At rallies they usually give away slogans and posters of “I do not know who for president”. But not classics of anti-racist literature. The one given Tuesday by Democrat Terry McAuliffe at the end of his campaign for governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia was an exception. On the unexpectedly frigid night, volunteers handed out copies of Beloved (1987), perhaps the magnum opus of the black Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. They carried a bookmark with this message: “[El candidato republicano] Glenn Youngkin plans to ban books from schools. “
Meanwhile, an energetic Joe Biden, star of the event held in a park in Arlington, a Virginian town just four kilometers from the White House, exclaimed on stage: “This is how you have decided to close your campaign! Banning the right of women to decide and the novels of a Nobel laureate! ”.
That a fiction about slavery in the United States with tinges of magical realism has become a throwing weapon between candidates in a state race says a lot about an election that will do more than just elect the governor on November 2 and the composition of the Virginia camera. They will also provide a plebiscite on the performance of the first nine months of the president (which registers its lowest levels of acceptance), the opportunity to judge the spectacle offered by the Democrats to agree on the lowered billionaire plans of infrastructure and reinforcement of the social umbrella and the moment to measure the forces of both parties before the legislative elections of November 2022. Since 1977, in eight of the 11 elections the results have been repeated between both appointments. As if that were not enough, the elections are also seen as the first great feasibility test for the likely return of Donald Trump in 2024.
Advance voting has been moving briskly since mid-September (with nearly 800,000 ballots submitted) and the polls are practically even, despite McAuliffe gaining a 10-point lead. If the Democrats lose, it will be the first time they do so in 12 years in a state that was red until Obama arrived and that was decisive in Biden’s victory in 2020. Hence the nerves in the party: nobody wants among their ranks that these elections are seen as a rehearsal of the bump that many predict in the legislative elections of next year. Neither did McAuliffe, who in a virtual meeting with voters complained about having to face “many headwinds from Washington.” “Unfortunately,” he added, “the president is unpopular today.” And that, as he proclaimed on Tuesday, they are “friends for 40 years.” Company these days uncomfortable, Biden has lavished little in the campaign; This week’s was just his second appearance in an eight-month long career.
National issues of debate (abortion, the obligation or not to be vaccinated, masks in schools, health) were protagonists at the Arlington rally as they have been during the campaign in an adjacent territory of 8.5 million inhabitants , not just geographically, with Washington and its rhetoric. They were also among the public: Stephanie, a 32-year-old from New Hampshire who works in the neighboring federal capital and preferred to reserve her last name, came convinced not so much of McAuliffe as that supporting him will stop the anti-abortion tsunami that threatens to devastate the country from its epicenter in Texas. For his part, John Hastings, a 78-year-old retired member of the Peace Corps, explained that he has helped by going from house to house to encourage voters to vote and thus nip the previous president’s plan to return to the White House.
The shadow of Trump also flew over the electoral act and the campaign. McAuliffe has tried by all means that the voters see the face of the tycoon when they look at Youngkin, who won the primaries exhibiting a profile close to Trump and has defended the theory of the theft of the elections of last November, as recalled one and again at the Arlington rally. As the race has progressed, the Republican, who amassed his enormous fortune at an investment firm and defines himself as “non-political,” has made efforts to present himself as a moderate who holds his opponent accountable for all of Biden’s failures.
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Television ads for his campaign, which he has funded with $ 17 million out of his own pocket, paint McAuliffe, a lifelong Democrat, the kind of Democrat who is a friend of the Clintons, as a “radical leftist” champion of the abortion, defender of such thorny initiatives as Defund the Police, which seeks to divest public money from the police to end their brutality, and too soft on immigration. The last of these ads has as its protagonist Laura Murphy, a white woman who has been since 2013, when her son was finishing high school, trying to get the novel by Toni Morrison, with its “brutal sex scenes”, off the list of required reading in Virginia. Hence the gift of books to journalists. In 2016, McAuliffe, who was governor between 2014 and 2018 because state law does not allow repeating (he was succeeded in the position by his fellow ranks Ralph Northam), twice vetoed a legislative initiative that was baptized as the Beloved Law.
In the second face-to-face between candidates in these elections, the Democrat pronounced one of those phrases that could be worth a ticket to the pantheon of candidates who, like fish, died in this country by mouth. “I don’t think parents should dictate to schools how they should teach their children,” he said. They were discussing a debate fueled by Republicans and their related media, especially Fox News: the teaching of the so-called critical racial theory, an academic doctrine derived in the 1980s from the Frankfurt School that emphasizes the study of the slave-owning past of the country as the origin of a systemic racism that still persists. According to his detractors, “pure indoctrination.”
Youngkin turned his opponent’s skid into another election announcement to capitalize on an idea that is gaining traction in the United States, according to which culture woke (and the empowerment of those outside the ruling class) is diverting the attention of ordinary citizens from the real issues to issues such as the MeToo, the revision of the cultural canon or sexual diversity. According to a recent Ypsos poll, half of parents, Republicans or Democrats, oppose curricula emphasizing critical racial theory.
Although the data that worries the most these days in McAuliffe’s candidacy is another: since 1969, Virginia has only once elected as governor a member of the party that controlled the White House at that time. This is the bad news. The good ones? That only time was in 2013. And the candidate was … McAuliffe.
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Biden plays it in Virginia