While walking my dogs yesterday, I ran into a fellow dog-walker I hadn’t seen in two years because of Covid. She’s a lovely Filipina lady, and we always have long chats about our kids and the world. (She has a thing about Jewish intelligence; I always remind her I deliver food for Uber on an e-bike.) At one point in our conversation, she mentioned the Virginia election result with shock and disgust. I didn’t tell her I was happy that the Democrats lost and we said our goodbyes after that, in part because we had already chatted for 10 minutes and my unleashed dogs were getting antsy, but also because almost everyone I know, including this lady, remain horrified by Trump, and while I’m comfortable with my opinions and ready to back them up with facts anytime, I’m still reluctant to voice an opinion I know others don’t want to hear.
In the case of Virginia this is interesting, because the key issue in the election was the education of elementary and high school children, in particular, the introduction and active promotion of so-called “anti-racism” in K-12 classrooms. Most people above a certain age other than true believers aren’t entirely on board with the anti-racism narrative, especially as it affects children, so why would anyone be shocked – and even more, disgusted — with the Virginia results?
There are several reasons: (1) they haven’t been following this issue; (2) they have been following it, but believe the narrative promoted on media outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and all the major news networks, that it isn’t actually taught in schools; (3) the education issue may be important to Virginians, but isn’t that important to them (maybe their kids are already grown, or they don’t have any); (4) they support anti-racism efforts and don’t see anything wrong with them; and (5) Youngkin = GOP = Trump.
Two of these reasons are unsurprising and very common: There will always be people who don’t follow particular issues or politics in general, as well as people for whom certain issues, for one reason or another, don’t matter much. And there are always people who support policies that others (like me) find absurd, and in the case of so-called anti-racism, it seems there are lots of them.
That leaves the media narrative and hatred of any and all things even vaguely connected to Trump (like a candidate in a gubernatorial race in Virginia centred on education), both of which go hand in hand. To support the Democratic candidate, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, the media tried to convince voters that the angry parents at school board meetings speaking out against what they believed were racial divisions being stoked rather than ameliorated by the curriculum were either totally misinformed, racists, or even terrorists, and that what the parents called critical race theory (CRT) wasn’t actually guiding how children were being taught about race.
This was a tough job, given that (a) because of Covid and remote learning via ZOOM, parents could actually see and hear what their kids were being taught; and (b) the rest of us could watch Youtube videos of angry parents at school board meetings and could see that these were ordinary parents, not extremists or racists.
In the end the efforts were unsuccessful; Youngkin’s margin of victory was 2.5 percentage points, a solid if not landslide victory for a candidate nobody thought had a chance in a state that the GOP lost by 10 percentage points in the national elections last year.
Unfortunately, the loss of their candidate hasn’t caused much self-reflection among GOP/Trump haters, where the general attitude seems to be that Youngkin won because Virginians are racist to the core (like all GOP/Trump supporters, apparently), blithely ignoring the victory by Republican Winsome Sears in the race for lieutenant governor, who became the first woman of colour to win statewide office.
Meanwhile news outlets like CNN and MSNBC continue their efforts to paint the parent-led critics of the race-focussed school curricula as racist because “CRT isn’t taught in schools,” a semantic trick that focuses on the dictionary definition of CRT (an academic theory taught at universities) rather than on what people mean by the term ( anti-racism lessons informed by key ideas imported from CRT ).
A day before the election, CNN pundit Stephen Allenson wrote that “Youngkin has leaned into a fierce backlash from conservatives to the push by progressives for transgender equality and an accounting of America’s past racial sins in the teaching of history in schools.”
But people who voted for Youngkin aren’t necessarily conservatives; and anti-racism in schools is much more than “accounting for America’s past racial sins in the teaching of history in schools.”
After the election, there was little change. CNN, for instance, continues to play the semantic game insisting that CRT isn’t taught in K-12 schools, even though parents were able to see and hear exactly what was being taught to their kids.
MSNBC’s Hayes Brown avoided talk about schools and race altogether in his “analysis”; looking for the silver lining, apparently, he focused on Youngkin’s distancing from Trump as a sign that Trumpism might no longer be dominant in the GOP. Other “liberal” analyses blamed voter suppression for the result, even though there have been no reports of voters being turned away.
Finally, MSNBC’s Joy Reid came out with a whopper, claiming that GOP gerrymandering could win it “the House and even the Senate” in 2022. She failed to mention how the GOP or any other party could gerrymander an entire state. (In fact, it’s the Democrats who are talking about gerrymandering the Senate by making Washington, D.C. a state.)
So while the Democrat-supporting media hasn’t changed its tune much, there’s little doubt that Youngkin’s victory could be the first sign of a backlash that is building not only against the Biden administration’s embrace of divisive political positions, but also against progressive control of schools and other institutions..