PoliticsNC has offered several takes on the elections last night. Below is mine.
Last night confirmed my belief that Democrats are really bad at politics. Not only did they lose the governor’s race in Virginia, they are barely hanging onto the governor’s race in New Jersey. They ran under the weight of a monstrosity called “the reconciliation bill.” The McAuliffe campaign tried to turn a yuppie hedge funder who looked and sounded like he came straight from the suburbs into Donald Trump. Nobody knows what Democrats stand for and they don’t believe all Republicans are Trump.
In Virginia, two things stand out. Democrats are continuing to lose rural areas by even greater numbers and the GOP can still win in the suburbs. The white working class so many Democrats want to stop talking about are still one of the largest blocks of voters and the party is losing them by increasingly larger margins. The suburban voters bought into a message of change, not the racial division that social media warriors want us to believe.
This morning, I watched some of Youngkin’s ads. They aren’t primarily about Critical Race Theory or any racial divide. They are about standing up to the establishment. One reminded me of Reagan’s Morning in America ad, talking about a new day for Virginia. Another could have been a Joe Biden ad, with Youngkin talking about persevering after his father lost his job. They are about hope and change.
Sure, Youngkin used Critical Race Theory and the masks-in-schools debate to drive up the base, but he made inroads into suburban voters with a message that was more hopeful and talked about raising teacher pay. One ad had a woman who says she voted for Hillary and Biden, but didn’t trust McAuliffe to deliver on education. Another blasted McAuliffe for his gaffe saying parents shouldn’t be telling what schools what to teach, pitting parents against government bureaucrats. Democrats losing on education is devastating, especially in state races.
To be fair, the political environment is terrible for Democrats but that’s partly their own making, too. Their agenda in Congress is too ambitious for their narrow majorities. What if Democrats had passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a more modest social spending bill while making Republicans vote against popular measures like reducing prescription drug prices and paid family leave? And how have Democrats let the attack on the Capitol take such a back seat in their messaging? The issue is about law and order and accountability, not just Trump’s culpability.
At the end of the day, Democrats need to learn how to talk to voters about the things that matter to them most. Youngkin’s message was about providing better jobs, better schools, and a new start after the pandemic. McAuliffe’s message was that Youngkin is another Donald Trump and he’s not. While voters don’t like Donald Trump, they also don’t want to hear about him. They solved that problem last year. McAuliffe relitigated the last campaign, while Youngkin is trying to move past the last five years.