Just How Bad Was Last Night for Democrats?

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

All politics is local, and there is nothing more local than your children and your wallet.

If the Democrats were smart, they’d be waking up this morning and figuring that out. Virginia is right in the backyard of Washington D.C. and the national politics were not enough for the Democrats to hang on to a state they won by 10 points one year ago.

To be absolutely fair, Terry McAuliffe’s race did feature non-Trump issues, and there are plenty of reporters out there who can verify that. But the problem is that those same reporters work for outlets that almost exclusively honed in on Trump as the key issue. Their nuanced analyses of the race simply don’t break through the screeching about the former president, a man who apparently had no effect on last night’s races.

The Democrats were hoping for a lot last night. They were hoping to show January 6, Donald Trump, alleged voter suppression, and racism would absolutely bring their voters out to the polls yesterday. They were hoping they could win a race without Trump being in office or on the ballot. They hoped that division and othering the opposition while not admitting to very real problems with their governance wouldn’t be an issue.

Instead…

 

If it were just the Virginia gubernatorial race, that would be one thing. And as much as the media’s reaction makes it seem like that was the only race that really mattered, the truth is that the Democratic Party has lost touch with voters, and the result was a nearly completely flipped Virginia, a near-loss of New Jersey, gains in Pennsylvania, and a flipped Congressional seat in Texas.

The collapse of the demographic advantage Democrats once enjoyed was evident last night as exit polling shows a majority – not a plurality, but an actual majority – of Hispanic voters sided with Glenn Youngkin. Republicans also flipped a minority seat in Virginia I don’t think was even expected to be in play.

The voters resonated more with the GOP than they did the Democrats last night, and it’s all because all politics are local.

There are a lot of Democrats and activists in the media who will say the education issue is a dogwhistle. There are loads of claims that last night in Virginia was all about white supremacy (strangely, the networks with voices claiming that are completely ignoring WInsome Sears, the black Jamaican immigrant who won Lt. Governor in the Commonwealth last night). But that doesn’t explain the turnout. Republicans made gains in minority demographics and took back the suburbs. Simple racism doesn’t explain that, but you know what does? Those voters’ kids.

We’ve long suspected education was the way to woo black voters to vote more for Republicans, and the public education system has certainly given Republicans the ammo to do so over the last two years. School shutdowns, mask mandates, and even Critical Race Theory have had a major impact on the public’s perception on state-run education. While kids were at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, parents were able to see exactly what schools were (and, more importantly, were not) doing. Many also saw their kids struggle with social and emotional isolation that we later learned was due to the unions colluding with the government to encourage those school closures.

And then McAuliffe had Randi Weingarten come be part of the closing message of his campaign. The leader of one of the biggest teachers unions in the country!

Couple that with COVID-19, and the leader of the Democratic Party promising during his campaign to “shut down the virus.” Couple it with the economy, which is causing a lot of pain at the gas pumps, in the grocery stores, and on employment. Couple it with crime waves across the country.

What are people going to care about more? That McAuliffe cares about public education and infrastructure? Or that Youngkin wants to get people back to work and let you have some influence in how your kids are taught and raised?

All politics is local. The Democrats have completely ignored that because their data suggests people care about the January 6 “insurrection.” And while that may be true, they clearly don’t care about it nearly as much as they care about the stuff happening in their own neighborhoods and schools.

Which leads me back to what the Democrats are really taking away from this.

If a Democratic strategist is telling you the problem is Republican misinformation, they’re one of the ones who misread the room in the first place in the weeks leading up to yesterday. It is Democratic strategists who doubled- and tripled-down on the issues Democrats ran on. They stayed within their incredibly impenetrable bubbles and saw no reason to take the fight to Republicans on the issues the GOP would win on. Unless a Democratic strategist is out there saying “Man, we really messed up here,” then they are not a strategist who can be successful going forward.

If last night is the bellwether for 2022, it’s an absolute nightmare scenario. And if the best some of these Democratic strategists can do is “The Republicans lied better than we told the truth!”, then they are doomed to seeing that nightmare become reality.

All politics is local, and there is nothing more local than your children and your wallet. That, and that alone, is why Democrats lost last night. If they don’t change their tactics (and there is zero indication right now that they will), then 2022 is going to be absolutely brutal.