The US state of Virginia is just about as close to Washington DC as you can be without being Washington DC, and even contains parts of the Washington Metropolitan Area.
Washington is home to a governing elite, as well as an underclass who serves them (predominantly black). Virginia (and Maryland) are where the public servants who run the machinery of government mostly live.
In Australian terms an election in Virginia is a bit like an election in the Federal seat of Eden-Monaro, which is close to the seat of government and so includes a lot of public servants nested amongst more conservative voters, and while it can swing, it has been gradually becoming more progressive.
What makes Virginia currently significant is that it has just elected a Republican as governor. Glenn Youngkin is a businessman and neophyte politician who defeated Terry McAuliffe, a 43 year veteran of professional Democrat machine politics, who has already had one term as governor, with a swing of 12%. Last time a Republican won the gubernatorial race was 2009.
Youngkin won for a multitude of reasons, with the Wall Street Journal finding 35% rated the economy as the most important issue facing Virginia, followed by Coronavirus (17%) and Education (15%).
So this was a typical bread and butter election decided mostly on economics, but it had a "culture wars" underbelly to it.
Education wasn't an issue because it was under-resourced, it was an issue because of progressive agendas like Critical Race Theory, and radical Gender Theory, being force-fed to kids.
At a time when every Democrat from President Biden down is declaring the USA "systemically racist" only 5% of Virginia voters (20% of whom are Black) said racism was a problem. And at a time when the US president is sacrificing the US economy on the altar of climate change, only 7% thought climate change was an issue.
We can expect some of these themes to chime in the next Australian election. Scott Morrison may not want to get involved in culture wars, but culture is important, and not only does politics stand downstream of culture, but our culture stands downstream of US culture.
The paramount cultural issue for Youngkin was education, which is a traditionally progressive issue, but Youngkin ran it, along with bread and butter issues like law and order, cutting red tape and taxes, and stimulating business, and appears to have won the argument with voters.
The reason education wasn't poison to him is that voters trust the left to spend more money on education, but if you turn the conversation to standards, then they are more supportive of the right. His opponent also made it an issue, declaring that concerns about CRT "were a racist dog whistle", that parents had no right to decide what their children were taught, and backed the gender fluid school bathrooms that led to an alleged anal rape of a school girl. This wasn't a dog whistle, it was a siren that ordinary Americans heard and hated.
Critical Race Theory is particularly important in a cultural sense because it co-locates race with ideology in a way that is offensive to all of the liberal Enlightenment norms that underpin our culture, and our material success.
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