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A reader who signs in as “Democracy” posted the following comment in response to Jennifer Berkshire’s article in The Nation. Berkshire argued that Terry McAuliffe lost the governor’s race in Virginia because he is a corporate Democrat who doesn’t understand or value public education and couldn’t defend it against Glenn Youngkin’s attacks.
I’ll agree with Jennifer Berkshire that Terry McAuliffe didn’t exactly grasp the historical foundation(s) for public schools. But then, neither do MOST politicians. Nor do most voters. That’s NOT why McAuliffe lost the Virginia election. Racism was.
As I noted previously, prior to the election, the NY Times reported this: “Republicans have moved to galvanize crucial groups of voters around what the party calls ‘parental rights’ issues in public schools, a hodgepodge of conservative causes ranging from eradicating mask mandates to demanding changes to the way children are taught about racism…Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate in Virginia, stoked the resentment and fear of white voters, alarmed by efforts to teach a more critical history of racism in America…he released an ad that was a throwback to the days of banning books, highlighting objections by a white mother and her high-school-age son to ‘Beloved,’ the canonical novel about slavery by the Black Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.”
The Washington Post reported this: “Youngkin surged in the late weeks of the race by tapping into a deep well of conservative parental resentment against public school systems. He promised to ban the teaching of critical race theory, an academic approach to racial history that’s not on the Virginia K-12 curriculum….the conservative news media and Republican candidates stirred the stew of anxieties and racial resentments that animate the party’s base — thundering about equity initiatives, books with sexual content and transgender students on sports teams.”
And, again, the NY Times: “the past half-century of American political history shows that racially coded attacks are how Republicans have been winning elections for decades…Youngkin dragged race into the election, making his vow to ‘ban critical race theory’ a centerpiece of his stump speech and repeating it over the closing weekend — Race is the elephant in the room.”
The Associated Press reported this, on CRT and the the Virginia governor’s race: “The issue had weight in Virginia, too. A majority of voters there — 7 in 10 — said racism is a serious problem in U.S. society, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of Tuesday’s electorate…The divide along party lines was stark: 78% of Youngkin voters considered the focus on racism in schools to be too much.”
How does Jennifer Berkshire explain all this? She doesn’t. UVA political analyst Larry Sabato described the Youngkin Critical Race Theory strategy this way: “The operative word is not critical.And it’s not theory. It’s race. What a shock, huh? Race. That is what matters. And that’s why it’s sticks. There’s a lot of, we can call it white backlash, white resistance, whatever you want to call it. It has to do with race. And so we live in a post-factual era … It doesn’t matter that [CRT] isn’t taught in Virginia schools. It’s this generalized attitude that whites are being put upon and we’ve got to do something about it. We being white voters.”
White voters — especially low-education white voters surely did listen hard and hear well. Youngkin won 76 percent of non-college graduate whites. And Youngkin got way more of the non-college white women votes (75 percent) than McAuliffe.
Check the exit polls:
WHITE WOMEN COLLEGE GRADS
VA 2020: 58% Biden, 41% Trump
VA 2021: 62% McAuliffe, 38% Youngkin
WHITE WOMEN NON-COLLEGE
VA 2020: 56% Trump, 44% Biden
VA 2021: 75% Youngkin, 25% McAuliffe
How does Jennifer Berkshire explain all this? She doesn’t. There’s a reason that KKKers, and Neo-Nazis and white supremacists — Trump’s “very fine people” — identify with the Republican Party. And that’s because it is the party of Trump, and racism, and voter suppression, and white grievance and white nationalism. The Virginia election just mirrored who and what white Republican voters are.