Yesterday two states held elections to decide who would govern them for the next four years. In both places the wrong people did far too well for all the wrong reasons. In Virginia Glenn Youngkin, a businessman ran against an experienced politician, Terry McAuliffe. Glenn Youngkin belongs to a party represented by Donald Trump, a party controlled from offstage by Trump. What we can conclude from Youngkin’s win are some things that no one in the mainstream news will say. Voters elected Youngkin by a slim margin, but not as slim as it should have been. He won areas that voted solidly blue in 2020. Exit polls of voters suggest that he won because of how people felt about the economy and education. However, this was an election about masks, vaccine mandates, and Critical Race Theory – all trumped up issues, proving that a man who should be living in infamy is still having an outsize effect on American politics. These issues were bogus, ginned up issues.
The world has just experienced a long-lasting pandemic event, which is not even over. Republicans, who people always turn to because they supposedly are geniuses at producing booming economies, went along with Trump when he downplayed the pandemic, pretended it was nothing, even as bodies of dead Americans filled refrigerated trucks. He may have felt that his “beautiful” economy was more important than the lives of senior citizens, although seniors were not the only ones to fall to COVID. Sadly, for our survival many people did have to perform essential tasks during the pandemic. Health care workers were required to, emotionally compelled to, and felt that it was necessary to work long hours, to put their family lives in the background. After watching people struggle to breathe and lose that struggle, they had to isolate the clothing they wore to work and take a shower before they could hug their children. Their compassionate care was inspiring to watch, but we could see that burn out would be a future problem for many. Most of us could only watch. We had no training and would have been a nuisance. First responders also had to stay at their posts and go into situations where there was danger of personal exposure. Grocery store workers and drug store workers were on the front lines, and they were frightened, and not always happy about being so exposed. Meat packers were considered essential, Amazon workers had to power through. We were lucky to come out of the pandemic with any economy at all and we owe all these people.
But if Trump had not denied that COVID presented us with some life-changing challenges. If he had been the kind of President who could have rallied Americans, instilled in us an approach to the virus akin to our approaches to the two world wars when Americans coalesced into a nation with one goal, inspired us to do whatever it might take to learn about this disease, to take the precautions that we now know allow us to live with it in relative safety, then the economy might not have been as affected as it is right now. But Trump is not a uniter; he is a divider. He turned simple health care measures into political nonsense. He knew he had a base. He knew that they would take their cues from him. He wanted to see how powerful he really is. He convinced his people that not wearing a mask was a vote for freedom. Americans don’t take orders from the federal government he implied. Defy the feds. Defy the CDC. The federal government has no power over you (this from a man at the helm of our federal government).
Trump did the right thing when he sped up the fight to create a vaccine, threw money at it, threw his weight behind it. But then his people would not use it. Mandates made matters worse because, as Trump signaled, Americans don’t take orders from the Federal government.
Who tanked the economy? Well, we certainly should give COVID a great deal of credit for that. Trump would say that Democrats tanked the economy because they forced the nation into pandemic mode when Trump wanted to keep the wheels turning regardless of personal suffering. Trump logic is not the same as real logic. Since this was a global pandemic and much of our manufacturing is not done in America, it is not surprising that restarting the economic engine of the global economy is not an instantaneous process. We did not anticipate shipping containers piling up in ports, but it makes total sense after all the world has been through in the past two years. So, would powering through COVID have saved the economy? That seems highly unlikely.
Before COVID the economy was improving. But it was hardly a healthy, booming economy. Trump lifted taxes on the wealthy and on corporations which left our economy deeply skewed, hollowed out the middle class and left nothing for low wage workers except crumbs, gig work or holding down three jobs to make it month to month. It was not a shared rise in the economy and the taxes did not bring back ‘our’ factories, which were doing very well in China and Asia. Trump tried to bring businesses back from Mexico and and make American goods competitive with goods from Canada, but he did this through tariffs and unfair trade policies. Trump wanted to shut American business in, make everything we needed here at home, let the rest of the world go by, but his economic ideas are old, reactionary, and require the entire world to dance to America’s tune. In some ways, looking at what happens when supply chains are as long as they are now, Trump seems, but only seems, to make sense. Would we run out of toilet paper if we made our own, would we run out of steel if we made our own, would we have to worry about getting clothed, if we made all our clothing here and had our own cotton fields again and our own textile mills? But It is improbable that in the twenty-first century any nation can have a booming economy if they are isolated. There would not be enough consumers to make businesses thrive. If we isolated to make goods, could we expect to sell goods globally?
So, while Trump and the Republicans like to blame Democrats for our approach to the pandemic which they feel interrupted a fine economy, it would seem that Trump actually did to American businesses what he did to his own businesses, and the Republicans were right there with him. Yes, Glenn Youngkin is a businessman, but he will encourage laws that are Trumpian in nature, and I doubt that he can make the economy of Virginia respond to current conditions any better than any other state. Democrats were given one year to turn around an economy that is still experiencing a pandemic. No political party could do that. These voters did not really vote on the economy. They really voted on masks and vaccines, mandates and an individual “freedom” that exists only in their imagination, at least when it is a matter of health and public safety. We had this same fight over seat belts, but we had years to win people over. Time was not on our side in this pandemic, and it still isn’t.
People said that Youngkin swayed them on issues of education. But the issue in this election was about racism, not education. This is about Trump’s devotion to white supremacy and white supremacists. Fox News has made half the nation go mad over Critical Race Theory and has convinced these Americans that from now on their children will be bombarded daily with lessons about America’s sins rather than her strengths.
The fact that Critical Race Theory is only taught in graduate schools doesn’t register because if any news source other than Fox says something, it is a lie. Why is it bad to learn the true history of our nation? People around the world know America’s history. Are American children to be sent out into the world believing that America is perfect, and will they then have to experience the culture shock of learning truths about America from other nations, will they have to defend a story of America that isn’t true?
Youngkin told parents that they should have a say in the curriculum their children encounter in school. This was code for ‘if I am elected governor we will not teach about racial injustice or even talk about tolerance in Virginia schools.’ But that is a lie. It is not at all likely that the racism that exists in American can ever again be swept under the rug, lied about, legislated into existence under the pretense that the laws are about something else. There are too many intelligent, well-educated Black Americans to ever perpetrate these lies again, the lies that say people with white skin are better than people with black skin. Glenn Youngkin has made promises about education that he cannot deliver. And furthermore, having millions of parents messing with school curricula will not provide the kinds of change that our schools need. It will be chaos.
There was a third issues in this Virginia race which was not mentioned. Virginia is a coastal state. It is already dealing with rising ocean levels and coastal flooding. Perhaps that is why Democrats did well in the last election in coastal areas. Even coastal areas turned towards the Republican candidate this time. How a coastal state can expect a man who clearly adheres to the policies of a party that doesn’t see battling climate change and adapting to rising oceans as real issues is mind-boggling.
In New Jersey Republicans also made a strong showing, and may win the governor’s race, but it will be for all the same wrong-headed reasons as what happened in Virginia. New Jersey is also a coastal state. Rising oceans and electing governors who don’t believe that climate change is real is a recipe for disaster.
Political ‘wisdom’ says that whatever party is in power will lose in the midterm political races. Why bother to hold elections? Political wisdom or nonsense can just choose which candidates will get the office. It would save so much money and TV time given over to political ads. Voters should have thrown political ‘wisdom’ out the window this time. And shame on fickle Independents whose political loyalties turn on the flimsiest of issues. These two elections do not bode well for the future of America.