Jim Crawford: Lessons of the 2021 election

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 7, 2021

It was what is called an off-year election, a year when few significant state or federal elections take place.

And that made the Virginia governor’s race big news this fall. More significantly, this election seems to be positioning both parties for the 2022 midterm elections.

For Republicans, who won big in Virginia, most often a Democratic-leaning state, the new governor-elect promises to end the teaching of Critical Race Theory, a curriculum that explores the impact of race in the history of America. (No school in Virginia teaches CRT).

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Youngkin also promises to fund 20 additional private school choices for Virginia’s K-12 students and a police officer on every school campus.

Youngkin had the support of ex-President Trump, but did not seek Trump’s direct participation in his election, a strategy many Republicans may adopt in 2022.

Trump has a powerful base, but one too small to win in many districts without independent voter support. That creates a problem in several states for Republicans, as independent voters tend not to support the ex-president and may actively vote against candidates too aligned with Donald Trump.

Therefore, expect to see the Youngkin strategy of welcoming Trump’s endorsement, but standing back from Trump’s active campaigning adopted by other Republicans.

Youngkin’s campaign seemed to benefit from school board meetings where a loud and aggressive minority of parents expressed outrage at required masking for students and accommodations for gender sensitivities.

NPR reports that, across the nation, parents advancing these issues have not only shut down some board meetings and threatened board members, but have initiated recall elections on 215 school board members.

The lesson for Republicans in 2022 seems to be to tap into parents’ anger about their children’s lack of progress during the pandemic, the many and long school closings, and the damage from their children being isolated from their fellow students.

While these issues were society-wide and supported by health experts, parents do feel anger that there remain obstacles to a 100 percent return to normal schooling. In short, education as envisioned by Republicans is an issue that plays on the negative emotions generated by the pandemic that may bring voters to Republican candidates.

Democrats are, for their part, wringing their hands in angst over the fear they will never win another election. Their second emotion is over who to blame for losing Virginia.

Neither reaction is worth the time to say more. What Democrats need to do is address the needs of the voters and trust problem-solving to win future elections.

Today, Americans are concerned about inflation and gas prices cutting into any income gains. Gas prices are at a nine-year high and, U.S. producers are slow to respond, fearing a downward swing cutting into profits. However, there is some good news, U.S. natural gas prices per million BTU are currently $5.68, with European prices topping $30.

Spot shortages have strongly influenced inflation as industries recover from pandemic shutdowns. But that still costs consumers and raises economic concern. Build Back Better would save Americans money by absorbing a good portion of childcare costs, helping the cost of family leave and reducing prescription prices.

For 2022, Democrats need to do what works, pass legislation that benefits the American people and pass it now. The solution to re-election lies not in promising not to teach the non-existent CRT courses; it is not in promising to throw away masks that keep our schools safe, and it will not be in supporting the anti-vaccination movement. But election success can be found in addressing school issues and challenges.

Americans do not like politicians that talk but fail to act. Democrats, get something done!

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.