“A Perfect Storm”: A No-B.S. Read of What Really Happened in Virginia

Glenn Youngkin
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Peter Hamby
November 7, 2021

Democrats outside Virginia apparently know something that Democrats inside Virginia don’t. Even before the networks had called Tuesday’s election, in which Republicans reclaimed all three statewide offices and the House of Delegates in a state that most political savants had assumed was permanently blue, a consensus explanation had already taken hold on the left. It was racism, of course. 

From the perplexed primetime anchors of MSNBC to the know-it-all guardians of blue check Twitter, national progressives who couldn’t tell the difference between a Hoo and a Hokie were suddenly experts on the Virginia suburbs, explaining confidently that Glenn Youngkin had dog-whistled Critical Race Theory all the way to victory, persuading a bunch of racist Karens in the suburbs that a fake Fox News threat was coming for their precious Kaylas and Jaydens in the curricula of their treasured public schools. “This country loves white supremacy,” Jemele Hill tweeted when the results came in. “You damn Karens are killing America!,” was the headline from Wajahat Ali at the Daily Beast, a take published before all precincts had finished reporting. Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC said Youngkin “laundered Trump’s really disgusting flagrant racism, he’s wrapped it in education.” These observations were pegged to early exit polls showing that Youngkin won suburban voters, white women and families with children—all subgroups of swing voters that voted for Joe Biden in 2020, now deemed bigots in 2021.

Like a lot of sophomoric political analysis, these takes were grounded in a kernel of truth but delivered without even a whiff of nuance or texture, all with the volume cranked up to 11. And absent from the monsoon of hot takes were the voices of actual Virginia Democrats who were closest to the action, people like Jay Jones, a member of the House of Delegates who spent the final hours of election day at a precinct in a mostly Black neighborhood of Virginia Beach, helping gin up last minute votes for his fellow delegate Alex Askew in the the commonwealth’s swingy 85th District. Moments before the polls closed, he saw a car pull up, and as he described it, saw two white women, not Terry McAuliffe voters, literally sprint out of their vehicle into the voting location before polls closed, ignoring Jones as he tried to hand them Democratic campaign lit. “I’ve never seen anything like before that at a precinct,” Jones told me. “It’s one thing to get people pissed off, it’s another to get them to go vote. Republicans got low propensity folks to vote. And they had Trump-level turnout not just in rural areas, but in most areas. And I’m not sure how they did it.”