[guest post by JVW]
It ranges from gross outrage to sad resignation. Here’s a sampling of what left-wing opinion-makers have to say this morning:
Over at Mother Jones, Isabela Dias writes a pretty straightforward recap of the race which would not have been out of place at the New York Times or Washington Post. Naturally she can’t help but repeat the tired canard that critical race theory isn’t being taught in Virginia schools, which is the latest highly-misleading but oft-repeated talking point of the progressive education establishment. This race angle is hammered home in a piece by Nathalie Baptiste which was published yesterday afternoon before results were in but already at the point when the chattering classes seemed to realize that Mr. McAuliffe was in for a rough evening. It posits that the Glenn Youngkin campaign was about nothing more than racial resentments, which is exactly what you would expect the woke left to conclude.
Harold Myerson, an avowed socialist and editor at The American Prospect, is of the school that Dems lost badly because they didn’t deliver enough pork from Washington to inspire independents (though I still haven’t seen polls which suggest that independents support the Dems’ tax-and-spend orgy). He repeats the mantra that critical race theory is not taught in Virginia schools, good little leftist that he is (it should also be noted that this month’s cover story in The American Prospect is about the nasty right-wing is blocking CRT because we don’t want to be held accountable for America’s past sins). He does credit the governor-elect for his deftness in keeping Donald Trump at arms-length while managing to hold on to the former President’s support, and he suggests that Mr. Youngkin, who was nominated in a caucus dominated by party insiders, would likely have lost to a far more Trumpian candidate had Virginia Republicans held a primary election. Mostly, Mr. Myerson places the blame for the Democrats’ poor showing last night at the feet of Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats (but pretty much exclusively those who have trepidation about the party’s massive spending agenda), and asserts that bold spending initiatives are how the donkey party needs to mount their comeback.
Over at The Atlantic, Zachary Carter takes one of the more nuanced and least partisan positions on what happened in Virginia. He acknowledges that education was indeed the Achilles’ Heel for Terry McAuliffe and other Virginia Democrats yesterday, and that it wasn’t just mean ol’ Republican parents who have soured on the education establishment, so heavily supported by Democrat politicians [as usual, bolded emphasis added by me]:
The most important data point for the election is public-school enrollment in Northern Virginia, and it’s very bad for Democrats. Fairfax County, the largest county in the state, has lost more than 10,000 students since the start of the pandemic—a decline of about 5 percent. In neighboring Arlington County, the dropoff is 3.9 percent; in Loudoun County, it’s 3.4 percent. Those may look like modest declines, but they should not be happening in prosperous counties where the population is growing quickly. The public schools in all three counties have a reputation for quality. People move there for the schools. (Some of the influx into those areas can be chalked up to white flight from D.C. and other suburbs—particularly in Loudoun—but a lot of it can’t. Northern Virginia is a pretty diverse place.)
[. . .]
Conservative political activists want these issues to prove that “wokeness” is unpopular and that an anti-woke backlash will bring Republican salvation not only in Virginia, but across the country. The truth is a bit more complex. Polling suggests that there is something of an anti-woke backlash taking place, but the right has settled on K–12 schools as the epicenter of its narrative for a reason: A lot of suburban parents lost faith in Virginia’s public schools over the past year, and as a result, they’re more open to conservative narratives about problems in public schools.
I grew up in Northern Virginia and attended Northern Virginia public schools and was back in Northern Virginia from March of 2020 until September 2021. Anecdotally, I’ve never heard so much anti-teacher sentiment in the region as I did during the pandemic. Every parent I talked to had at least one horror story, and I mostly talked to affluent, upwardly mobile, pro-public-goods liberals.
The good news for Democrats is that education is only narrowly beating out the economy as the top issue for Virginia voters, and that McAuliffe came close, despite running a clueless and lethargic campaign. [. . .]
But I wouldn’t put a lot of money on a turnaround. Barring a wild new development over the next year, Democrats should expect to lose Virginia’s Second, Seventh and Tenth Congressional Districts a year from now, and be ready for a dogfight for the Fourth district. These losses alone would be enough to eliminate the current Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, absent offsetting victories elsewhere.
I think Mr. Carter has it about right. Lefty Twitter last night was full of angry progressives declaring that the American people are irredeemably stupid and can’t be trusted to vote in favor of their own interests, and that it is the Manchin-Sinema wing of the party that is wrecking things, clearly not the Sanders-Jaypal wing. One can only hope that national Democrats continue to believe that the loudest and dumbest voices on Twitter are the actual center of the party, at least through the next two national election cycles.