Virginia voters turned the commonwealth stop-sign red in 2021, putting a halt to Democrat rule in an upset election that saw Republicans sweep state-wide offices and regain control of the House of Delegates. With the country in an even more dire condition now, and with many of the same on-the-ground concerns that caused voters to revolt in Virginia still enraging Americans, Democrats in other states might face the same shock by day’s end.
Soon after the upset victories scored last year in Virginia by Republicans Glenn Youngkin, Winsome Sears, and Jason Miyares, who defeated their Democrat opponents in the races for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, respectively, the political post-mortem began. Pundits blamed both macro and micro issues for the devastating defeat Democrats suffered.
On a macro level, Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, “pointed to President Joe Biden’s low ratings as the primary reason that Glenn Youngkin flipped the Virginia governorship to Republican control.” At the time, Biden’s approval rating registered at 42 percent, and 71 percent of voters said the country was on the wrong track. Added to those negatives were Democrats’ accumulating problems such as the “messy withdrawal from Afghanistan” and “inflation and supply chain kinks that turned voters’ opinions of the economy sharply negative.”
Concerns closer to home, however, also affected the Virginia elections, with fights with school boards over curriculum, sexually explicit material, and transgender policies animating parents. The Loudoun County school board became a focal point for parents challenging public schools’ adoption of critical race theory and use of sexually explicit books to supposedly teach “equity.”
The Loudoun County school board also faced parental condemnation for allowing male students to access girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms. The condemnation soon turned to anger when parents learned that the school board had hidden a sexual assault perpetrated by a so-called “gender-fluid” student in the girls’ bathroom.
Rather than corral the dispute between parents and the school board locally, Democrats spiraled the fight statewide when their gubernatorial candidate, Terry McAuliffe, said in a debate against his Republican opponent that parents shouldn’t be telling schools what to teach. McAuliffe would later call the controversy “made up,” and former President Barack Obama, in stumping for his fellow Democrat, would frame the fight as a “phony” culture war. The Biden administration then made matters worse when Attorney General Merrick Garland sent a memorandum suggesting parents might be investigated for challenging the decisions of school boards.
Whether disapproval of Biden translated into the demise of Democrats running for statewide office and trickled down-ticket to the House of Delegates, or whether anger at the local level led to a political realignment upstream is unclear. Or maybe the Republican sweep of Virginia in 2021 proved a confluence of both circumstances.
Whichever the case, the same circumstances are ripe to repeat today throughout the United States.
Compared to 2021, Biden’s approval rating this week tracks lower, at 39 percent, and the percentage of voters believing our country is on the wrong track has increased to 72 percent. Further, while the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan may not be at the forefront of voters’ minds, the continuing war between Russia and Ukraine raises more concerns over the president’s handling of foreign policy. The last year has also seen a worsening of economic conditions, with inflation still raging, gas prices remaining high, and interest rates continuing to increase.
At the local level, parents continue to duel with school boards over curriculum, sexually explicit material, and transgender policies, and as was the case in Virginia, Democrats are siding with teachers unions and school boards over parents. School closings and the harm inflicted on children over the last two years of Covid restrictions add to voters’ anger, especially in blue states that adopted draconian measures in the name of combatting the pandemic “emergency.”
What seemed a perfect storm in November of 2021 in Virginia has only increased in strength since voters last cast their ballots. Whether today will prove a repeat in other purple or blue states remains to be seen, but the post-mortem on Virginia suggests Democrats are about to be slaughtered at the ballot box