Published January 14, 2022
Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin became an instant national figure with his stunning gubernatorial victory in November. Keeping that stature will require him to be much bolder than the typical GOP governor.
Republican chief executives have largely operated under a clear playbook for a while: First, focus on attracting and retaining business to the state. Second, champion pro-life laws to restrict a woman’s access to abortion. Third, pass mild tax cuts when state finances permit. Rinse, recycle, reelect.
This trinity of priorities no longer speaks to the Republican base’s passions. The fight over critical race theory, which was prominent in Youngkin’s election, now compels governors with ambition to wade into the touchy issues of race and the substance of school curriculum. Concerns about social media censorship have pushed regulation of Big Tech to the fore as a state issue. And if the Supreme Court does overrule Roe v. Wade this year, each state will likely have to enact a new abortion law in an environment in which the issue is more heated and intense than ever before.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.