by Matt Taibbi
McAuliffe’s collapse, and the corresponding underdog win by private equity titan Glenn Youngkin, is already being caricatured nationally using the language of 1980s politics. We’re meant to understand that the Loudoun County story — which is too complex to summarize easily but involves furious disputes between local parents and the school board over a variety of issues, including a pair of sexual assaults — was cooked up by Republicans as a cynical dog-whistle campaign.
“The GOP ran a master class on race-based identity politics,” wrote CNN’s Bakari Sellers. “The return of the Lee Atwater playbook. Pretty grim,” is how former Harry Reid chief of staff Adam Jentleson put it. “Hats off to the depraved cynicism and villainy and race baiting. It worked in Virginia,” seethed Wajahat Ali of The Daily Beast. Van Jones last night called Youngkin the “Delta variant of Trumpism.”
Just as McAuliffe had no message apart from trying to tie Youngkin to Trump, these commentators seem helpless to do anything but fall back on a cookie-cutter formula for responding to Republican electoral victories in the Trump era. This drive-by commentary misses the weedsy, multi-layered nature of the Loudoun County mess. Some of the parents I interviewed last night, for instance, didn’t agree with Tanner Cross, the Christian gym teacher who spoke out at a school board meeting this past May, saying his religion would prevent him from complying with a proposed transgender policy requiring the use of preferred pronouns. “I’m a teacher, but I serve God first,” he said. However, some were still furious that Cross was suspended after his speech, essentially for violating a rule not yet put in place.