All Eyes on Virginia

Election Day (surely a misnomer with early voting)  is this Tuesday and all eyes are on Virginia’s gubernatorial race. As they should be. The contest, between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin, may help to clarify two important political questions and one structural question. 

Terry McAuliffe

First, can the Republican Party move beyond its embrace of Donald J. Trump and thrive as a modern organizing vehicle for conservative fusionism? Second, can the Democratic Party abandon progressivism and return to pragmatic liberalism? Third, and most important, will policymaking continue to be dominated by bureaucratic rule-making, or will it allow for increased freedom of choice?

First, the political questions. When the race began, McAuliffe was considered to be a shoo-in. Over the last 10 years or so Virginia migrated from being reliably red to purple with a decided blue tinge. Since 2002 Virginia, which does not permit its governors to serve consecutive terms, has had 5 Chief Executives, 4 of whom were Democrats. The current Governor, who survived a black-face scandal, is a liberal Democrat. The two legislative bodies flipped from Republican to Democratic in 2019 for the first time since 1994. President Biden won the state by 10 points in 2020. 

Glenn Youngkin

Needless to say, candidate McAuliffe is running hard against—Donald Trump—who in Virginia is only slightly more popular than the Unabomber. Not a day goes by where McAuliffe doesn’t rail against Trump and then argue that Republican Youngkin is simply a Trump acolyte. 

For his part, Youngkin has carefully tried to thread the needle. He needs Trump voters, but he also needs to create space between himself and Trump in order to win back upscale suburban voters who abandoned Republicans in droves in 2018 and 2020. Consequently he has focused on state and local issues with occasional rhetorical shots at the lunatic fringe that increasingly dominates the national Democratic Party. 

In this he has been greatly helped by none other than the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe. In answering a question about local schools—a topic that has generated considerable heat in Virginia (and elsewhere)—McAuliffe voiced an opinion that stunned a lot of political observers. He said “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

This remark added fuel to the fire that had already been raging for months over the public schools in Northern Virginia. There have been contentious school board hearings, petitions and recalls in the counties surrounding Washington DC over school curricula, admission standards for magnet schools, Critical Race Theory, masking of school children and school closings due to COVID-19.   

Bear in mind a couple of relevant facts. The first thing to note is that the four Virginia counties surrounding the District are among the wealthiest, best educated and bluest in the country. They are prime territory for Democratic vote seekers. And those counties appear to be in revolt. The second is that parents began to realize what has been going on in the public schools when they looked at their children’s Zoom screens and saw how their children were being proselytized. And the parents didn’t like it one bit. 

A third factor that needs to be taken into account is that McAuliffe is just plain wrong when it comes to parental rights with respect to the education of their children. The Code of Virginia is quite clear about this. The Code §1—240.1 entitled Rights of Parents reads as follows:

“A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education and care of the parent’s child.”

All of which points to the central element of the race. Candidate Glenn Youngkin says “I believe parents should be in charge of their kids’ education.” Candidate McAuliffe says that he thinks parents should keep out of it and let the professionals—i.e., the teachers unions—run the show. This despite the fact that the law of the Commonwealth, quoted above, is quite clear that the decision-making authority over a child’s education fundamentally resides with the parents. And, not to put too fine a point on it, progressives have made hash out of pretty much everything they have run. 

Government by experts rather than the protection of rights has been the battle cry of progressives from the time of Woodrow Wilson until the present day. This inevitably makes government an interested rather than a neutral party in the application of the law. Which in turn ultimately brings about the destruction of Liberalism, the rule of law, and liberty, only to be replaced by the soft (and later not-so-soft) authoritarianism of bureaucratic command-and-control.  

The choice in Virginia’s gubernatorial race is clear. On the one hand there is Youngkin, who represents the messy business of  democratic governance designed to protect rights and expand the range of citizen choice. On the other hand there is McAuliffe, the iron fist in the velvet glove, who represents the bureaucratic interests of government at the expense of citizen choice.   

When the votes are counted on election day, mine will be among those for Glenn Youngkin. 


The Virginia Senate Race

Before being elected to the US Senate in 2008, Mark Warner (D. VA) served as governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006. In 2014 ran for a second term against Republican Ed Gillespie, winning by just under 1% of the vote. During that race Senator Warner vowed not to run again. 

Needless to say, Senator Warner is running for a third term.

This time Warner is running against Republican nominee Daniel MacArthur Gade. A retired lieutenant colonel, Gade lost his right leg in the Iraq war where he served as a tank company commander. He is a graduate of West Point and has both Master’s and PhD degrees in Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Prior to securing the Republican nomination for the Senate, Gade worked as Professor of Practice at American University in the School of Public Affairs. 

