Anderson Cooper: Is Far Left To Blame For Perfectly Normal Democrat Losing Virginia Governor’s Race?
During CNN's election coverage last night, Anderson Cooper asked that question we knew was coming once Democrats had their asses handed to them in Virginia:
"How much of this is a message just to the Democratic Party that it's too far left?" Cooper pondered during an evening CNN panel. "That if you're The Squad or if you're someone who's been calling for defund police or socialism or democratic socialism ... “
The so-called Squad did not actually lose any elections last night and are not the reason that President Joe Biden's approval rating is underwater. But what would Democrats do if they couldn't blame progressives for their problems? Progressives are like Canada in the South Park movie.
GOP seditionists Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Matt Gaetz, among others who leave slime trails in the House of Representatives, actively exist, and Republicans such as Glenn Youngkin and Jack Ciattarelli (the almost New Jersey governor) are able to separate themselves from the extremists while not alienating the MAGA base. This is obviously a communications and strategy issue for Democrats. Republicans are outmaneuvering them in both areas.
Anderson Cooper asks if the election results suggest Dems are "too far left."pic.twitter.com/oxQMnXIdin— The First (@The First) 1635951000
The media doesn't help, of course. Yesterday, the Washington Post profiled Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's supposed hard left turn and described Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema as “moderates." That's demonstrably untrue and implies that the non-showboating Democrats (including Mark Kelly and Jon Tester!) are liberals. Words matter, and Manchin/Sinema are more accurately defined as “conservative" members of their party, although that implies that Sinema holds an actual political philosophy.
CNN commentator Van Jones disagreed slightly with Cooper, but he also retreated into the comforting Democratic fantasy that economic policy can overcome Republican-initiated culture wars.
JONES: I wonder if Terry had been able to stick on a message of economic progress — you know, family leave and minimum wage and that kind of stuff — then maybe we wouldn't be making this argument. In other words, there was an economic message from the Democrats that was available. It was necessary given the rising cost. But what happened is we pulled out of our own federal bill, the family leave stuff. You're undermining the economic message for Terry McAuliffe and leave him with, "Trump is bad and vaccine mandates are good." I don't know if it's an up or down vote on progressive politics.
According to Politico's Heather Cagyle, some Democrats are already reportedly blaming their progressive colleagues for the Virginia “debacle" because they somehow held up the votes on reconciliation and the bipartisan infrastructure deal Republicans will run on when kicking Democratic asses next year. But the tedious infrastructure negotiations aren't solely responsible for the party's collapse in Virginia. Black people care about roads and bridges, too, and Terry McAuliffe performed well with that demo. He lost because white women who'd supported Biden in 2020 bailed on him.
Sahil Kapur at NBC News shared this exit poll data:
Digging a little deeper on this \n\nWHITE WOMEN COLLEGE GRADS\nVA 2020: 58% Biden, 41% Trump\nVA 2021: 62% McAuliffe, 38% Youngkin\n\nWHITE WOMEN NON-COLLEGE\nVA 2020: 56% Trump, 44% Biden\nVA 2021: 75% Youngkin, 25% McAuliffe\n\n(via @NBCNews Exit Polls)— Sahil Kapur (@Sahil Kapur) 1635906312
McAuliffe did improve on Biden's numbers with college-educated white women, who are also more likely to be tuned in to the latest Manchin/Sinema drama. Non-college-educated white women might blame Biden for inflation and higher gas and grocery prices, but Black women have to fill their tanks and feed their families as well, and they stuck with McAuliffe. (No, white people, "critical race theory" doesn't also guarantee free gas for Black folks.)
(Youngkin has said he'd go on the “offense" against abortion rights as governor, especially if he has a GOP House majority, which white women also delivered for him. Oh well, at least the state will be safe from Toni Morrison!)
Republican Scott Jennings touched on the more salient point, although I disagree with his conclusions.
JENNINGS: I was stunned when [McAuliffe] handed Youngkin the issue of the campaign — "I don't think parents should be involved in the schools."
What McAuliffe actually said was "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." Republicans and white parents would probably agree if Black parents were demanding that schools stop teaching Huckleberry Finn or The Great Gatsby. They'd deride Black moms who complained that their kids had nightmares from learning about slavery. During a 2011 "60 Minutes" segment about Huck Finn,a white teacher said her Black students who felt uncomfortable with her use of the n-word in class could use the experience "as an opportunity to grow." This didn't result in a public education backlash and angry parents at school board meetings.
Jennings argued that parents were also “pissed" because schools were closed during COVID-19 (the sort of thing that happens during a pandemic). Worse, McAuliffe palled around with the childless head of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten. However, Black parents were also driven crazy by their kids last year and didn't flip to the first non-Trump Republican who came around.
Republicans are clearly riding racial backlash, along with a good helping of trans panic, back to power ... again. Democrats didn't start this culture war but they can't avoid fighting it.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."