If Democrats Get Destroyed By The "Critical Race Theory" Backlash, It'll Be Their Own Fault
You can't just keep robotically calling voters backwards bigots forever — not if you care about winning
As you likely know by now, on Tuesday night the Democratic Party suffered a worrying defeat in the Virginia gubernatorial race, where Terry McAuliffe, a former governor there who was favored by a solid margin right up until the end of the campaign, was defeated by Glenn Youngkin.
Whenever there’s an important election, everyone immediately tries to assign it a meaning that is either novel and interesting (and therefore clickworthy), or which reinforces their own prior beliefs/marketing needs (also worth some clicks). This is silly, most of the time, because elections are very complicated and often can’t really, meaningfully be boiled down to any one thing. An off-year gubernatorial election occurring just one year after the Democrats e̶s̶t̶a̶b̶l̶i̶s̶h̶e̶d̶ ̶c̶o̶n̶t̶r̶o̶l̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶t̶h̶r̶e̶e̶ ̶b̶r̶a̶n̶c̶h̶e̶s̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶f̶e̶d̶e̶r̶a̶l̶ ̶g̶o̶v̶e̶r̶n̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ solidified control of both houses of Congress and the White House, for example, is often going to be susceptible to a rightward swing. (Update/Correction: No idea why I originally said the Democrats controlled “all three branches of the federal government,” given how far they are from controlling the Supreme Court.)
This particular race ended up being a lot about “critical race theory” in schools, with Youngkin hammering away at this bugaboo and McAuliffe taking the liberal party line, that concerns over CRT are trumped-up fears driven by unsavory reactionary types. McAuliffe’s goal was to paint Youngkin as a Trumpkin, and Youngkin’s was to avoid getting painted as such; winning in Virginia means winning a lot of white, well-off suburban and exurban types who prefer their candidates respectable.
So let’s talk about the specific narratives that are being bandied about. Some pundits took Youngkin’s victory to mean the whole election can be reduced to racism:
Or it was white women’s fault, more specifically: “You Damn Karens Are Killing America” went a headline in The Daily Beast, an outlet I used to like and felt proud to have a bit of a connection to — I worked there between my two summers of grad school, continued writing for them after, and they kindly let me call myself a “contributing writer” — but which has done serious damage to its reputation in recent years. (Side-note: Youngkin’s running mate, Winsome Sears, will become the first black woman to serve as lieutenant governor of Virginia, which certainly complicates the racism claims a little bit.)