A Hard Night for the Hard Left

As if we needed more evidence that the Democrats’ move to the left is going to destroy their chances in the mid-terms, we got more of it this morning.

The biggest message came in New Jersey where Gov. Phil Murphy was expected to cruise to victory. Last week, NPR touted Murphy as a Bernie Sanders Democrat who embraced a host of progressive policies and held a commanding lead in the polls. To quote the Morning Edition piece, “Murphy accomplished almost everything he campaigned on four years ago. He’s now considered the most progressive governor in the country. He raised taxes on millionaires, made community colleges free for those who can’t afford them, raised the minimum wage and kick-started a wind energy sector that now leads the region.” (My emphasis added.)

This morning Murphy is in a dead heat and in a fight for his political life against an opponent who was obscure, until now. And this in a state that is as blue as they come.

Even if Jack Ciattarelli ends up losing in New Jersey, his strong showing should be a wake up call for Democrats.

Meanwhile, in Virginia the Democrats’ nightmare has come true. Terry McAuliffe lost a race in which he started with a commanding lead. A big reason is that he underperformed in the suburbs where Democrats were hoping that repulsion to Donald Trump would become cemented as support for Democrats. But the Republican Glenn Youngkin kept his distance from Trump and came off like a traditional Republican. Given the choice of the kind of Republican who looked like them, they voted for him.

And what little good news there was turns out to be just more evidence that the party should move to the middle. Eric Adams, as expected, won an overwhelming victory to become the next Mayor of New York. Adams’ victory was assured when he won the Democratic primary against opponents who all lined up to his left. Adams, a former cop, focussed on crime.

Democrats also dodged a bullet in Minneapolis where voters rejected a city charter amendment that would have abolished the police department. That amendment had more support among white liberals than it did among Black residents — another telling indication of how affluent white liberals are leading the party astray.

Back to Virginia for a moment. To the extent that it was about issues, McAuliffe was hurt by three of them. First, Democrats can’t seem to get anything done in Washington. That’s largely due to the progressives’ holding the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which could have passed months ago, hostage to their big social and climate spending plan. Yesterday, I shared my growing frustration with moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, but that was late in the game. The left owns this mess. They should have passed the infrastructure bill and worked to get Manchin’s support on the other bill in a separate process.

Second, was Afghanistan. McAuliffe’s numbers started to take a dive in September as the disastrous withdrawal was playing out. My view was that it was a mistake to leave in the first place and a terrible mistake to leave when and how we did. But getting out of the country was a priority for the left.

And the third issue that hurt the Dems was education. They’re badly misreading and misplaying this whole issue of Critical Race Theory, The official party line is that CRT isn’t taught in the public schools, that it’s just some obscure graduate school seminar topic. But that’s nowhere near true. While something called CRT is not taught in schools, some of the concepts are most definitely there.

Moreover, the reaction among voters isn’t necessarily based on what’s actually being taught to their kids. I agree that Republicans are making more of that than it is. Instead, it’s a more general reaction against the concepts of CRT that voters hear about in news outlets or in mandatory training programs at work or from their college aged kids or in other places. The idea that people should be designated as oppressors or oppressed based solely on their skin color is out there, the Democrats are associated with it — and people hate it.

As CNN commentator Chris Cillizza put it yesterday, “Youngkin has molded a debate mistake by McAuliffe (“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” the Democrat said) into a broader indictment of woke culture, critical race theory and perceived overreach by the government in regard to Covid-19 mitigation measures in schools.”

The Democrats can still pull themselves out of this nose dive. They can pass the infrastructure bill tomorrow and some form of the social/climate bill whenever they can pull the votes together. The economy should be humming a year from now as the supply chain gets sorted out and COVID retreats even further. Wages are going up faster than prices. We can hope that inflationary pressures are mostly due to that supply chain bottleneck. And, assuming there are no new terrorist attacks born there (a big assumption), Afghanistan will be a distant memory

So, it could be that last night will be nothing more than a wake up call that will get the Democrats on the better, more moderate, track. The first indication will be whether or not this frees up the infrastructure bill. If this doesn’t make the hard-left move, nothing will.

Welcome to the 259th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

7 thoughts on “A Hard Night for the Hard Left

  1. On the flipside, the hard right’s overreaction to CRT / school COVID restrictions thankfully also suffered a blow in the Mequon-Thiensville School Board recalls.

    But yes, hopefully these more high profile other scares also wake up the hard left to the reality of the situation.


  2. “I agree that Republicans are making more of that (CRT) than it is.”
    I sometimes find that this blog does as well. It is a tactic to take something small and make something large out of it. Media is the medium through which to do that. The more moderate democrats wring their hands about CRT the better for republicans. You see very few moderate Republicans critiquing the far right if their party, Democrats could learn a thing or two from that.


    1. I can’t agree. As I pointed out in my post, it’s not so much CRT as narrowly defined in an academic sense that’s the problem. It’s the widespread use of CRT inspired language and ideas, not just in schools but in workplace trainings and in the media. It’s a widespread cultural movement that people are reacting against.


      1. People had very strong reactions against the civil rights movement as well. Yes, we have a widespread cultural movement that is against racism and the widespread effects of hundreds of years of racial segregation and subjugation. Not comfortable topic, I wish white people weren’t so sensitive that we can’t even mention the word racism. Reminds me of a quote, I don’t know from who, “America is so racist when you protest racism people think you’re protesting America”.


      2. There is a very big difference between the MLK-style civil rights movement and what’s happening today. King made the case that Black people deserved the very same rights that are promised to everyone else under the Constitution. The woke movement attacks our very system of liberal democracy itself.


  3. I don’t think requiring citations should be encouraged on platforms like this because people should be able to say what they believe without footnotes, but I just haven’t seen any credible evidence that the woke movement is an attack on liberal democracy. I do think that right wing media wants us to think that, and one can always find some person to use as an example of any sort of extreme position, but to paint the entire woke (which itself is fairly loosely defined) movement in this light (a quite serious allegation) strikes me as overreach.

    I return to my quote – is this movement anti racism or anti American? Even considering those that believe being anti racist means being anti Capitalist – are they thus anti American? Is liberal democracy defined as a political system or economic system?

    If you are referring to the equity concept, which as far as I understand is about treating people unfairly in order to address past discrimination, I don’t think that is necessarily incompatible with liberal democracy. I won’t bother with my complete reasoning though since perhaps that’s not what you’re talking about. But if implementing equity principles means eliminating liberal democracy, it’s hard to understand that we’ve ever had it to lose in the first place.


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