Donald Trump elected Joe Biden. Trump was a divisive campaigner and a divisive president, a quality on which the MSM doubled down before, during and after his presidency. Voters were so ready for a break from the lies and constant petty carping that they elected Biden, a politician who’s never been popular nationally, even among Democrats. Prior to 2020, he’d made two efforts to gain the Democratic nomination and never gotten close. But the message in 2020 was Anyone But Trump, so the Delaware senator peddled himself as a moderate and handily defeated an incumbent who was always his own worst enemy. That Biden has so far governed as anything but a moderate is a story for another day.
Woke progressives elected Glenn Youngkin. Again, extremism lost and moderation won. Virginians don’t like being told that they’re unregenerate racists when they know they’re not. They don’t like Critical Race Theory being taught in schools. Still less did they like being told they had no say in what schools teach their kids.
Voters rejected the woke narrative in Virginia and elsewhere. Republicans won the Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General slots in Virginia, the mayoralty and other races in Seattle (yes, Seattle) and handily defeated the Defund the Police referendum in Minneapolis. Earlier, California voters refused to repeal Proposition 209 that states that “the government and public institutions cannot discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to persons on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting.” That rejection of affirmative action aligns with the beliefs of Americans generally.
Americans generally aren’t extremists. If you bet your electoral life that they are, you’re likely to end up politically dead. Such was the message of last Tuesday.
But there’s yet more to Tuesday’s results. Since well before Trump lost the presidency a year ago, the GOP has been worried sick over what to do about him. The man has enormous backing from his base. Over 74 million people voted for him last November, 10 million more than in 2016. So it’s not as if the party can simply shove him unceremoniously off the stage, however much it may want to. After all, presidential primaries are open to anyone and Trump has the money and votes to be a serious contender for the nomination, an eventuality that makes much Republican blood run cold. A Trump nomination would likely be a devastating blow to the GOP.
So GOP mavens like Karl Rove have leapt on the Virginia wins to announce, without saying so in so many words, that the party now has what it’s been praying for – a winning alternative to Trump and Trumpism. Two years from now Republican contenders will be lining up for their primary runs. In the event Trump is one of them (he’ll be 78 and asking to hold office until he’s 82, so he may not), the party will have real alternatives, candidates and electoral strategies that can hollow out Trump’s base, secure moderate Republican and independent voters and perhaps even cut out a few Democrats from the herd.
According to Rove, Youngkin ran a “superb” campaign.
[T]he first-time candidate was smart enough to start by offering an agenda focused on the economy, education and crime. He talked a lot about his “game plan” to strengthen Virginia’s economy by cutting needless red tape, streamlining approval for new businesses, and helping families by ending the grocery tax. On education, he offered a pro-parent plan that included higher standards; teaching every child to read, write and understand math by the third grade; and creating more charter schools. On crime, he advocated full funding of law enforcement and reform of the parole board.
Plus, Youngkin built bridges both to core GOP constituencies and traditionally-Democratic voters.
Mr. Youngkin devoted significant resources to creating coalition groups. Some were traditional Republicans: farmers, veterans and small-business owners. But he also made a big effort with groups among which the GOP must do better—including Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, blacks, educators, healthcare workers, Latinos, and women.
To Rove, that’s a template for other Republican candidates whom he pointedly instructs to “Pay attention to how he did it.”
Karl Rove is as savvy an observer of electoral politics as exists, but Democrats can do a lot to short-circuit his advice. That of course would mean doing a sharp U-Turn away from the progressive madness that’s been in vogue for so long. As I said earlier, Glenn Youngkin and other Republicans owe their elections to the takeover by progressive ideology of higher education, many corporations, much of the news media and, of course, the White House. How long Democrats allow that to last will do much to determine not only their electoral fate but that of Republicans who have their fingers crossed hoping it’ll continue.
By contrast, if Democrats turn away from woke ideology, they’ll be able to avoid at least some of what could be a carnage next November. Will they? The early returns aren’t promising. Progressives are attacking a black woman, VA Lieutenant Governor-Elect Winsome Sears, in the most virulently racist terms, much as they did Larry Elder earlier this year. And, at the COP26 conference on climate issues in Glasgow, President Biden peddled his own semi-literate brand of climate extremism, all but proclaiming, in true progressive form, the Apocalypse.
The coming 12 months and even to 2024 will be a test of the Democratic Party’s ability to recognize the errors of its ways and correct course. That’ll mean throwing a blanket over the likes of AOC and her fellow travelers and cutting back on some of the nuttier taxing and spending notions currently before Congress. Most importantly, it’ll take leadership from the president who’s not exactly known for that quality.
The same period will also be a test of whether the GOP can deal effectively with Trump and Trumpism, the way Glenn Youngkin did.