As the party wrangles over its sweeping social spending program, Republicans highlight issues that voters are most immediately concerned about, such as a sluggish economy, high gas prices, expensive groceries, high crime rates and more. concerns about the right of parents to influence what is taught in schools. These concerns in many cases were exacerbated by a protracted pandemic, which President Joe Biden declared almost over in July, but which culminated over the summer in another blow to the morale of a depleted nation.
If the Democrats had only underperformed in Virginia, they might have attributed their misfortune to an erratic and fuzzy campaign by veteran party heavyweight Terry McAuliffe, who was trying to win a second non-consecutive term as governor.
As the president returned from Europe in the early hours of Wednesday, it was not clear that Democratic leaders and many voters who kicked Trump out of the White House last year are still on the same page. Party lawmakers in Washington have spent weeks wrangling over the largest social spending plan in generations – a cornerstone of Biden’s platform.
And while much of the Democratic Party and Washington politics and media are concerned about the fallout from the Jan.6 insurgency, Tuesday’s results may also suggest that voters are focusing on more tangible threats than the erosion of American democracy.
CNN political commentator and former Obama administration official Van Jones has declared “five alarms” for Democrats and said the party must consider a change of course.
“These numbers are bad,” Jones said. “… These are our voters. These are voters who came to us in 2018, came to us in 2020, and abandoned us en masse in two states that should be in our column.”
Guy Cecil, chairman of Democratic Priorities USA, said it was time for the party to come together.
“This election is a warning to all Democrats. While Democrats in DC have spent weeks fighting, Republicans have focused on mobilizing their base and removing voters from the Biden coalition using deceptive tactics and divisive, ”Cecil said.
“It’s time to focus on what’s next. Democrats in Congress must immediately pass the infrastructure bills and build back better. We need to start tomorrow to consolidate and mobilize those who voted Democratic in 2020. And we are. must draw a stark contrast between Democratic progress and Republican extremism.
A plan for national republicans
In Virginia, Youngkin did exactly what he set out to do: he garnered massive participation in rural and conservative areas while avoiding alienating the kind of suburban voters who were put off by Trump. – a factor that helped cost GOP control in the House in 2018 and the Senate and White House in 2020.
While sending coded messages to the Trump base on “electoral integrity,” racial and transgender rights, the polite Youngkin did not define his offer on Trump’s electoral fraud lies or embrace the polarizing and autocratic fury regularly displayed by the ex-president. And Trump, while continually injecting himself into the race – including Tuesday night to claim credit for the victory – has largely steered clear of Youngkin. He held a tele-rally on the eve of the vote, but did not visit Virginia, for example, after his frenzied rally in Georgia was blamed by some GOP members for losing two races to the second. turn to the Senate.
Republican strategists believe anxiety among moms and dads over months of in-person classes lost during Covid-19 has given them an opening in Democratic-leaning suburbs. McAuliffe played their plan with a disastrous blunder in a debate in which he appeared to suggest that parents shouldn’t have much to say about how their children were brought up. The strand played into Republican efforts to exploit the concerns of some parents about how America’s tortured racial history is covered in history lessons. Youngkin has vowed to ban critical race theory on his first day in office – even though it’s not on Virginia’s curriculum – a move that has the conservative media on his side. But an ad that implicitly attacked the late Toni Morrison, one of America’s most revered African-American writers, hinted at an ugly racial stream underlying Republican politics in Virginia.
Youngkin won for Republicans by keeping Trump – who dominates the party nationally – out of the picture. And McAuliffe ran against the former president, describing a vote for a rival he accused of blowing racial whistles as a vote for Trump’s new term in the White House. The result suggests that fear of Trump among independents and moderates is not as high when the ex-president is not in the Oval Office or on the ballot. And McAuliffe, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and ex-President Barack Obama all seem to miscalculate into thinking the best way to bring Youngkin down was to paint him as a Trump clone – even if his demeanor gave off little. of the ex- The vibrations of the president.
Still, Trump is unlikely to be behind the scenes next fall, as he sees the midterm elections as a dry race for his likely 2024 presidential bid, so some Democrats could profit by portraying their opponents as in the pocket of the twice deposed former commander. -in chief who incited a coup against the United States Capitol.
So it’s possible that Youngkin’s overlap to avoid alienating both Trump voters and commuters may not work as well across Virginia state borders.
A warning to vulnerable members of the Democratic House
It can be dangerous to project too much of an election out of year. Virginia has a long tradition of choosing a governor from a party other than the one that has just taken over the White House. And the volatile mood of voters in recent years has put incumbents on both sides at risk, showing how quickly things are changing.
But while Youngkin only beat McAuliffe by around 80,000 of the more than 3 million votes, a 10-point gap by Democrats in just one year will be a chilling warning to vulnerable party lawmakers in suburban districts that ranted. against House progressives who withheld a $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package to secure a larger social spending plan. Anything close to those numbers next November would leave Democrats at extreme risk of losing both the House and the Senate.
Youngkin’s path to victory came by outperforming Trump in percentages of the vote in the wealthy, populous, and liberal suburbs around Washington, DC, where the demographics favor Democrats. But just as interesting, Youngkin also increased Trump’s vote percentage in some of the more conservative counties. This could suggest that he has been successful in attracting some disgruntled Republicans who balked at Trump’s savage conduct in office. Or it could reflect the former president’s decision to urge his supporters to come forward – another apparent move to help the former president claim victory from a candidate who largely ignored him.
Whatever the Republican dynamic, Democrats know they have a serious problem. It is possible that the economy affected by the pandemic will be in much better shape around this time next year, and that Covid-19 will no longer be a dominant feature of national life or that inflation which eats away at many family budgets. can be repressed. If Biden has already bottomed out, Democrats hope to at least limit their losses midway through.
But they need their constituents to come forward – against what looks like an electrified GOP base, evidence from Tuesday showed. And unless the president passes his two priority bills soon and makes progress on other issues, including voting rights or immigration reform, the already difficult midterm elections will start to appear. impossible.
“People voted for us last year,” a Democrat close to the McAuliffe campaign who was frustrated with Congress told CNN’s Dan Merica. “We have to give them something.”