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Are Democrats listening?
Did they hear the thunderclap message sent in New Jersey – a state with one million more Democrats than Republicans – where incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy’s race against a no-name GOP rival was too close to call the next morning? A race that was not even on the radar until just a couple of weeks ago, when Republican Jack Ciattarelli began to cut into Murphy’s formidable lead?
Do they understand why in Virginia long-shot candidate Glenn Youngkin upset Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a state where no Republican had won a statewide victory since 2009?
Sadly, in the face of these stunning results, Democrats will tell each other this: if only we had passed the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill, these contests would have been in the bag. They will decide it’s all Joe Manchin’s fault; they will blame the moderate West Virginia Democrat for blocking Joe Biden’s progressive agenda which, they will insist, is what voters really want.
TRENDING: HISTORIC! Virginia’s New Lt. Gov is Black, Female, Christian, Marine Veteran
It will be the rare Democrat that gets the message: we are on the wrong track. Our far-left agenda is alienating voters and, most important, we are not paying attention to the issues that Americans care most about.
That’s what the polls have been saying for weeks, but Democrats have ignored the polls. Now, that’s what these elections say. Will Democrats ignore them, too?
They will and here’s why: progressive ideologues like Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are driving the Democrats’ bus; they are so convinced they are right, so entrenched in their views, that they cannot pivot.
Even as inflation has become the nation’s number one concern, Democrats continue to push giant spending bills that Americans rightly think will drive prices even higher.
As an acute labor shortage has driven up wages and inflation, and even with the labor participation rate the lowest it has been for over 40 years, they insist that what we really need is more welfare programs that will incentivize more Americans to sit on the sidelines.
How can they be so clueless?
They are clueless because the elites in charge of the Democratic Party no longer even pretend to listen to average Americans who are alarmed when gasoline prices soar 50%, when schools teach their kids to apologize for their White skin, when crime skyrockets in our big cities and when a million people enter the country illegally in just one year.
These are the kinds of problems that worry Americans, not racial equity or transgender bathrooms or even climate change. Those are, to most people, fringe issues important to the elites in charge of academia, Silicon Valley, the liberal media and, indeed, the Democratic Party.
Elites who can afford to fret over income inequality; most people have to worry about income.
Republicans, too, need to learn a lesson: education can be a winning issue on the campaign trail. People have seen during the pandemic what their children are learning, and they have seen the power of powerful unions at work benefiting teachers, and not our children.
Democrats cannot address the stranglehold that the teachers unions exert on our schools; they receive tens of millions of dollars every campaign cycle from those groups. Their response to failing inner-city schools is to throw more money at the problem even as the U.S, spends more per pupil than any nation on earth. And, even as our world rankings on the quality of our education continue to slide.
Republicans own this issue and should campaign on it vigorously. Polling shows enormous support for school choice, for instance, including from minorities. Campaigning to give parents vouchers or other opportunities to improve their children’s education would attract more Black and Hispanic voters, and the GOP should get on board.
The Virginia race focused heavily on education, and the topic helped boost Republican Glenn Youngkin across the finish line. McAuliffe gave him an opening the size of the Grand Canyon when he notoriously argued in a September debate that “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach.” Youngkin hammered his opponent mercilessly for the tone-deaf remark, and rightly so.
Parents are angry and have been voicing their disgust at school board meetings across the nation. Attorney General Merrick Garland threw fuel on the fire when he sent out his infamous memo directing the FBI to investigate raucous parents as “domestic terrorists.” The issue only grew.
Astonishingly, McAuliffe brought in American Federation of Teachers boss Randi Weingarten for his final election rally, not understanding that many Americans view the teachers unions as part of our education problem, not part of the solution.
McAuliffe, convinced he would easily win in a state where he had near-universal name recognition and that went for Biden by 10 points in last year’s presidential election, ran a lazy campaign. He followed the 2020 playbook, wanting to make the race all about Donald Trump.
On Election Day, Terry McAuliffe’s campaign sent out an email to supporters with this headline: “Trumpism is on the march in Virginia.”
Which, of course, was not true. Glenn Youngkin kept his distance from the former president, while still courting conservatives with positive messages about taxes and freedom.
McAuliffe was desperate that the race not become a referendum on failing Joe Biden, for obvious reasons, but instead wanted the citizens of the Old Dominion State to remember, every minute of every day, how much they hated Donald Trump.
It was a grievous error; attention spans are short, and Trump has not made headlines for months. The tech billionaires, who banned the former president from social media platforms, deserve an assist for keeping Trump out of the Virginia race.
If Joe Biden were a strong leader, he could retake control of his party and pivot toward the center. He is not. The progressives are in charge and will likely continue to drive the bus.
Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.