Gade is no slavish follower of Donald Trump. In his October 3 debate with Warner at Norfolk State University he openly criticized Trump’s response to a question on white supremacy. In the Senate debate he said “If you are a white supremacist and you are watching — I don’t want your vote. I don’t want your money, and shame on your attitudes and disrespect. Now, the president badly fumbled that question.” 

He has also called on fellow Republicans to join him in support of social justice for African American citizens. Importantly he makes a distinction between thought and action. He argues that racism is an internal belief; that it is not a domestic security threat unless it is acted upon. Senator Warner on the other hand believes (or pretends to believe) that the US is systemically racist. In response to a question he said “So do I think systemic racism exists? I do,” adding pointedly, “Black lives matter.”

Gade is a self-described conservative. He is strongly pro-life; is adamant about protecting religious liberty, does not support taxpayer forgiveness of student loans and is opposed to taxpayer funded education through college. He does not believe it is up to government to provide an income; nor is it a governmental responsibility to make sure everyone has health insurance.  He is a strong defender of property rights and the free market system. 

All in all it is fair to describe Dr. Gade as the type of conventional conservative that dominated the Republican Party during the Reagan era. 

On the other hand it is also fair to describe Senator Mark Warner as hewing closely to the party line. He is a typical abortion rights fanatic. He supports abortion on demand and is a co-sponsor of S.1645 which, if enacted, would invalidate nearly all state and federal restrictions on abortion. He also voted against confirming Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. 

In general Senator Warner is a conventional businessman turned politician. He isn’t a member of the wild eyed crowd populated by the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. But he is not about to lift a finger to protect liberty either. That is the crucial difference between challenger Gade and Senator Warner. Warner is a technocrat; Gade understands the importance of liberty. And that, in the end, is why Professor Gade is going to get my vote. 


The Left Wing Embrace of Violence

“If they even TRY to replace RBG we burn the entire fucking thing down”. 

Reza Aslan.

For those lucky enough not to know who Reza Aslan is, he is a Professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside; an author of 4 books on religion including No God but God, a member of the American Academy of Religion and a member of the National Iranian American Council. 

Wikipedia lists his citizenship as Iranian-American despite the fact that there is no such category. Furthermore Iran does not permit dual citizenship at all, and the US. does not recognize dual citizenship of Iran and the United States. Ironically, the scholar who promises to “burn the entire fucking thing down” is the author of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization

Perhaps Professor Aslan should consult his own book before going on another Twitter rant.

In his review of the book, John Meacham writes “It is Aslan’s great gift to see things clearly, and to say them clearly, and in this important new work he offers us a way forward. He is prescriptive and passionate, and his book will make you think.” The LA Times wrote “Aslan is not only a perspicuous, thoughtful interpreter of the Muslim world but also a subtle psychologist of the call to jihad.”

The Washington Post writes that Aslan’s book “Offers a very persuasive argument for the best way to counter jihadism.”According to New Yorker, his book represents “[A] thoughtful analysis of America’s War on Terror.”

Well. Aslan is clear, but I would hardly characterize his outburst (on Twitter of course) as subtle or thoughtful. Unfortunately, remarks like Professor Aslan’s are not all that unusual these days. The turn to violence has become increasingly common as small minded “activists” have foregone debate in favor of intimidating and silencing those with whom they disagree, a phenomenon increasingly prevalent on the nation’s campuses. 

While this is being glossed over, progressive media cheerleaders have spotted intimidation by Trump supporters in Fairfax Virginia. The New York Times reports that supporters of President Trump showed up at the Fairfax County voting center, waved flags and signs and chanted 4 more years. The Times noted that election officials said that the group stayed 100 feet from the building’s entrance and were not directly blocking access to the building, contrary to social media posts. 

Nevertheless, Democrats and their cheerleaders in the press made the case that Trump supporters were using tactics of disruption and intimidation. At this point it is worth examining the photo that the Times ran to see the alleged voter intimidation in action.  

Photo Credit: Kenny Holston for the New York Times

Here is a photo of six—count ‘em—six middle aged people, two of them women. Four are holding banners, one has his hands in his pockets and one has his arms folded across his chest. They are standing at a reasonable distance from the voters on line, who are busy ignoring them as they wait to vote. This is hardly a picture of what what any reasonable person would call intimidation. 

But the riots that have engulfed Seattle, Portland and other cities are routinely characterized as “mostly peaceful”. All in the service of the narrative. And so it is hardly a wonder why so many media outlets have lost so much credibility.