Glenn Youngkin’s victory over Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday made Democrats wring hands and apologizing for under the sofa cushions. After all, the entire Republican Party and everyone running under its banner should have been deeply hurt by now. They remain, after all, the party of Donald Trump, the most unpopular political figure of our time. They were the party in charge when the pandemic struck and claimed 400,000 lives. They are the party that has been pushing misinformation about COVID for nearly two years, including loud and repeated lies about vaccines and wearing masks, causing countless more deaths. This is the party that has consistently supported a coup attempt after the last election and spread the corrosive lie that Trump did not actually lose.
Republicans should be so bowled over they still can’t get up, and yet this tumble-dried “businessman” running on a platform of transparent lies was able to win the governorship of Virginia . Why? Was it the Democrats in Congress and their failure to pass two incredibly popular bills before election day? Was it because McAuliffe had the baggage of reminding voters of Virginia of the Clintons and had campaigned boring, ignorant and inept? Or was his loss simply the predictable product of politics out of the year and bad luck being the ruling party in the White House?
Experts put all of these reasons together and come up with more, but I think it’s easy to understand when you consider a political fact of life, which Democrats have ignored for decades. Democrats don’t choose the issues Republicans run on. There may be a number of reasons the Democrats did so poorly in Virginia on Tuesday, including the turnout, but there’s a reason Youngkin won. He did what Republicans did for decades. By harassing Critical Breed Theory (CRT), he practiced the dog whistle policy with a wave of the hand and a smile.
He was also the beneficiary of the Democrats who sold Trump short for the umpteenth time. He’s a pumpkin-skinned jester and a contemptible fascist asshole, but he’s a cunning politician. In case you haven’t noticed, Trump’s new strategy is to continue to feed his red meat base during his gatherings, which can just as well take place under glass domes when it comes to non-Foxes. News America, while quietly not saying anything bad about other Republicans – other than Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, that is. Those who simply abide by the cardinal rule of not talking about Trump in garbage get a pass.
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Call it the wink and nod strategy. Trump didn’t have to loudly endorse Youngkin because, just as everyone knew “Come on Brandon” meant “Fuck Joe Biden,” Virginia Republicans knew that Trump’s apparent distance from Youngkin meant they had to vote. for him.
Youngkin took up the critical breed theory and ran with it like a failed football. Every time he opened his mouth and those words came out, it was like Richard Nixon’s grim warnings about Ronald Reagan’s imaginary “downtowns” or “welfare queens”. Republicans in Virginia could hear a hissing dog like CRT a mile away, and that left Independents free to embrace it as a serious issue without caring to learn what it meant. Republicans knew what Youngkin was saying without him saying it: I’ll keep them in their place for you.
It was classic modern republican politics: racism without racist invective, Trumpism with a wink. Democrats are going to meet these smiley-faced Republicans with their shirt sleeves rolled up again and again as we move closer to the mid-term of 2022. They’ll camouflage their insurgent beliefs with fleece vests and friendly suburban pablums for moms, and Democrats better be ready for them. But what do you do with the Republican lies about critical race theory?
Democrats must remove Republican slogans before they can come up with them. Biden’s slogan, if he runs in 2024, should be “Joe Biden: President of the World’s Greatest Country.” Congressional Democrats and others are expected to run on “Protect Our Children.” Democrats must learn to play blanket politics. We can understand that “protecting our children” means teaching them the truth about racism and slavery, but please! Leave that aside from the slogan. Let the voters decide what it means to “protect our children”. Youngkin got away with his CRT bullshit by lying about it and letting his constituents fill in the blanks. Same thing with his silence on “stop the flight”. He didn’t have to congratulate Trump out loud to let voters know he’s on his side. They filled in the blanks for him.
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What does âprotect our childrenâ really mean? Well, what did âMake America Great Againâ mean? Trump let his voters fill in the blanks, and Democrats should let voters fill in the blanks when they say “protect our children.” What is there to discuss with this slogan? Don’t make the mistake of trying to fight the lies about the CRT – for example, by saying that it accurately portrays America’s history with slavery and race and on top of that, it is not taught in schools anyway. Don’t argue it, refine it.
The Republican Party is no longer a political party. It is a safe filled with grievances, anger and hate. But because the Republican Party is the only other party on the ballot, and its candidates – especially when in hair dryers and fleeces – offer independent voters a place to express their frustration and impatience (see the NBC News poll which reveals 71% think America is “on the wrong track” and express their dissatisfaction with a “confrontational” and “negative” policy. Don’t bother to point out who really is divisive and negative. Accept that in this political climate, such facts don’t matter. Independents need a place to use their votes to tell the ruling party what they think, and Republicans, bless their little black hearts, are they.
Democrats don’t have to worry about their own voters other than kick them out. But Democrats must become the place where they can vote for something. It has been said time and time again that all of the separate elements of the Build Back Better bill are very popular with voters. Polls show overwhelming support for some of them. So take those items everyone loves and shout them from the rooftops. Want lower taxes for the middle class? It’s us! Want free universal kindergarten (read: childcare for many parents)? Here we are! Do you want good roads and bridges that don’t fall? We have them here!
Republicans will show their true stripes when the infrastructure bill finally comes to a vote in the House. It will be a big surprise if more than a dozen vote for it. So crush them with it. How can they be the blue-collar party – a big talking point for Republicans, when they don’t cut taxes for billionaires – when they stand against the biggest blue-collar employment bill since the Interstate Highway Act?
Democrats need to learn to be for the things voters love – and fine-tune the rest. If Youngkin could run a campaign by refining his stance on “stop the theft” and Donald Trump’s coup attempt, Democrats can sharpen the CRT.
Don’t argue with provable lies – no one wants to hear your proof. Don’t tackle Trump like it’s a problem you can run on. It’s a crust that doesn’t come off, and it doesn’t bleed. Come up with slogans that take a positive stance. Tell voters who you are and what you represent. They will fill in the blanks.
Learn more about Democrat angst and the Virginia debacle: