In the wake of the last week’s election, Democrats reverted to their tried and true explanation for the massive swing of voters from the Democratic column to the Republican. The best left-wing media minds analyzed the results and came to a clear conclusion: Only white racism can explain the 12 percent switch in Virginia to the Republicans from last year’s presidential election. Many Democrats operate with a syllogism in their minds: Trump’s Republican Party is the party of white racism, and thus any Republican political victory reflects an explosion of white racism.
University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, a once-respected political analyst, laid it out clearly on MSNBC: “The operative word is . . . race. That is what matters. There is a label . . . white backlash, white resistance, whatever you want to call it.” On the same channel, Nicole Wallace explained to her listeners: “CRT, which isn’t real, turned the suburbs’ 15 points to the Trump insurrection endorsed candidate.”
Republicans can take heart from this incisive analysis, for as long as Democrats are stuck with it, there is little they can do to improve on their disastrous performance last week. If all Republican voters are infected with racism, what can Democrats do short of reprogramming them? Nor, one suspects, will suburbanites who voted Republican last week, including many of whom cut their political teeth campaigning for Barack Obama, take kindly to being labeled racists.
There is, however, little support for the familiar claim of losing Democrats that they were done in by white racism. The twelve point shift from the 2020 Democratic column to the 2021 Republican column in Virginia was smaller than the 14 point shift in New Jersey, where the issues were completely different and almost exclusively around taxes.
Presumably, those who sniffed out Glenn Youngkin’s “dog whistles” to white voters in Virginia noticed that his running mate for lieutenant government, Winsome Sears, is black and, as she put it, “[has] been my entire life.” Former governor Douglas Wilder, who is both black and a Democrat, pointedly refused to endorse the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe. One assumes that had Youngkin been running on appeals to white racists, Wilder would have endorsed his opponent.
Indeed, some of the shrewder, non-media Democrats rejected the explanation that Virginia left the blue ranks, at least for this one election, due to racism. David Shor, the data guy at the Center for American Progress, a left-wing think tank, has been telling anyone who would listen for the longest time that most Americans do not share progressives’ values, and that if the latter want to succeed electorally, they better find a way of explaining to voters what they are doing for them. Van Jones, a highly articulate, black progressive, pointed out on CNN, “Democrats are coming across as annoying and offensive and out-of-touch” – in short, not the sort of people only a racist can reject. Long-time Democratic political operative James Carville placed the blame for the electoral debacle on “stupid wokeness,” including “this defund the police lunacy, this take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools.” Democratic Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger of Virginia noted that Joe Biden was not elected to transform America, but “to be normal and stop the chaos,” two tasks, she implied, that had eluded him.
Maureen Dowd argued with her signature nastiness that “Republicans have not lost their talent for coming up with boogeymen to scare white voters,” a subdued form of the racism charge. But her heart was not in it, as in the same sentence she admitted that “thanks to a dumb comment by Terry McAuliffe – [i.e., “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach”] – they have succeeded in turning parents’ rights in schools into a wedge issue.”
But, of course, McAuliffe’s statement was not just a dumb comment or he would have corrected himself immediately. Rather, it was an expression of his deepest political instinct – take as much power from the rubes as possible. And even if the statement were not an expression of Democratic contempt for all but elite experts, it was not a position from which McAuliffe could dissociate himself, because he is so tightly bound to the teachers unions, who oppose parents messing with their plans. On the last weekend of the campaign, McAuliffe trotted out Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, to stump with him. Senator Ben Sasse was on target when he labeled Weingarten and the teachers unions the “GOP’s MVP.”
Virginia voters obviously did not agree with former president Obama that the Republicans were exploiting “phony” cultural issues. They were more likely to frame the issues as a choice between sanity and insanity. Pushing the racial analysis, the Washington Post ran a long article about “the dashed hopes of black activists,” including the defeat in Minneapolis (which went 85% for Biden in 2020) of a referendum to replace the police department or Virginia voters’ rejection of curricula that expose the ways that laws perpetuate systemic discrimination.”
But as Paul Mirengoff of Powerlineblog pointed out, the more astounding thing was that “defund the police” ever became a rallying cry in the first place: “No sane society would entertain the possibility of abolishing or cutting back on the police force and switching to a comprehensive public health approach to public safety in the first place.” And similarly, “no sane nation would teach children that their race is the central fact about them and their classmates or that racism is the central fact of their nation’s history.”
The most audacious proof of glenn youngkin’s appeal to racism, according to the Democratic Party’s media hounds – e.g., Joy Reid, Nicole Wallace, Joe Scarborough – lies in the claim that Critical Racial Theory (CRT) is not taught in Virginia public schools. Thus, Youngkin’s promise to ban it on his first day in office was a dog whistle to racists. That claim is disingenuous in the extreme.
True, no Virginia elementary or high school students are exposed directly to the legal writings of the law professor originators of CRT – Derrick Bell, Richard Delgado, and Kimberle Crenshaw. But offshoots of CRT are ubiquitous in American K-12 education and beyond: the notion that the United States is infected with systemic racism, a term used frequently by Joe Biden; Ibram X. Kendri’s doctrine of “equity,” based on the idea that any inequality in results (other than the formation of NBA rosters) between races based on objective exams or other standardized measures reflects racism; as a corollary of Kendri’s equity doctrine, the move to end all classes for gifted students; Nikole Hannah-Jones 1619 Project in the New York Times and subsequently developed into a school curriculum, in which she places “slavery” at the center of American history, including arguing that the American Revolution was fought to protect slavery, a position lampooned by historians across the political spectrum; and the division of school children into classes of oppressors and victims based on race.
CRT has been endorsed by National Education Association, one of the two largest teachers unions, which passed a resolution this summer affirming its commitment to a “curriculum . . . informed by . . . critical race theory.” And the largest schools of education are dominated by CRT’s sister doctrine, critical race education, which “exposes” the dangers behind such long cherished ideals as “color-blindness, meritocracy, deficit thinking, and linguiscism and other forms of subordination,” in the words of Gloria Ladson-Billings, its leading theorist.
CRT was hardly a non-issue in Virginia. And it has demonstrably infected Virginia schools. In 2015, during Terry McAuliffe’s term in office, the state Department of Education instructed schools to “embrace critical race theory” in order to “re-engineer attitudes and belief systems.” Even today, the Virginia Department of Education advocates for CRT and derives its definitions of “racism,” “white supremacy,” and “educational equity” explicitly from CRT.
Frequently, the degree to which CRT permeates the curriculum is disguised. The Indianapolis Public Schools advised principals to tell parents that CRT is not taught, while offering teachers courses in professional development explicitly outlining the doctrine’s central tenets. What changed during the pandemic was that parents became much more savvy about what their children were being taught.
CRT is often described as a form of cultural Marxism. What exactly does that mean? Just as Karl Marx described a particular class – the proletariat – as the vanguard of the ideal society, so does CRT assume that those who are racially oppressed are, by virtue of that fact, the vanguard of all political virtue. That is the message, for instance, when third-graders in Cupertino, California are told to “deconstruct” their racial identities and rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.” And that was in math class. A Buffalo school adopted a “pedagogy of liberation,” which instructed students that “all white people play a part in perpetuating systemic racism.”
Such teaching flies in the face of Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), in which the Supreme Court ruled that there could be no “separate but equal schools” because, by their very nature, segregated schools are unequal for they convey a message of inferiority to black students, i.e., that they are unfit to mix with white students. CRT and its offshoots should be constitutionally infirm for the same reason: It conveys a message to white students that they are morally inferior by virtue of their white privilege.
That is something that most Americans, including most blacks, oppose. An April 2021 survey by Competitive Edge Research found that 88 percent of Americans are against schools assigning white students the status of privileged and non-white students the status of oppressed. James Copland of the Manhattan Institute has written model legislation that would forbid schools from requiring students or faculty from classifying themselves as intrinsically racist or oppressed based on their race, or to ascribe personal responsibility or moral character based on race.
To the extent that the Virginia gubernatorial campaign placed a spotlight on such practices, it performed an invaluable public service. The issue is pace former president Obama neither phony nor trivial.
But it should be noted that Glenn Youngkin’s focus on education, and his appeal to suburban voters, was not limited to critiques of CRT. Among the crucial educational issues that Youngkin hammered were indoctrination in new gender ideologies; exposure of children to inappropriate material in school libraries; local control of schools; the prolonged lockdown of Virginia schools, primarily at the urging of teachers unions; steps to dramatically raise the quality of Virginia education to prepare students for the new knowledge economy; and higher pay for teachers.
Another item on Youngkin’s list of education proposals is dramatically increased aid for Virginia’s historically black colleges, probably not the first thing that would have occurred to a racist or one intent on winning over racists. And, incidentally, something Terry McAuliffe never proposed during his term as governor.