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Covid, Critical Race Theory, and Virginia’s Biden Blues

Glenn Youngkin and Teddy McAuliffe
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
Peter Hamby
October 12, 2021

Every four years, a divided nation turns its lonely eyes to … the Virginia governor’s race. And by “the nation,” I really just mean bored political reporters, exhausted by the tedium of Washington policy-making and hungry for their next fix of real-world campaign action. Because who in Texas or Colorado or New Hampshire could possibly care about the next occupant of the Virginia Executive Mansion? Especially this year, when the two white guy dad candidates—Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin—aren’t exactly Coachella headliners. 

But let me say this, as a political reporter and proud son of Richmond: You should care about my esteemed commonwealth. Even if its days as a purebred swing state have passed, the governor’s race in Virginia always has a way of telling us what we need to know about the state of the electorate. Just look back at 2017, when an aging, moderate career politician defeated a Twitter-hyped candidate with progressive ideas in the Democratic primary by putting together a powerful coalition of Black voters and suburbanites who favored pragmatism over radical chic. That Democrat, Ralph Northam, then rode a tide of anti-Trump sentiment to a resounding victory, presaging the Democratic backlash to Donald Trump in the following year’s midterms. Northam somehow managed to win on Election Day despite the election eve consensus on “Morning Joe,” when the pundit panel solemnly agreed that Northam would lose—even though he was leading all the polls—because Republicans were braying about crime and Donna Brazile wrote a book criticizing the Democratic party or something.