My tentative assessment of the Virginia election is that, at least in some geographical areas, the essence of the culture war is shifting from the Right vs Left to the Center vs Left. The culture of the US has moved considerably leftward over the past decade, and elite culture has moved way leftward. However, hardcore wokesters continue to be a relatively small minority, but are concentrated in institutional and professional areas that give them a disproportionately large platform. And “centrist” normies are starting to get pissed off. Centrist anti-wokesters are not right-wing populists or evangelicals fixated on guns, abortion, gays, or immigrants. The right obviously exists but it is increasingly concentrated in rural areas, the deep south, and sparsely populated Western states, and represents an aging demographic that is shrinking in size.
Instead, the centrists are okay with moderate welfare spending, gay rights and even gay marriage, minorities and legal immigrants, and perhaps even moderate immigration reform, hold moderate views on abortion, and are okay with moderate criminal justice reform, and moderate gun regulation. However, what they’re not okay with is “defunding the police,” paroling multiple murderers, legalizing abortion to the time of birth, radical expansion of the welfare state, or completely open borders. They’re a bit hesitant about the transgender movement, and they view the “critical race theory” controversy as tantamount to teaching black nationalism as a state ideology in public schools. Over time, I suspect the right-wing will become increasingly marginal, although loud and perhaps violent, with mainstream center-right “conservatism” increasingly looking like the #walkaway movement, i.e. “liberal” or at least moderately conservative, not full-blown reactionary, but strongly opposed to the far left.
Glenn Youngkin’s mix of populist policy and moderate style is a breakthrough.
The best news from Tuesday’s smattering of elections was what didn’t happen. Despite several pre-election bids to gin up skepticism about the integrity of the electoral system, the results, even in very close races, were broadly accepted as legit. Yes, the New Jersey result is super-close and the Republican Jack Ciattarelli may yet seek a recount, as would be his right. But here is his message: “I don’t want people falling victim to wild conspiracy theories or online rumors. While consideration is paid to any and all credible reports, please don’t believe everything you see or read online.”
This is a problem for Trump. He is obsessed with the invented “steal” of 2020, and has argued that every election in this country is rigged, even when he wins. It’s his core 2024 campaign theme (because he’s not psychologically well). Yet Republicans this week did remarkably well everywhere; turnout in Virginia was the highest for an off-year election ever; and today we are not in a constitutional crisis, or brimming with violence, because of a political leader’s malignant narcissism.
This, as my shrink used to say, is a gain.