Opinion /

How the Dems Lost The Old Dominion

On Nov. 3, Obama campaign advisor Stephanie Cutter said this on MSNBC in the wake of the recent state elections in New Jersey and Virginia:“The one thing that we need to make sure that Republicans in 2022 don’t become is the party of parents.”

Too late.

In a political and media landscape in which education has been regarded as an afterthought compared with racial, gender, COVID, and environmental topics, Dems have sorely underestimated the determination of moms and dads who want a better future for their children. Ensuring students have a safe, productive learning environment in which they learn skills to prepare them for educational and employment opportunities. Parents from all cultural backgrounds want environments that see each student as an individual. Parents don’t want segregation of any kind — including the neo-segregation inspired by DiAngelo-Kendist principles that places people into arbitrary groups on the basis of skin color.

While Democratic partisans like MSNBC host Tiffany Cross make statements such as “a good chunk of voters out there are okay with white supremacy,” she seemed either oblivious or willfully ignorant of the fact that Virginia elected the most diverse statewide ticket in its history. Lieutenant Governor-elect Winsome Sears is the first African-American woman to be elected statewide in Virginia, while Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares is the first Latino to be elected to a statewide office in the Old Dominion.

Rather than triangulate to a populist message centered around jobs and the economy (which a 35% plurality of voters view as the most important issue), Virginia’s Democratic Party standard-bearer chose to double-down on elitism. Democrats were thought of as shoo-ins to hold the statewide offices of not only Governor but the row offices of Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General in the commonwealth of Virginia. A combination of weakness abroad and emerging wokeness at home has caused the Democratic Party’s standing to collapse spectacularly on the national level. 

Adding fuel to the fire,  Democratic gubernatorial nominee (and former Governor of Virginia) Terry McAuliffe said: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach.” This illustrates just how little he thinks of Virginians’ ability to determine what’s best for their children. The main focal point at the school board meetings has been the refashioning of an approach toward race/ethnicity to be around DiAngelo-Kendist principles (commonly referred to colloquially as “critical race theory” or CRT). This topic has emerged as a nationwide controversy as the materials used in classrooms have come under scrutiny.  Even though he received plenty of ire from potential voters, instead of backtracking, he doubled down, saying: “Listen, we have a Board of Ed working with the local school boards to determine the curriculum for our schools. You don’t want parents coming in in every different school jurisdiction!” The most glaring issue with McAuliffe’s statement is that local school districts are funded by Virginia taxpayers. Furthermore, the adage “rules for thee, not for me” would appear to apply to McAuliffe’s mindset, as his wife Dorothy chaired the trustee board at their students’ private school. McAuliffe was so tone-deaf on this issue that he invited Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, to speak at his final campaign rally.

McAuliffe’s opponent, Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin, pointed out the flaws in McAuliffe’s reasoning in a tweet: “Terry McAuliffe should learn Virginia law.” Indeed, as Youngkin indicated, Virginia’s code states: “A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.”

It’s interesting that Youngkin — a businessman by trade — has a better grasp of Virginia law than McAuliffe, the Georgetown-trained attorney. Then again, Youngkin grew up in the Commonwealth his whole life, while McAuliffe moved south from his home state of New York. While McAuliffe made a career out of politics, Youngkin went from Rice University basketball player to co-CEO of the Carlyle Group. He also founded the Virginia Ready Initiative, a non-profit centered around connecting unemployed Virginians with job-training and employment opportunities. It only seems natural that he would serve the people of the Old Dominion in the ultimate public service role as the state’s chief executive.

McAuliffe’s campaign website centered around highlighting boilerplate Democratic Party pablum featuring the usual talking points: “As Virginia’s next Governor, Terry will tackle inequities and rebuild a stronger, more equitable post-COVID economy. Terry will rebuild Virginia’s thriving network of small businesses, especially Black and Brown-owned businesses, that have been hit the hardest.” In contrast, Youngkin’s campaign site emphasizes his priorities independent of typical partisan tropes: address Virginia’s high cost of living, fully funding law enforcement, keeping Virginia open in order to create 400,000 jobs, repairing Virginia’s K-12 education system, and making state government run smoothly. Youngkin clearly presented himself as his own person, running on addressing the needs of his constituents.

The defeat of not only one Democratic Party insider, but the entire Democratic statewide ticket in Virginia sent a solid message to today’s policymakers that they should reverse course. Parents turned out and stated in no uncertain terms that families, not the government, are the “primary stakeholder” in education within the Commonwealth. In recent years, the GOP has staked out a position as a defender of rights, particularly the rights found in the First and Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It wouldn’t be a stretch for Republicans to heed Democratic operatives’ ultimate fear and embrace its newfound role as the party of parents and parental rights.

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