Glenn Youngkin and the Republicans’ Tuesday victories in Virginia are proof of concept that the left’s commitment to waging the culture wars on school children and their parents can prove deadly even in a blue state — and Republican politicians who ignore the consultants and follow their voters will follow them to victory.
That isn’t what we’ll hear from liberal Republicans, Never Trumpers, and their consultant-class friends, though. According to them, Youngkin is proof they’re the real heroes, and the country is yearning for more Mitt Romneys.
“The news we should be celebrating,” Never Trump commentator Matt Lewis wrote Monday, is, “after years of enduring Trumpian controversies, voters are ravenous for a non-crazy Republican.”
“There’s pent-up demand,” he continued, “and Youngkin, with the look and feel of a Mitt Romney, has given suburban voters permission to vote Republican and not feel bad about it. In a way, it feels like coming home again.”
It’s true, Youngkin is a member of the wealthy Republican class (and looks it). It’s also true that Trump fatigue is real among many of the Virginia voters Youngkin needed to win. But if Younkin had acted like a member of his class, he would have lost the primary; and if he hadn’t embraced the culture war Trump fought everyday with the vigor of a true believer, he’d have lost the election.
So let’s look at the facts: While Youngkin had conservative instincts from the outset, he put them aside, instead basing his calls on the high-dollar consultants in his ear. Early in the campaign, his speeches focused on grocery taxes and the like, steering clear of critical race theory, abortion, and lockdowns. He even frequently appeared at public events dutifully wearing his mask.
So long as his consultants held sway, he languished. But Virginian voters had seen what was going on in their children’s classrooms, had been shut down by school board apparatchiks, and had even been threatened with arrest for complaining. They were in no mood for Romneyism.
Everywhere Youngkin went, he saw that the energy was with the crowds — and they dragged him to his conscience. The decision to overrule liberal consultants and sign a pledge against critical race theory was the first indication of change — and a change in his own momentum that saw him beat out the favorite for the nomination.
As the campaign wore on, Terry McAuliffe could have written Youngkin’s advertisements for him, doubling down on race education and teacher supremacy. While even the thickest of consultants could have weaponized these gaffes, Younkin went further.
“But, friends,” Youngkin told a crowd in the final days of the race, “let me be clear:”
One of the things we’re not going to do in our schools is teach our children to view everything through a lens of race. We know it’s not right. We know in our heart. I mean, we’re all of one body in Christ. How in the world can we teach our children to be divided up into buckets with one group being privileged, another group being victims? That’s just not right. It steals their dreams. We know that.
Calling on Christ to elucidate the evils of racism is no basic consultant talk: it’s a style of conservatism steeped in the culture wars — the wars Democrats believed they had the capital to wage when when they won in 2020; the wars that Virginia’s parents decided to answer.