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.
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.
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