Written by Ben Jealous
Republican political operatives are increasingly hopeful that a GOP return to power nationally in 2022 and 2024 will begin on November 2 with the election of Glenn Youngkin as governor of Virginia. Democrats have little time left to motivate and mobilize their voters and avoid disaster.
Polls and interviews with Democratic candidates suggest that last year’s massive mobilization and resounding defeat of Donald Trump have left progressive activists worn out and voters complacent about the threat of a Republican victory in the state. Republican voters are paying more attention to the race and are more enthusiastic about voting. Election-watchers have declared the race a toss-up.
Make no mistake, the election of Glenn Youngkin and a Republican legislative majority would be a catastrophe. Virginians would be hurt first and worst. Major progressive policy achievements on access to health care and voting rights would be overturned if the state returns to Republican control. Youngkin has vowed to reverse public health measures that protect Virginians from COVID-19, praising Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as a role model for dealing with the pandemic — even though Florida’s death rate from the virus is more than double Virginia’s. He has said that he will go on offense against reproductive choice once he is elected and no longer has to worry about independent voters.
Republicans would love to reverse their recent losses in Virginia, and they are excited about what a Youngkin victory could mean nationally. Donald Trump, who has repeatedly endorsed Youngkin, would take it as vindication and a sign of momentum for his MAGA movement. Even worse, a Youngkin victory would encourage Republicans elsewhere to double down on the damaging right-wing tactics that Youngkin’s campaign has deployed.
Youngkin has enthusiastically joined a national right-wing campaign of fearmongering about public schools and so-called “critical race theory” — really just telling the truth about racism in American history and institutions. He has aligned himself with right-wing groups mobilizing hostile crowds to assail school boards over teaching about racism and LGBTQ-inclusive policies in public schools. He has called for more restrictive voting laws based on the need for “election integrity,” MAGA code for voter suppression justified by Trump’s lies about voter fraud and a stolen election.
Youngkin has said on the campaign trail that electing him would bring the Democratic Party’s ambitious federal agenda to “a complete stop.” Goodbye, voting rights legislation. Goodbye investments in workers, families and infrastructure.
Like Trump, Youngkin has embraced the virulently anti-equality and anti-choice religious-right wing of the GOP. Following in Trump’s footsteps, Youngkin spoke last week at a Family Research Council activist conference where speakers promoted Christian nationalism and denounced gay people and marriage equality as satanic. Shortly before that, he appeared at a gala fundraiser for an anti-equality and anti-choice group in Virginia.
Those choices tell us far more about Youngkin’s true agenda than his nice-guy persona. Trumpism with a smile instead of a sneer is still harmful for Virginia and dangerous for the country.
Reading stories about the tightening race, I keep thinking about 2016, when some Democratic voters didn’t bother casting a ballot because they thought Trump couldn’t win. We ended up with four divisive years of Trump — and decades of damage that will result, including harm caused by his judges and Supreme Court justices.
Let’s not go down that road, Virginia. Let’s get it together.
Ben Jealous is the President of People For the American Way.