Surprisingly, moderate Republican Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia gubernatorial race this week. Once a battleground, Virginia has become a solid blue state in recent years. Republicans last won a statewide race in 2009, and few commentators gave Youngkin a shot to win. Donald Trump lost the state by 10 points in 2020, and Republicans lost the gubernatorial race in 2017 by the same margin. This time, however, the Republican candidate won it by over two points.
What was the difference? Contrary to the wishes of many Never Trumpers, it wasn’t due to the GOP candidate returning to cuck principles and dispensing with Trump. It was due to white identity politics. This may surprise some readers. “How could the former CEO of the Carlyle Group, an establishment Republican, and a candidate who never talked about immigration win due to white identity politics?” That’s because the decisive issue in the race was “Critical Race Theory” (CRT), which is really just a euphemism for anti-white racism.
Polls showed that a significant number of Virginia voters were swayed by the issue. A quarter of voters said CRT was their top issue heading into the race; 72% said it was an important factor to them. Of those who said it was their top issue, 70% voted for Youngkin. The Republican candidate pledged to eradicate it as Governor. He used cringe rhetoric to condemn it, but the point was still conveyed:
[I]n the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we’re called to judge one another based on the content of our character and not the color of our skin. And that’s why there’s no place for critical race theory in our school system, and why, on day one, I’m going to ban it.
He further added in that stump speech that CRT “teaches children to see everything through a lens of race and then to divide them into buckets and have children [who] are called privileged and others [who] are victims.” It would’ve been nice to make it clear who CRT is racist towards, but it is better than claiming it’s just racist towards Asians or the “gifted.”
Others who supported Youngkin were more explicit. In a speech delivered a week before the election, former Vice President Mike Pence condemned CRT for teaching white kids to hate themselves. It’s a notable thing for such a high-profile Republican to make such a statement. It would’ve been unthinkable just a few years ago.
But now anti-white racism is mainstream and campaigning against it is winning elections. Conservative media and other sources made sure to highlight how anti-white racism is taught in Virginia schools. Examples included the state’s Department of Education instructing teachers to embrace CRT way back in 2015, and certain counties incorporating the ideas of Ibram X. Kendi. Even though liberals insisted that the threat from Critical Race Theory was invented, the news stories and whites parents’ own experiences said otherwise.
The electorate was also whiter in this election than at any point since the Republicans last won statewide office in 2009. The white share of the vote was 74%, a 7% increase over 2020’s share. Additionally, more of the white vote went for Youngkin than it did for Trump in 2020: 61% versus 53%. A lot of conservatives want to credit Hispanics or even Asians for Youngkin’s victory, but it was clearly whites who delivered it to him.
Conservatives are too fixated on how moderate Youngkin is and how he presents a party devoid of Trump. They think this finally means that the specter of nationalism is gone and that they can now return to the good old days of Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney. That’s not the case. Youngkin shows that the only way the party can win is if they address issues the Left considers “white identity politics” — whether it’s anti-white racism in schools or mass immigration. Youngkin didn’t win on corporate tax cuts.
Liberals understand this better. They claim this election is evidence of a white backlash. Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali tweeted: “Whiteness remains undefeated.” He then wrote an entire article condemning “Karens” for electing Youngkin: “[T]he cult of Karen will always turn on people of color on a dime to uphold oppressive systems that ensure they remain influential and powerful handmaidens of white supremacy.”
The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill said the election proves “this country simply loves white supremacy.” MSNBC host Joy Reid said that education is code for white parents not wanting racial lectures in their kids’ schools. Liberal FOX News contributor Juan Williams made a similar point, arguing that “parents’ rights” are code for “white racial politics.” “It is a campaign to stop classroom discussion of Black Lives Matter protests or slavery because it could upset some children, especially white children who might feel guilt,” he wrote of Youngkin’s campaign.
Election analyst Larry Sabato said the election is evidence of “white backlash.” He pointed to the discussion around Critical Race Theory as the core issue:
The operative word is not critical. And it’s not theory. It’s race. What a shock, huh? Race. That is what matters. And that’s why it sticks. . . . There’s a lot of, we can call it white backlash, white resistance, whatever you want to call it. It has to do with race . . . It’s this generalized attitude that whites are being put upon and we’ve got to do something about it. We being white voters.
Conservatives want to ignore this and pretend that the black Republican who was elected as Lieutenant Governor disproves any racial intent. But the data says otherwise.
Youngkin will probably disappoint and even enrage nationalists once he is Governor. He’s not even a Josh Hawley, much less a Paul Gosar. He’s an establishment guy who realized the power of white identity politics — and he won on it.
One of the lessons here is that white voters will vote for an implicitly racial message if it is delivered by a presentable figure. The fact that he looks like a stereotypical suburban dad — complete with a fleece vest and khakis — made him a respectable choice for suburbanites. This was not some maniac or boomer meme come to life. This was a man who suburbanites saw as their own, and as someone who understood their concerns.
It should also be noted that Youngkin did extremely well in Virginia’s rural white areas, often besting Trump’s numbers in many of those counties. Whites throughout the state saw him as their guy.
Maybe Youngkin is the first “respectable” Republican to engage in white identity politics, and perhaps it heralds a new strategy going forward. Or maybe the Republicans will take the wrong lessons from this and ignore the identity issues that propelled them to power in Virginia. Whatever happens, the real message is clear: White identity politics is the only path for victory.