What news network did you watch on election night? Thankfully we all had plenty of options. There was CNN, where John King’s magic wall grows ever more granular: “we’re moving the Kelleher household into the leans-Republican column, Wolf, though their dog remains undecided. Now next door to the Smiths…” There was Fox News, where loud people shout at each other until Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum finally pull over the car and tell everyone to knock it off.
And then there was MSNBC. Oh, Lord, was there MSNBC. There did we find Nicolle Wallace, one of the network’s fastidiously objective anchors, declaring that Virginia governor-elect Glenn Youngkin “worshipped at the altar of Donald Trump.” The lefty Wallace continued, “I think that the real ominous thing is that critical race theory, which isn’t real, turned the suburbs 15 points to the Trump-insurrection-endorsed Republican.”
So for those keeping track at home, we’ve gone from “critical race theory should be taught in schools” to “critical race theory isn’t being taught in schools” to “critical race theory isn’t real.” Not only is Wallace’s comment patently false, it was contradicted by none other than Terry McAuliffe himself. Back when he was governor, his Virginia Department of Education website declared that teachers should “embrace Critical Race Theory” in order to “re-engineer attitudes and belief systems.”
Also contradicting Wallace is a gusher of evidence from school systems across the United States that CRT has very much wormed its way into their curricula. But then MSNBC was never aiming for the truth uprights. Up next on their airwaves was Joy Reid, who declared that Republicans like Youngkin are “dangerous to our national security, because stoking that kind of soft white nationalism eventually leads to the hardcore stuff. It leads to the January 6 stuff.” And then over to Van Jones, who was on CNN but a couple channels up in spirit when he suggested that Youngkin’s victory could be the “Delta variant of Trumpism.”
If Youngkin is like the coronavirus, then watching MSNBC is like dumping generic-brand bleach down your throat in hope of a cure. Jones, who is a more insightful commentator than his periodic use of imagery would suggest, later made a more reasonable observation. “The whole idea of the ‘anti-Trump resistance’ being the only rationale for us to be a party is over,” he tweeted. And clearly he’s right about that much, given that the McAuliffe strategy of tying Youngkin to Trump didn’t work.
But the problem, I would argue, runs deeper. The Resistance needs to get past not just Trump, but the notion that it’s the only thing standing between this country and a Lion King-style stampede of white supremacists. Because the reaction to Youngkin’s victory on the left more broadly has been largely the same as on cable news: it’s the racism. Maybe a little mumbling about the dysfunction on Capitol Hill. But mostly racism. CRT in schools? Just an imaginary fig leaf for all the racism. The message is: you’re a racist, and if you so much as argue back, that makes you a racist.
It isn’t just that none of this is true; it’s that it’s insulting to the very voters Democrats need to sway. To say nothing of it being a flip desecration of the actual problem of racism in America. It is also deeply boring. Ian McEwan, in his novel Solar, defines the “essence of a crank” as “first, to believe that all the world’s problems could be reduced to one and solved. And second, to go on about it nonstop.” I would quibble only with the first part, since the whole point of a crank is that his problem never be solved. If it were, the raison d’etre for his crankery would abscond, leaving him with nothing to do.
So too with the left’s obsession with white nationalism. There can never be any outcome other than racism everywhere, and especially on the Republican right where it’s been mass-mobilized. Otherwise they would lose their present rationale for politics. This isn’t about to stop. Not when even the ostensible moderates like McAuliffe have latched onto it as a strategy. Not when even a geeky dad on a Cub Scout hike like Glenn Youngkin gets tagged as bigoted.
As it happens, I have another theory as to why Youngkin won. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but bear with me here. It goes like this: critical race theory in schools is real and so is inflation. Glenn Youngkin addressed both of these concerns with policy proposals, while Terry McAuliffe shadowboxed Donald Trump and staged a fake white supremacist rally. So voters elected Youngkin. They’re not stupid or delusional. They know what’s going on in their children’s schools better than some talking-head torture enthusiast. They were looking for a governor, not an MSNBC night at the 92Y.
Then again, maybe I should just keep my mouth shut. I am a conservative, after all. And far be it from me to stand in the way of Democrats’ crackerjack strategy to call the very voters they need to win over racists. Just pretend this column, like CRT itself, doesn’t really exist.
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