April 15th, 2024


For Dems, 'not Trump' not enough

Nolan Finley

By Nolan Finley The Detroit News

Published November 4, 2021

An off-year election isn't a reliable weathervane to predict what's going to happen in next year's mid-terms, and certainly not for the 2024 presidential campaign.

The sample size is too small to be conclusive. There's also too much calendar between now and those broader contests to be certain trends will hold; plenty of time for unforeseen events to swing voters in a new direction.

But there are some insights to be gleaned from Tuesday's balloting that may be relevant next year in Michigan and other states with gubernatorial contests.

What Democrats should take away from their very bad day in Virginia is that not being Donald Trump is no longer enough to guarantee an election victory.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe ran a nationally focused campaign, centered on constantly raising the specter of Donald Trump and the Capitol riot of Jan. 6. But like most state contests, this election was about local issues, or in this case about how the Democrats' national woke agenda impacted people at the local level.

McAuliffe had a comfortable lead over his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, coming into the fall home stretch. And then school started.

Parents angry and frustrated about mask mandates and race-based curriculums being forced on their children started packing school board meetings.

Their anger crystalized when Attorney General Merrick Garland sicced the FBI on parents who spoke out at the meetings, labeling them domestic terrorists.

Instead of stepping away from that obvious land mine, McAuliffe jumped on it. He made one of the most suicidal comments ever by a politician when he declared, "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."

Parents were not willing to hand over their children to the state and walk away.

Instead of listening to them, McAuliffe belittled them, with the help of former President Barack Obama, who flew in to blame the parents for dividing the nation.

Turns out, the Democrats' big guns didn't have much firepower. McAuliffe danced oddly around Biden on a campaign stage and played girlfriends with Vice President Kamala Harris, and still his numbers kept dropping.

The Democrat mentioned the former president's name every time he opened his mouth, warning Youngkin would bring Trump-style politics to Virginia. He even dubbed his opponent Trumpkin, and on the final campaign day, lied about Youngkin holding a rally with Trump.

But Virginia voters were less concerned with what Trump did to the country than what Democrats are doing to it now.

For his part, Youngkin walked a careful line with Trump, accepting his endorsement but not bringing him in to campaign on his behalf, and running on his own agenda. That may be the path around the Trump problem for Republicans in the mid-term balloting.

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Progressives will try to spin the Virginia loss as a rebuke of Democrats for not moving far enough to the left, failing to pass their big spending reconciliation bill before Election Day.

That's delusional. McAuliffe made the critical mistake of running against Trump rather than Youngkin. He offered nothing but fear of a boogeyman. Meanwhile, Youngkin talked about the everyday issues that are creating so much unease in the country — inflation, crime, labor shortages, the border crisis, a growing scarcity of goods.

Democrats are ignoring those worries, convinced that shouting Trump, Trump, Trump will be all it takes to win.

Virginia proved it won't. It certainly won't be enough to hide their far-left, big government ambitions so perfectly expressed by McAuliffe's view of who should decide what's best for children.


Nolan Finley is conservative editorial page editor of The Detroit News.