2021 Elections: What A Difference A Year Made

This week’s Courier Herald column:

A year is several eternities in politics even in normal times.  Our ongoing pandemic seems to have slowed time to a crawl, and the year that has transpired since the 2020 elections seems to have been much, much longer than that.

Georgia had a few high profile municipal elections and referendums on November 2nd, but the real election news came from places such as Virginia, Minnesota, and Seattle.  In Virginia, Republican Glenn Younkin defeated Terry McAuliffe by 2.5 points.  President Biden won Virginia by more than 10 points one long year ago.

Virtually ignored on election night was that Virginians also elected their first African American and first female, Winsome Sears, to the office of Lieutenant Governor.  Sears, an immigrant from Jamaica, will serve alongside Virginia’s newly elected Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares, the first Hispanic and Cuban American to hold that post.  

There were other elections of national significance across the country.  In Minnesota, a referendum to replace Minneapolis’ police department with a “Department of Public Safety” failed by a double digit spread.  Law and order was also on the ballot in Seattle, where the city elected Republican City Attorney Ann Davison over a police abolitionist candidate by 18 points.  Davison is the first Republican elected citywide in Seattle since the 1980’s.

Election results are a lot like political Rorschach tests.  Commentators, columnists, and voters alike can often see in them whatever they want. 

The first argument on these results among the chattering class is whether these results are a national referendum on President Biden and Congressional Democrats.  Vox, hardly a right leaning news outlet, sums up the situation with the headline “Biden’s approval rating is very bad”.  It notes that Biden is looked upon more unfavorably than either Bill Clinton or Barak Obama just before their “disastrous” midterm elections.

Others are arguing that these results are very local.  Virginia’s elections seemed to focus and turn on education issues.  Frustrated parents who have had to deal with constant closing and reopening of schools have also been told, quite directly by McAuliffe, that they have no say in what their children are taught. 

In retrospect, weaponizing the Department of Justice against parents complaining to school boards was probably a bad idea.  Just over a year ago, public protest and dissent was celebrated as “good trouble”.  But that was one federal election and several eternities ago.

Likewise, “Defund the Police” was immediately accepted as an urgent need by national media a little over a year ago Then, Democrats started seeing polling on the issue and began the even more amazing line “Defund the Police doesn’t mean defund the police”. 

A few eternities later, major cities are seeing crime rates skyrocket while their police departments are critically understaffed.  The only polls that count are the ones on election day, and the results in Minneapolis and Seattle demonstrate a growing disconnect between woke newsrooms and everyday voters.

Those same newsrooms, nationally and here in Georgia, waged an aggressive campaign against Georgia’s new voting laws that codified many measures hastily adopted during the pandemic to make casting a ballot easier into law.  The campaign cost the state an opportunity to host the All Star Game, among other notable economic opportunities.

On Tuesday night, as the Braves were receiving the World Series trophy from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, I was being directed to a tweet from Stacey Abrams’ New Georgia Project.  It noted that early voting in the City of Atlanta was 150% of the totals four years ago.  If Georgia’s legislators wrote a law trying to suppress votes, it appears they were really, really bad at it. 

Republicans have likely experienced a bit of schadenfreude this week, and have a lot to look forward to going into the 2022 midterm elections.  In between now and then, Georgia Republicans will have to navigate the redrawing of district maps, a growing intra-party civil war between former President Trump and many statewide elected officials, and whatever new “narratives” the journalist class decides to use to paper over “defund the police” and “keep parents out of education”.

It’s fine to accept the victories and gains of Tuesday’s elections.  Best, however, to pace yourselves.  There are several more eternities between now and next year.


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