve Black support. He told the Washington Examiner:
“When the [prospective next] governor of Virginia says, ‘I am not going to allow parents to tell schools what to teach,’ you say, ‘My God, parents vote to have something to say about the education of their children.’”
Though an iconic figure to many Blacks, Wilder’s pronouncement didn’t hurt McAuliffe as much with Black voters as it did with cowed suburban Whites.
Loudon County’s ‘Believe It or Not’
By the end of the month, some of those suburban Whites were not so cowed anymore, as a long-simmering controversy in Loudon County finally came to a head. Parents had been protesting before their woke school board for months. But what happened at the board’s meeting on the 29th redounded on McAuliffe like a ton of bricks.
Some background is in order here. Loudon County is the outer reaches of the northern Virginia suburbs. Back in May a horrific crime had occurred in a Loudon County public school that was basically ignored by the legacy media. A “gender fluid” male student wearing a skirt entered a girls’ bathroom and raped a ninth grader. Instead of being punished, he was simply transferred to another school. Suspicions were that the student was not punished because of his race (it is all about race, all the time).
The School Superintendent at first denied the rape ever happened. He was eventually forced to apologize for his “error.” He continued to deny any cover-up, however. People didn’t buy it – not for a second.
The victim’s father, understandably upset, had appeared before the School Board on June 22 to voice his frustration. He was arrested and the National School Board Association (NSBA) wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting an investigation:
“As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
So the father, for being upset that his daughter was raped, instead of receiving support from the School Board, was arrested and smeared as a domestic terrorist by the NSBA.
By October,Federal Attorney General Garland, only too happy to oblige the inquisitors, ordered the FBI to step up the PC persecution and investigate “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools.”
Then, incredibly but not surprisingly, the same “gender fluid” student committed a similar sexual assault at another Loudon County school. This time, with public outrage at a boiling point, the matter actually went to court and the student was finally found guilty of sexual assault on October 25.
The next day, October 26, there was a massive student walkout in the Loudon County Schools, with students chanting, “Loudon County protects rapists.” Somehow, this did not escape notice by legacy media. It was a big story.
Another huge issue bubbling to the surface was the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in the schools. Legacy media stubbornly stuck to the script: critical race theory is not being taught in Virginia public schools. Many parents knew otherwise. Cultural Marxist indoctrination may not be officially called CRT, but racism is racism, however packaged and labelled.
Then came the October 29 School Board meeting. An upset mother told the Board that “My six-year-old sombrely came to me and asked if she was born evil because she was a white person, something she learned in a history lesson at school.”
The lady even had the temerity to tell the Board, “These are our schools. They are not your schools.”
McAuliffe dismissed talk of CRT as a racist “dog-whistle,” but by now he was getting nervous.
Failing the “never let ‘em see you sweat” test, he played the Trump card, linking his opponent to former President Trump at every opportunity. Living in the past, he thought that Trump-bashing would dent Youngkin’s appeal. It didn’t; it only reminded voters that if Youngkin was allied with Trump, then McAuliffe had a mighty millstone around his neck named Biden – not Hunter, but the Big Guy, Joe.
Tiki Torches in broad daylight
October 29: the Lincoln Project, a scandal-plagued anti-Republican never-Trumper PAC founded by Washington insiders, thought it had hit upon a gimmick that would be sure to sink Youngkin.
Their stunt was a false flag operation where five young men carrying tiki torches, clad in white shirts and khaki pants, posed for photos next to a Youngkin campaign bus in Charlottesville. (In 2017, Charlottesville was where several hundred young men in town for the “Unite the Right” event staged a torchlight march on the University of Virginia campus. They were clad in khaki pants and white shirts, holding aloft tiki torches).
The photos were supposed to go viral, showing that the Unite the Right bunch was all in for Youngkin. They did indeed go viral, but not as planned. Immediately exposed for the fraud it was, it completely backfired, leading to accusations of dirty tricks by the McAuliffe campaign. The campaign was forced to deny any role in the failed stunt, which drew even more attention to it.
The 2021 Virginia governor’s race had been a wild ride from the get-go. But the dam broke in the September 28 debate. For so many frustrated Virginians, forced to endure woke school systems, racist CRT, transgender bathroom squabbles and much else, it was the last straw.
It was patently obvious that the “system” was broken and that political correctness and identity politics had replaced traditional concepts of right and wrong.
