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SCOTT DREYER: Virginia Screams “STOP THE INSANITY!” (Part 1)

If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools.  — Plato

Pride goes before a fall.  — Old Saying, based on Proverbs 16:18 

This morning while teaching my advanced vocabulary class to university students in Taiwan, I explained the noun bellwether, adding “even a lot of native speakers don’t know this word.” It means a thing or event that forecasts a future trend.

Many are surprised to learn that Virginia’s elections for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general are usually a bellwether with impact that ripples far beyond the Old Dominion. 

While much attention (and money) is focused on the US presidential elections every four years (leap years, by the way), Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states to have statewide elections in an odd year following the presidential election. 

(It is my understanding that Virginia has our elections in odd years because the Democrat Byrd political machine of yore thought separating state from federal elections would result in less voter turnout and thus an electorate more easily swayed or manipulated. But I digress.)

After a president is elected, the American public has had about ten months to digest the new administration and see if they like it or not. At that point, voters in Virginia and New Jersey weigh in by way of their state elections. Generally, a popular president will see his party do well in later elections, while an unpopular one sees his party lose later ones.

And Virginia has a specific quirk. Starting back during the Carter years (1977-1981), the race for Virginia governor twelve months later almost always is a victory for the party not in the White House. Whether that is due to Virginians’ historic fear of an overarching government or just our general contrariness I do not know, but it is a fact. 

(Ironically, the only exception to this odd phenomenon since the 1970s was Terry McAuliffe (D), who won the Virginia governor’s race in 2013, after Obama’s reelection in 2012.) 

In many cases, how Virginia votes in our odd-year election then is a bellwether for the rest of the country in the midterm elections the following year. For example, after Obama’s wave win in 2008, Virginia had a GOP wave in 2009 that brought Republicans to the top three statewide offices. Next, 2010 brought another GOP wave that gave them an historic gain of 63 seats in the House of Representatives. 

Stumping for McAuliffe on October 29 in Tidewater, Vice President Kamala Harris tried to whip up enthusiasm for his fading campaign by declaring: “What happens in Virginia will, in large part, determine what happens in 2022, 2024, and on.”

She of course was hoping for a McAuliffe win to presage Dem victories in the future, but it seems her prediction may come back to bite if the GOP wins yesterday in the Commonwealth signal a coming “Red Wave” in 2022 and beyond. Time will tell. 

Referring to yesterday’s elections in her speech Harris also claimed, “Tuesday is a critical day that will determine whether we either ‘turn back the clock’ or move it forward (….)” Liberals love to condemn conservatives as wanting to “turn back the clock” (which of course is impossible as no one can reverse time), but her claim was a real whopper, in that McAuliffe has already been Virginia governor, from 2014 to 2018 to be exact. So, in a real sense, a McAuliffe win would have been a “turning back of the clock” since he is a political retread. In contrast, it is non-politician Youngkin, new to politics, who is the actual breath of fresh air and change. 

To what extent did Gov. Northam’s racist photo scandal dampen enthusiasm for Democrats?

Thanks to Virginia’s fear of tyranny and love of liberty dating back to the days of governors like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, Virginia is the only state in the Union that does not allow a governor to serve two terms back to back. Therefore, after McAuliffe left in 2018, he was replaced by fellow Democrat Ralph Northam, who soon earned widespread scorn for his infanticide comments and racist blackface/KKK photo from his medical school yearbook. Northam stubbornly refused to resign due to those scandals. (I wonder how much of Youngkin’s win yesterday was fueled by continued resentment over Northam refusing to resign despite howls across the state and nation to have done so. We will never know the answers to that question.)

Therefore, McAuliffe’s planned return to power was like a revolving door…until Youngkin and over 1.6 million Virginia voters stopped it. 

(To be continued)

Scott Dreyer in his classroom.

– Scott Dreyer


Vice President Harris uses the word “bellwether” and promises “What happens in Virginia will, in large part, determine what happens in 2022, 2024, and on.”

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