It was unthinkable six months ago. Announced as possible in the home stretch. It came to fruition on Tuesday: Democrats suffered a heavy defeat in Virginia, the country’s 12th most populous state, in a poll that could well act as a dress rehearsal for the November 2022 midterm elections. This former conservative state had gradually become a democratic stronghold to the point that it no longer appeared on the list of the Swing States, those who make up the presidential destinies. Since 2008, all Democratic candidates have won, Joe Biden even affording the luxury of an unprecedented 10-point lead.
A campaign focused on one of the mantras of the Trumpized Right
But yesterday the Democrats suffered a serious setback. For the post of governor, Glenn Youngkin, a 54-year-old businessman with no political experience, was ahead, with 50.7% of the vote, the former incumbent (between 2014 and 2018) of the post Terry McAuliffe (48.6 %). He has focused his campaign on one of the new mantras of the Trumpized Right: the accusations against the left of stuffing the brains of schoolchildren with “Wokist” considerations, such as “critical race theory”.
He will be accompanied at the head of state by two other Republicans: Winsome Sears, the first African-American woman elected to the post of lieutenant-governor, and Jason Miyares, of Latino origin, to that of attorney general, equivalent to a state-wide Minister of Justice. The GOP (Grand Old Party) has also garnered victories that could allow it to overturn the local chamber and ultimately threaten the latest legislative measures, such as the abolition of the death penalty, voted in February of this year.
A rehearsal ahead of the midterm elections in 2022
The Virginian ballot offers a kind of “model” for the midterms which will take place in a year. The majority of Democrats in Congress seem more threatened than ever. It holds eight seats (after a loss of 13 seats in 2020) in the House of Representatives and a single senator’s post in the upper house. In Virginia, the result was not tied around the “swing voters” who would have changed sides but on a participation differential. The Republican candidates regained 85% of the votes that had fallen on Donald Trump while their Democratic competitors managed to mobilize only 66% of the voters of Joe Biden. In Fairfax County, next door to the federal capital, Washington DC, and the usual hotbed of votes for the Donkey Party, the deficit is 138,000 voters.
Victory across the state was played by 70,000 votes. In Norfolk, where 43% of the population is African-American, nearly half of Biden’s voters in 2020 have not turned out, a sign of a demobilization of traditional fringes of the Democratic electorate. Several opinion polls had shed light on the very marked decline in the rate of support for the Biden administration among young people and “minorities” (African-Americans and Latinos), without which the Democratic Party cannot envisage any victory.
Promises but no law
This “stall” is easily explained: none of Joe Biden’s great campaign promises have been transformed into law. Two major laws (infrastructure, social reforms) are under discussion in Congress but they are faced with the refusal of a handful of elected centrist Democrats, including the highly publicized Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – whose votes are essential in a context of perfect equality in the Senate.
Faced with this ultra-minority internal sling, Joe Biden and the Democratic establishment continue to want to negotiate, abandoning at each stage a flagship measure (recently, the introduction of parental and sick leave) without obtaining a commitment from the recalcitrant on the others aspects of laws. As the Gravel Institute, a progressive think tank, noted yesterday in a tweet: “It cannot be clearer that if Democrats don’t make people’s lives better in the next few months, Republicans will win in 2022. Biden n ‘will have accomplished nothing during his tenure and Trump will win in 2024. ”