Leonard Zwelling


As Michelle Cottle notes in The New York Times on October 29, the Virginia governor’s race is giving us a preview of what to expect in 2022 and 2024 when it comes to electoral politics. In that race, former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe is running against a Trump clone named Glenn Youngkin. McAuliffe was not allowed to succeed himself by Virginia law so this is his second run, but not in a row.

Virginia has become a reliably blue state of late, but the polls show the two candidates running neck and neck. Why?

Cottle believes it relates to what is motivating the base of each party which may in turn affect turnout. This in turn may well be what to expect around the nation next year. In an off-year election, turnout is everything.

In short, the GOP voter is still motivated by Trump and the Stop the Steal movement along with the feeling that the liberals up on Capitol Hill want to give away the store and turn America into a western version of European socialism. This is not to say that all Republicans are Trumpers, but the most motivated are and they vote.

Democrats are largely disengaged. They got rid of Trump and perceive that threat to be gone. They’re wrong.

Young Democrats are very disappointed in the fact that the liberal agenda has thus far gone nowhere. More traditional Democrats are still uninspired by President Biden and appalled at how little he seems to be getting done at home and abroad. The fraught Afghanistan pullout has not completely faded from people’s minds and the disjointed Democratic caucus on the Hill is a true mess. The danger to Democrats in Virginia is that their base just sits this one out and the fear nationally is that this may happen in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin as well next year. The Democrat’s tentative hold on the House and Senate may indeed prove to be short-lived.

Cottle says that the Republicans are driven to “own the libs,” but Dems are not comparably antagonistically motivated. I think the Dems are just bored—bored with Biden, bored with Pelosi, and bored with Schumer. I know that I am. The Republicans both want to return Trump to power if they are MAGA-motivated or simply want a return to capitalism where they perceive a sharp turn to the left in the Congress, but not sharp enough to actually get anything done.

The country is exhausted. Many are too tired to get even their first covid vaccination. They claim it is out of fear of side effects or skepticism about the virus’s virulence. I think it’s one more damned thing to do and one more than many people are willing to do. Many on the right say the government cannot mandate them to do anything, as if they don’t give up money every April under government fiat.

America is in a tenuous place. It is not a place it has not been in before. The battle over slavery 150 years ago led to a war. The entire country is based on a series of compromises with regard to the division of power between branches of government and the state and federal authority that was most contentious. It seems impossible now to come to a compromise on anything because individualism is trumping any sense of communitarianism in the United States or its representative bodies. There is a stark faceoff between those who want to shift America towards a more socialist structure and those who want to conserve things as they are or were.

The race in Virginia may give us our first clue as to which of the forces in the American body politic will dominate. Keep a close eye on this one. It may presage 2022 and 2024.

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