The deployment of K-12 public education as the lead racial dog whistle in Virginia determined the Republican victory in the 2021 gubernatorial race. Glen Youngkin, the Party’s standard-bearer, presented a handsome and charismatic façade of Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer of the 1970s, as he used a series of vile and racist tropes to excite racial passions with a smile.

Strongly Trump-endorsed Youngkin held the orange man at bay - like a matador with a raging bull - while physically keeping him out of the state during his campaign. Youngkin deftly deflected all questions about his relationship with Trump, bobbing and weaving like the late Muhamad Ali, while discretely tossing red meat to MAGA supporters.

He used critical race theory (CRT) as his primary wedge issue and wrapped it around parent involvement in the schools, the masking of children against COVID-19, bathroom transgender politics, the K-12 curriculum, and personal liberty. Youngkin continuously stoked it with an array of Asian, Latinx, and Black supporters in his TV ads and photo shoots. Dismantling these issues, however, reveals that racial antipathy was at its center.

Youngkin’s opponent, former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe (2013-2017) whom state law denied a run in consecutive terms, stumped his political toe frequently: dismissing parents as participants in their children’s schools, bringing in Democratic heavyweights to make his case (when local issues were on voters’ minds), and portraying Youngkin as a Trump clone. Although none of these political strategies worked, McAuliffe held onto them until the end of the race.

Nevertheless, his condescending tone toward parents was as damaging to his overall campaign as was Obama’s haughtiness toward Hillary Clinton in a January 5, 2008 debate in New Hampshire. He responded to a question about her likeability by stating, “She’s likeable enough.” Obama was ahead in the polls by double digits at that time but went on to a decisive loss to Hillary in the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary held the following week.

The Youngkin campaign was aided by Winsome Sears, an African American female Republican who was elected to the office of Lt. Governor, the first woman of color to win the office. She was not as extreme as previous Black Republican Lt. Gov. candidates, and she softened his image among Black females, who gave McAuliffe 94 percent of their vote when he ran for governor in 2013. As a veteran, she also appealed to Virginia’s large military population.

Ironically, Youngkin’s victory speech was not extreme. He did not mention CRT one time although he declared that he would banish its teaching from the public schools last week. Instead, he said he wanted kids taught to be “critical thinkers,” a position with which most Americans of all political persuasions agree.

The latest results show that Youngkin and Sears are close to reducing the House of Delegates’ Democratic majority turning it into an evenly split body, and providing the new administration with the opportunity to get some of its agenda passed. This may truly be a Republican revolution in Virginia.

The Democratic Party had a bad election night last Tuesday seemingly because they have lost the ability to communicate effectively with their voters and not alienate Independents and suburbanites. They could take a Master Class on these matters from Glen Youngkin.

While Democrats ignored the lack of enthusiasm among their base voters, the House progressives continue to wage war with Congressional moderates/centrists who raise concerns about their Build Back Better reconciliation bill. When questioned about the Democratic infighting and the delay in passing the physical and social infrastructure legislation, their leader, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), responded by saying Democratic voters want her to stand firm while only presenting anecdotal evidence to that effect.

Rep. Jayapal has defied Speaker Pelosi and President Biden and now claims she has both bills ready for a vote. It would have been helpful to McAuliffe if she had pushed these laws through weeks ago, as he would have likely had the political winds at his back during the last stretch of his campaign. Jayapal is to blame, as her political hubris appears to have overwhelmed her political antennae.

Although he was leading his Republican rival, John Ciattarelli, by eight points in last week’s poll, New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy unexpectedly has a tough bid for reelection. If finally defeated, he will continue the long line of Democratic governors who have been denied reelection during the past 44 years. However, once all the votes are tallied next week, Murphy should prevail since the outstanding votes are primarily in Democratic areas.

The Republicans may have found a remedy for removing Trump’s stranglehold on their Party with the Youngkin triumph in Virginia and the strong showing of Ciattarelli in New Jersey, states which Biden won by 10 and 16 points, respectively, in 2020. They have learned to repackage Donald Trump’s racial tropes and racial dog whistles in such a way as to separate themselves from their erstwhile leader.

Democrats are currently in disarray and need to gather themselves to avert a political tsunami that may be headed their way in the 2022 midterms. They need to buckle up!

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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