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Est. April 5, 2002
Oct 28, 2021 - Issue 885
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Businessman Glen Youngkin, the Republican candidate in next week’s Virginia’s gubernatorial election, who is running against former Democratic Governor, Terry McAuliffe, has closed the polling gap using an anti-public education message that is galvanizing his Republican base and gaining support among Independents and some ethnic minorities.

Youngkin is piggy-backing White resentment of the country’s direction and the rapid demographic change that Donald Trump successfully deployed in his successful 2016 campaign for the presidency. Youngkin has also aligned himself with the anti-vaccine proponents, school choice advocates, and those who oppose the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 public schools (although it is not being taught there).

These issues are being carefully woven together to stoke fear, anger, and unity among Virginia’s voters. And Youngkin, a Trump acolyte whom the past President has aggressively endorsed, is skillfully embracing Trump’s rabid supporters while keeping a discrete political distance between Trump and himself, moving as niftily as the Ballerina, Misty Copeland.

The core messages being spread by massive TV and radio ad spending have included the call for banning Beloved, the Pulitzer prize-winning slavery novel by Toni Morrison, America’s only African American female Nobel Laureate in literature; attacks on the corruption and academic failure of K-12 public education; and the truthful teaching of America’s racial history (critical race theory) in a way that allegedly makes White children feel bad.

An internal Republican poll of suburban battlegrounds has revealed the following: 78 percent agree that America’s public schools are failing children, 65 percent oppose biological males, presenting as females, competing against women in high school and college sports, and 58 percent agree that critical race theory should not be taught in schools. This is the national Republican template for political campaigns.

Independents are swinging heavily toward Youngkin regarding parent control of public education, and it is resonating across the electorate. His negative stories about teacher unions are reminiscent of the school busing wars of the 1970s.

In a lively debate, McAuliffe’s provided Youngkin with campaign fodder when he said, “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision,”… “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Youngkin pounced on these statements and immediately launched TV and radio ads to rile up his supporters which drove his poll numbers up.

Former Gov. McAuliffe has not systematically addressed the aforementioned issues and has not met with parent groups while Youngkin meets with them regularly in diners and town halls where he feeds them the political red meat they crave. He has also linked with the anti-maskers and other Trumpian edicts while posing as a moderate.

McAuliffe has responded by having Democratic political heavyweights, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, former President Barack Obama, 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, and a host of others join him on the campaign trail. They have collectively aimed their political fire at the missteps of Donald Trump, which may not be enough to propel McAuliffe to victory.

In his narrow win of the governorship in 2013, McAuliffe won 48 percent to 45.5 percent over his Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli (with a third-party candidate garnering the rest of the vote). And during the final weeks of the campaign, he was leading by a large margin, and the expectation was that he would win by double digits.

Polls released last Wednesday show that McAuliffe and Youngkin are essentially in a dead heat, 49 percent to 49 percent or 45 percent to 45 percent with 5 percent undecided. The Democratic turnout machine has not kept pace with its Republican counterpart in the early voting, but there is still time to recover.

The abortion issue is resonating in Virginia’s Washington, D.C. collar communities (in the aftermath of the recent Texas anti-abortion legislation) and the state’s metropolitan areas, districts where Democrats are strongest and have the best prospects of making their case. They just need to make it!

As suggested in last week’s column, the McAuliffe team needs to reach out to Virginia’s only former African American governor, Doug Wilder, for assistance in turning out the Black vote. Wilder helped deliver high Black turnout for Justin Fairfax, Virginia’s second Black Lt. Governor in 2013, and thus aided Ralph Northam in securing the governorship as both were running as Democrats.

The Democrats won back the House in 2018 by running against Trump, who was then in the White House. They are pursuing the same strategy in 2021 when Trump is no longer the President. The problem for Republicans then was that they had no counter-message. This time around, Youngkin has powerful counter-messages with anti-public education and anti-vaccine advocacy at the center.

This race is now down to the last lap and the Party - Democrat or Republican - that gets its supporters to early vote and go to the polls on November 2nd will be victorious.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell and BC.

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Executive Editor:
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Managing Editor:
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