This helped the Youngkin campaign inspire a groundswell of pro-family citizens to come out of the woodwork and volunteer, man the phones, knock on doors, and rally the troops. Most of these folks were first-timers at this, but truly alarmed about an increasingly dysfunctional society. Youngkin signs sprouted up everywhere, even in parts of northern Virginia, and he began drawing enthusiastic overflow crowds at events from the Appalachian Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay.
Another factor was that McAuliffe, long rumoured to have national political ambitions, campaigned like a national candidate. A focus on Trump, racism and even immigration was more suited to a US Senate campaign. McAuliffe brought in President Biden, Jill Biden, Kamala Harris and Barack Obama to campaign. Northern Virginia, a Washington suburb, is ever preoccupied with national issues. But in the rest of Virginia, bringing in politicians perceived as far left was disconcerting, to say the least.
Youngkin, by contrast, did not invite any national figures to speak on his behalf. He focused on issues of interest to average folks such as parental input into public education, lower taxes, and the effects of cancel culture in the schools.
In the closing weeks there was a palpable enthusiasm gap between the campaigns. Team McAuliffe continued to play it safe, relying on the tried-and-true formula of boosting their base in northern Virginia and among minority voters. Team Youngkin was well organized, energized, and on message. With an unprecedented groundswell of well-managed volunteers and round-the-clock effort from a loose coalition of church folk, cultural traditionalists, fiscal conservatives, Trumpers and GOP stalwarts, they actually outworked the McAuliffe campaign.
By Halloween, McAuliffe’s CRT-denial, dismissal of parental public school input and Trump-bashing were covered 24/7 on talk radio and localmedia. Yet, woefully out of touch, he doubled down and continued to saturate the airwaves with the ”Youngkin equals Trump” message. But neither the race card nor the Trump card was working against Youngkin.
At the same time, Youngkin’s likeability quotient was soaring. Sticking to the issues and on message, he came across as sympathetic to the concerns of middle class Virginians about crime, education, taxes and social issues. Barnstorming the Commonwealth, the candidate himself was working as long and hard as any campaign staff or volunteer.
On election eve, both candidates had rallies scheduled in Virginia Beach, a prosperous area with a considerable military presence. As thousands were streaming to Youngkin’s rally, word came that McAuliffe had already cancelled his. The handwriting was on the wall.
In the end, Glenn Youngkin’s well-oiled campaign, swarms of volunteers, and the candidate’s dynamism and perseverance helped pull Ms Winsome Sears, the incoming Lieutenant Governor, and Jason Miyares, the Attorney General-elect, over the threshold of victory. While some pundits crowed about the “diversity” of the Republican ticket (Ms Sears is African-American and Mr Miyares is Hispanic), the results did not indicate that the ethnicity of the candidates had any bearing on the outcome.
Whites voted 62% for Youngkin, Blacks 87% for McAuliffe. There are conflicting surveys on Virginia’s Hispanic vote, but the Republican ticket did better than ever with them. Some surveys indicate that Youngkin won the Hispanic vote. The 2020 US Census has Virginia as 68.6% White, 19.4% Black, 7.6% Hispanic [of any race], and 5.5% Asian.
The conspicuous difference between northern Virginia and the rest of the Commonwealth was evident in the election returns. Following are McAuliffe’s percentages from the area:
Fairfax County: 65.0%
Fairfax City: 63.8%
Prince William: 57.0%
In contrast, Youngkin exceeded expectations in the rest of the Commonwealth, racking up totals exceeding 80% in several southwestern Virginia counties. His vote surpassed that of Trump in many areas.
Glenn Youngkin’s victory was a shot heard round the world. The Youngkin base includes droves of family-centred, law-biding and hard-working folks – not the legacy media’s “extremists.” His come-from-behind upset win has inspired family values advocates. It has given them hope, and many will now do more than just hunker down and home-school.
Youngkin will likely govern as a moderate conservative, though such labels are becoming obsolete in the face of social breakdown. So many of us of so many opinions want the same things for our children.
A valuable lesson from the campaign is that family values advocates need to change their approach.
Today’s world is shaped by images and sound bites. Presenting facts and rock-solid intellectual arguments is not enough. Passion puts the fire in your message. Leftist culture warriors frame political power plays as moral imperatives. Dissent from their ideology brings not debate on the issues but rather accusations of racism, homophobia, etc., etc. This introduces rancour and discourages grassroots traditionalists from involvement in politics. That needs to change.
Elections matter. As the old saying goes, “You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.” Virginia’s 2021 governor’s race brought home that realization to many. This time they won. Glenn Youngkin’s campaign will likely serve as a blueprint for family values advocates nationwide. The message for families in Virginia and elsewhere: Get involved. Stay involved.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”