The apparent victory of Republican Glenn Youngkin over Democrat and former Governor Terry McAuliffe in Virginia tonight (Dave Wasserman and Decision Desk HQ called the race well before 9 pm Eastern; major media are holding off for the moment) contains a few fairly obvious lessons for the Democrats that I’m guessing (and hoping) they’ll have a lot of trouble grasping.
One: Tying every Republican to Trump doesn’t work. Donald Trump was an outlier in many ways — and everyone knows this. The widespread attitude in the media and among Democrats that Trump was a uniquely pernicious threat to the Constitutional order and to other norms can not, a year after Trump’s defeat, be turned inside out. “Oh, did we say Trump was uniquely dangerous? Actually he’s just like every other Republican. They’re all the same. Our Republic is in danger if you don’t vote Democrat.” Youngkin is a normal suburban-friendly Republican, and yet McAuliffe built his campaign around hysterical suggestions that Youngkin was Trump in fleece. This fooled no one. President Biden came to McAuliffe’s aid to argue, “Extremism can come in many forms. It can come in the rage of a mob driven to assault the Capitol. It can come in a smile and a fleece vest.” So: all Republicans are like the Capitol Hill mob.” Uh-huh.
Two: the Democrats’ strategy of pumping up turnout in the base by tarring Republicans as racists doesn’t appear to be a great idea going forward. The more you cry racism, the less potent the charge becomes. Democrats should acknowledge that Critical Race Theory and related teachings about the supposed ultra-prevalence of white supremacy are themselves extremist, and racist, approaches to American history and culture. Do Democrats really want to go to the polls in 2022 as the party of Critical Race Theory? CRT barely even existed in the public imagination until two years ago. If I were a Dem I’d loudly and publicly throw CRT overboard. It’d be a perfect Sister Souljah moment. And what would that cost the party really? It still rules practically the entire education establishment.
But as the disaster presidency of Joe Biden has proven, the Dems are terrified by, and ruled by, their hardcore activists. Practically speaking, nearly every Democrat is a puppet of the fringe left. Do Democrats have the courage, much less the smarts, to cut out their voter-repelling culture-war nonsense and get back to issues that can win over the median voter? “We‘re not Trump” doesn’t cut it anymore. Voters want to hear an affirmative case for why they should vote for Democrats.