Disaster for the Democrats in Virginia

It’s not fun to wake up this morning to discover that Virginia has elected a Trump-endorsed Republican as its governor. Glenn Youngkin is projected to defeat former Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe by 2.7%.

What on earth has gone wrong?

It’s a bit of a perfect storm made up of a new way that the Republicans have found to frighten people into voting for them and the failure of Joe Biden to deliver what would have been a very popular series of measures, including paid family leave, mainly because of the failure of two right wing Democrat Senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

It’s a year since we all spent 5 days on tenterhooks waiting for confirmation that Trump was on his way out. I certainly wasn’t filled with unbridled optimism that Joe Biden was what the country needed, though I thought that his long experience in Congress would be enough to get his legislative programme through.

Just imagine if Joe Biden had been able to hit the stump in Virginia saying he’d put in a $3.5 trillion package which included, for the first time, measures that we in Europe take for granted. Things like paid family leave and a tax credit that would take children out of poverty. Opinion polls suggest that these measures are popular across the political divide, so failure to deliver them will surely bring disapproval.

If Biden had had a good story to tell, there would be no void for the malevolent right to fill with poison.

The toxin of choice in this case was a faux argument about “critical race theory”, something that isn’t even taught in Virginia’s schools.

From The Guardian:

McAuliffe’s all-out effort to portray Youngkin as an acolyte of Donald Trump proved less effective than the Republican’s laser-like focus on whipping up parents’ fear and anger about culture war issues in Virginia’s schools.

Youngkin made false claims that critical race theory – an analytic framework through which academics examine the ways that racial disparities are reproduced by the law – is rampant in the state’s education system (in fact it is not taught).

And on Mother Jones, Nathalie Baptiste spells out what this could mean:

If a Republican candidate rides a moral panic to the governor’s mansion in a legitimate swing state, the floodgates will open. Forget faking moderation to capture those elusive suburban moms. The ticket to GOP victory and its central strategy appears to be riling up nice white people. If it can work again in Virginia in 2021—it could work in 2024.

Joe Biden has control of Congress for another year. If he can’t deliver some tangible benefit to people struggling to make ends meet, then it could be game over to his administration.

It’s pertinent to note that the measures in his Build Back Better plan, particularly on the child tax credit and paid family leave benefit women disproportionately. In the most recent episode of the Hysteria podcast, Erin Ryan praised her employers for being very supportive as she prepares to go on maternity leave for the birth of her first baby. She is going to be off for a couple of months. Compare that to the UK, where she could have up to a year off with some pay for up to 39 weeks.

Women will also suffer if Youngkin follows the Texas example and introduces measures that make abortion all but impossible.

If the Democrats don’t use this next year to govern effectively and deliver tangible benefits, then we could well be looking at another four years of Trump from 2024 and that would be a disaster for the planet. A US pulling its weight on climate change gives us a bit of a chance of getting to where we need to be. With Trump in power, we are truly stuffed.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Blake 3rd Nov '21 - 8:48am

    The simple fact is that the doddery Biden has been a bit of a disaster so far.

  • Michael Chandler 3rd Nov '21 - 9:10am

    David Blake, that is just nonsense

  • Clearly a disaster for the Dems but not sure I agree with Caron’s diagnosis. If anything moderate Senators Manchin & Sinema are rather more in tune with the voters of Virginia than Biden is.

    Anecdotally, my colleague who lives in Old Town Alexandria (an extremely liberal urban enclave that has been almost exclusively Dem for >10 years now) reports yard signs for the GOP all over the place, from classic moderate households who don’t find Trump at all appealing. But they clearly find Dem ‘progressives’ even worse (or want to register that displeasure at a mid-mid-term election).

    The other factor is that the Dem candidate was particularly poor – and had a poor track record to defend, having been Governor in the state before. The GOP candidate was extremely well (self) funded, so he didn’t really need to rely on Trump to rally his troops. The traditional Dem advantage in GOTV probably rather fell away this time.

  • John Marriott 3rd Nov '21 - 9:33am

    The problem has always been the closeness of the result in the Congressional elections, particularly in the Senate. The USA appears to be even more polarised than before. It was always going to be tough for Biden trying to keep the so called “progressive” wing of his party on board. A tilt too far to the left would clearly alienate some of those less conservative swing voters, which seems to be happening at the moment.

    It appears that over 60% of Republican voters still believe that the last Presidential election was rigged and quite a few would accept the use of force to put it right. It’s indeed a frightening scenario. However, I’m still not sure that Trump won’t be indicted by then, which could debar him from standing. What the Democrats clearly need, besides holding on in the Mid Terms, is to find a younger and more viable alternative to the Biden/ Harris ticket for 2024.

  • Will a Republican Congress vote to impeach Biden?

  • Apart from the fact he’s not Trump, that he flies 27 gas guzzlers across the Atlantic to Edinburgh for a daily commute to Glasgow to reduce global warming (there’s still an airport at Glasgow), and then falls asleep in the meeting having made a total ………. of Afghanistan…… he seems to be doing a pretty good job.

  • I am not so sure that hitting the stump in Virginia saying Democrats would put in a $3.5 trillion package would do that much for electoral advantage at the moment.
    The last major social reforms of this size were introduced under Lyndon Johnson in the great society legislation of the mid 1960s. Joe Biden shares some of the traits of Johnson of persuasion, diplomacy and extensive knowledge of the politics of congress.
    The mid 1960s in the USA, was a period beset by civil rights protest and racial unrest, that Johnson struggled to cope with. Even more damaging to the goals of the Great Society, ever larger amounts of money originally intended to fight the war on poverty was being used to fight the Vietnam War instead. By the end of his term in 1968, Johnson suffered criticism from conservative Republicans for his domestic spending programs and by his fellow liberal Democrats for his hawkish support for expanding the Vietnam War effort.
    Beginning in 1965, the general price level began to rise at an increasing rate. The CPI rose 23.07% from 1965 to 1970, with an annual percent increase of about 4.25%. While industrial production continued to rise and unemployment continued to fall, the economy came under severe pressure. The rapidly increasing general price level was unpopular, and eroded the incomes of the elderly and other Americans living on fixed incomes. High inflation also discouraged people from saving money, and increased the pressure on the dollar, which was already in a precarious position because of its role in the international monetary system. An increase in the demand for loans for defense contractors led the Federal Reserve to raise the discount rate from 4 to 4.5%.
    The republicans regained the presidency in 1968 with Richard Nixon.
    Biden has pulled the US military out of Afghanistan, but is facing high rates of domestic inflation at home (in the wake of the pandemic emergency support programs) that he will need to contend with if he is to persuade fellow Americans (other then Bernie Sanders who needs no persuading), that he can deliver big social programs without setting off an inflationary wage/price spiral and/or crashing the economy. A delicate balancing act, requiring both reaching across the aisle and building of widespread public support for tax financed redistribution.

  • Brad Barrows 3rd Nov '21 - 5:15pm

    McAuliffe was the one who stated that he didn’t believe parents should be telling schools what to teach. Parents now appear to have had their say by voting for his opponent.

    But I’m sure the author will be pleased that a Black Woman has been elected as Lieutenant Governor and a Cuban American elected as Attorney General, (both Republicans.)

  • I feel shocked that the Republicans could come back so quickly. To have a party that is still so much in denial about climate change and apparently so ready to harm democracy in its attempts to take power is very concerning.

    But I also disagree with much of Caron’s analysis. I’m conscious in writing this that living in the UK is not a good place to understand US voters – so we all need to be wary about making assumptions – but even so a couple of things stand out for me.

    1. Caron makes no mention at all of the Afghanistan debacle, which surely is the biggest single reason why Biden’s popularity has fallen so much.

    2. “Just imagine if Joe Biden had been able to hit the stump in Virginia saying he’d put in a $3.5 trillion package” That sounds rather like saying that people voted for a right wing party because ‘we’ weren’t left-wing enough! How many elections in the UK has Labour thrown away by using that kind of logic? Personally, I like the idea of major infrastructure/green investments. But we have to recognise that you don’t attract moderate voters by tacking further and further from the centre.

    3. “was a faux argument about “critical race theory”” I don’t know the details of what was said or how true it was, but this phrase speaks to a very dismissive attitude towards many people’s very genuine concerns about cultural/identity politics. This probably isn’t the thread to discuss the details, but suffice to say, if liberals in the UK/Democrats in the US keep dismissing voters’ concerns on this issue instead of trying to listen to them, that simply drives voters into the hands of the conservative parties. I suspect that’s a big part of what happened in Virginia (and possibly also in New Jersey where the Republicans came close to taking a Democrat stronghold).

  • Obviously, I forgot to put in the closing italic tag in my last paragraph there. Hopefully the intention is still clear 🙂 (Any chance of LibDemVoice ever adding a preview feature to posts?)

  • Laurence Cox 4th Nov '21 - 1:16pm

    Actually far bigger threats are coming down the line, as a result of the Republicans’ dominance in the Supreme Court:



    The first case in particular could gut Congress’ capability to introduce environmental protections and meet their Paris and Glasgow pledges, by forcing Congress to pass explicit laws for each change rather than a single law to give specific powers to a Government agency like EPA. This attack is much broader than just against the EPA, because it sets a precedent for limiting the powers of every US Federal agency.

  • Nigel Jones 4th Nov '21 - 3:43pm

    A few weeks ago I listened to a webinar led by the Progressive Christian thinker from the USA , Dominic Crossan. He said that it was unlikely that Trump would stand again, but feared someone else of the same mold (or even worse) would stand on a Trumpian platform.
    My reaction to this result is one of warning to us in the UK also; especially since a culture war played such a big part in Virginia. Boris’ culture war continues here, using many avenues outside party politics. The National Trust election in October saw the right wing group fail to take over its Council, but 3 got elected and one (who was not elected) whose election manifesto was so irrationally and explicitly anti woke and anti gay I was appalled and surprised that he obtained a very large vote. We Liberals need to be aware not to dismiss these people as clowns but face the fact that they are popular.

  • David Evans 8th Nov '21 - 11:53am

    Sadly Critical Race Theory, or more correctly but massively less succinctly, “the impact that the tactics adopted by CRT zealots of the so called Progressive left is having on the political discourse on the reasonable centrist vote”, *is* totally undermining the electability of the Democrats in the US and potentially the Lib Dems in the UK.

    When the Guardian says “Youngkin made false claims that critical race theory – an analytic framework through which academics examine the ways that racial disparities are reproduced by the law – is rampant in the state’s education system (in fact it is not taught)” it is ignoring the key point. The building blocks of CRT, indeed its very foundations, are being pushed in so many ways in the education system in the US and increasingly in the UK too and is divisive and destructive to the very foundations of a Liberal Democratic society.

    CRT and its lazy meme of “White Privilege” is without doubt a philosophy loved by the extreme left, because it allows it to simplistically allocate blame onto “others,” now long dead whose descendants become the inheritors of that blame. What it totally fails to do is provide any cohesive narrative that can unite society to confront its real problems of massive wealth inequality and injustice. Ultimately it does exactly the same for the extreme left as what we blame Donald Trump for doing on the extreme right, polarizing and dividing society by developing a culture of blame and grievance.

    What it also ends up doing is allocating blame on easily victimised young children as being inheritors of the blame rather than work like adults to face up to the fact that the problems of life and society that are so much more complex than its supporters are prepared to face up to.

    If anyone wants to see the pernicious way this is being promoted in the UK, I suggest they look at this programme that was broadcast of Channel 4.


    and ask yourselves Why did it not suggest

    – move 20 steps forward if you are an Old Etonian, 40 if you are a child of Elon Musk, Richard Branson or any other “space explorer” or go straight to the winners podium if you are a child of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, or Sudan’s General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

  • David Evans 8th Nov '21 - 12:00pm

    Perhaps take two hundred steps back if you are living in DR Congo where children like you have to work in cobalt mines so that you we have a battery for our mobile phones, could have been added.

    Or are non-progressive old style Lib Dems the only ones who care about that sort of thing?

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