There was not a single noteworthy vote cast for a federal office on Tuesday, Nov. 2, and yet it felt as if the whole of Election Day 2021 was actually a national referendum on the Democrats’ performance in Congress and the White House. Candidates representing the party in control of the executive and legislative branches were trying to stave off not just their party’s growing string of failures and embarrassments, but history as well, specifically the tendency of voters over time to reverse their judgment in presidential elections when they return to the voting booth one year later.
So, as the socialist-tinged Democratic party – and its most wild-eyed idea – were sent to the woodshed by voters who handed them their most embarrassing rebuke since 2016, how much of the blame falls on Democrats themselves, and how much on historical forces beyond their control? Can they write off their scolding to Americans’ double-mindedness, spirit of confusion, or outsized desire for balance between the parties?
Well, Democrats can go ahead and try to spin it however they like, but it won’t change that which is visible to the naked eye. They can write it off to historical forces, or deny that national issues animated these regional races, or blame a backlash by white suburbanites against their own favored candidate in 2020. But it all belies the reality on the ground expressed by four separate outcomes in three distinct regions of the country, carrying a universal and unmistakable message of disapproval, if not condemnation, of Democratic leadership.
Voters in Virginia delivered a stinging rebuke to the party in control of the state for eight years, breaking the Dems’ stranglehold on power by flipping the commonwealth’s entire leadership from top to bottom – governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and the state house. Bread and butter issues made the difference, with exit polls revealing not just the much-discussed education concern, but taxes and the economy, as the primary animating forces behind the GOP sweep of blue Virginia.
Somewhat overlooked, but arguably even more important, was the outcome of a ballot question in Minneapolis, ground zero for the Black Lives Matter-inspired insurrection in the summer of 2020. Voters overwhelmingly rejected canceling the police and replacing them with a quasi-social welfare agency, just one year after it seemed the entire country had bent the knee to an organization openly admitting its Marxist heritage. It would be a gross understatement to say this is a sigh of relief for normal Americans who reject the most toxic of all progressive one-step thinking, that the appropriate response to incidents of police misconduct is to simply abolish the police.
In New York City, Eric Adams, a Democrat running for mayor on a pledge to finally return law and order to a city that twice elected Bill de Blasio, wiped out a field of progressives in the primary and went on to crush even the ultimate law-and-order Republican, Curtis Sliwa, founder of the private crime prevention organization Guardian Angels, by almost 40 points. Yes, even the virtue-signaling, latte-sipping, fully woke-credentialed inhabitants of the upper west side apparently value safety on the streets.
Across the river in New Jersey, leftists had been bragging for weeks that incumbent Phil Murphy would become the first Democrat re-elected as governor of the Garden State in four decades. But as they used to say, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Murphy’s initial double-digit lead began melting away slowly, almost imperceptibly, while GOP challenger Jack Ciattarelli steadily gained traction, just as Glenn Youngkin did in Virginia. Even a narrow victory by Murphy in a race he should have put away easily weeks ago will not reduce the power of the message from New Jersey voters – same as that of Virginia, Minneapolis, and New York City.
It does not take a rocket scientist to hear what the voters were shouting from the rooftops in these four very different locations on Tuesday. They don’t want school boards trumping parents. They reject the infusion of anti-American propaganda known as critical race theory into their kids’ entire curriculum. They don’t want to defund the police. They want law and order, lower taxes, and a more vibrant economy. They thirst for leadership.
If the Democrats had been able to at least talk amongst themselves, and pass an infrastructure bill which was actually bipartisan and which the voters actually want, they might have avoided the fix they are now in. But being upbraided by the voters hardly lays the groundwork for passage of the socialist measures they desire. Any potential benefit from passing such a bill is now gone. It would be pure political malpractice to continue digging the hole on socialism, but of course this hardly means they will stop trying to force through trillions more in spending – right after voters clearly expressed disapproval of their economic policies.
Are Democrats really so tone-deaf, so overwhelmed by their most extreme elements and tendencies, and so walled off from reality to believe that the results on Tuesday represent nothing more than another iteration of white identity politics – racism with a pretty face or, in the case of Virginia’s Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, a fleece vest? Are they ready to condemn those suburban soccer moms who in their infinite wisdom put Joe Biden over the top in his bid for the presidency, and then turned on him a year later to the tune of a 15-point flip to the Republicans? Will they try their favorite political parlor trick which they beat to death years ago – blaming Trump – to explain away a day of pure political humiliation?
If they lash out in anger, defiance, and finger-pointing, avoid looking in the mirror, blame anyone but themselves, and convince themselves that the ominous results of 2021 hold no relevance for the 2022 midterms, they will do so at their own great peril. Yes, contrary to Democrats’ desperate hopes in the wake of this year’s electoral disaster, as they like to say out in Vegas, what happened in Virginia won’t stay in Virginia.
~ Read more from Tim Donner.