Published November 3, 2021
In response to Republican Glenn Youngkin’s win in yesterday’s Virginia gubernatorial race — as well as Republican wins all the way down the ballot — left-wing pundits and celebrities immediately began to assert that the Democratic losses were the result of voters’ white-supremacist sympathies.
Here are just a select few of the comments that came rolling in last night as it became clear that Youngkin would beat Democrat Terry McAuliffe:
Even Politico writers got in on the action, asserting in this morning’s newsletter that Youngkin’s strategy included “racial appeals to working-class white voters.” During elections results coverage last night, MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace asserted that “critical race theory, which isn’t real, turned the suburbs 15 points to the Trump-insurrection endorsed Republican.”
Also on MSNBC last night, host Joy Reid spent much of the evening insisting that the education issue, an enormous part of Youngkin’s successful appeal to Virginia parents, was a dog whistle for racism. Plenty of progressives, including Reid herself, began pushing this line well before Election Day.
Already, progressives are pointing to exit polls showing an enormous swing to the GOP among white working-class women, who voted for Joe Biden last fall but supported Youngkin this time around — the nasty implication being that these women were motivated to vote by Republicans’ supposedly racist agenda. Totally ignored, or even outright dismissed, are the many nonwhite voters who backed the GOP.
McAuliffe himself obliquely indulged in this fantasy in his statement conceding the election.
On several counts, progressives have begun to coalesce around a narrative that doesn’t hang together — one that displays a shocking unwillingness to grapple with the problems facing their party. For one thing, it makes little sense to assert both that critical race theory doesn’t exist and that parents who oppose it are doing so because they don’t want their children to learn about race or slavery.
If progressives admit that CRT exists at all, they pretend that it’s merely an effort to teach school children about the complicated history of race in our country. In fact, a quick investigation reveals that the proposed curricula contain, in most cases, highly inaccurate history aimed at indoctrinating kids into racially divisive identity politics.
Parents have legitimate concerns about such curricula, including understandable resistance to misrepresenting history, stoking guilt and division among children, and perhaps even encouraging race-based bullying. Dismissing these parents as white supremacists for having these concerns is unlikely to succeed either in persuading them to think differently about the curriculum in question or to vote for Democrats the next time around.
Finally, the “white supremacist” theory for Democratic losses intentionally ignores that two of the top Republican candidates voted into office were Winsome Sears, a female Jamaican immigrant elected lieutenant governor, and Jason Miyares, a Cuban American who was elected attorney general. It’s hard to imagine why Virginians voting en masse for the GOP out of thinly veiled racial animus would throw in their lot with this ticket.
These responses, coming from a Democratic Party obsessed with identity politics and unwilling to examine what actually went wrong for them with voters in Virginia last night, shouldn’t surprise us. If they looked more carefully, they’d find plenty of actual issues that drove record turnout and led a significant number of Independents and Biden voters to flip to the GOP.
Dissatisfaction with the Biden presidency was likely at the top of the list — the president won Virginia by ten points last year but is underwater in approval polls in the state today. With his campaign against the grocery tax, among other issues, Youngkin appealed to those unhappy voters far more than McAuliffe, who maintained a laser-like focus on Donald Trump throughout the campaign.
Youngkin’s emphasis on parental rights in the campaign’s final stretch, meanwhile, had nothing to do with racial dog whistles and everything to do with appealing to voters who were turned off by McAuliffe’s insistence that parents should stay out of their kids’ education. If they were wise, Democrats would spend some time analyzing their side’s very real failures rather than accusing voters who disagree with them of being undercover racists.
Alexandra DeSanctis is a staff writer for National Review and a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.