Lingamfelter: Changing Views and Votes

By Scott Lingamfelter

The nation’s eyes are on Virginia. It shouldn’t surprise anyone since only Virginia and New Jersey have gubernatorial elections this year.  Moreover, the nation has been bitterly divided over political and culture war issues that have dominated in recent years, particularly those of the far-left’s “woke” agenda.

In my years as a politician, I observed that political parties fall prey to a deception of sorts. When one prevails over the other, the winning party believes it possesses a mandate to pursue certain policies when, in fact, it has no such license. Both parties are guilty of this. Having won—even narrowly—parties immediately pursue an agenda and move zealously to implement priorities to enshrine their goals. This, they believe, will result in voters admiring their ability to “get things done.” In fact, it frequently causes voters to wonder “what have we done?”

I recall in my time in the General Assembly when my own Republican caucus tried to flex its muscles on this or that issue. It often backfired, and while we maintained our majority, we lost seats in the next election in no small part due to the strident positions we took on hot button issues, frequently those dealing with emotional topics. To be sure, we earnestly pursued our goals out of conviction, not malevolence. We genuinely thought the specific goals we pursued would improve the situation. But parties must pause to remember that the people who turn out and vote are often less motivated by blistering issues, either left or right-leaning, than those politicians who win and throw themselves headlong into implementing an agenda that alienates the majority of voters.

Lately it’s been the Democrats’ turn to pursue a mandate they do not possess. America is no more far-left than it is far-right. We’ve seen in the most recent polls that President Biden is “under water” with independents who, having supported him at the polls a year ago, are now walking away in droves. Why? Because having run as a moderate, Biden has lurched to the far-left to support the woke agenda of the progressive elements in his party. That agenda is simply out of step with the majority of Americans who do not believe we should be exploding the national debt, paying people to stay at home and not return to the workplace, and using “political science” in lieu of “medical science” to mandate masks, vaccines, school closings, and the shuttering of businesses to deal with COVID-19.

Moreover, the woke agenda is discordant with Americans who understand the necessity of the rule of law. The Defund the Police movement, one that rose from the loins of the far-left, is antithetical to many American values. Voters know that sending a social worker to handle a violent encounter with police is akin to dispatching a lamb to referee how the lions are sharing their meal.

And when we find ourselves racializing every imaginable issue to provoke enthusiasm for one policy or another, we should not be surprised to be more, not less, divided as a society. Those who use race to divide us have no place in our government, which subscribes to our national motto of E Pluribus Unum, out of many one. Whether race is used to demonize policies that assure fair and accurate elections or the enforcement of effective border security, the resort to dividing us along ethnic lines is despicable. The enthusiasm or passion of the wokist does not give more credibility. Zealotry infrequently takes the form of good governance.

So, what does this mean for my home state of Virginia? Next week Virginians will choose between electing Democrats to retain their grip over the Commonwealth or turn toward Republicans who are not supportive of the woke mandate that Democrats in Virginia have aggressively pursued, in lock step with their allies at the national level. The Virginia election is a referendum on Democrats at both the national and state levels. In both settings Democrats have done what parties often do: assume an extreme mandate that does not exist.

The Republican candidate for Governor, Glenn Youngkin, has tapped into the concerns of many Virginians that the Commonwealth has swung too far left. Youngkin has run a very focused campaign, eschewing the negativity and deception of his opponent, Terry McAuliffe. Youngkin has put good governance and commonsense policies at the center of his campaign. In that regard, his positive strategy may be a pace setter for other Republican party candidates in the midterm elections to occur next year, particularly if he wins.

If nothing else, I learned many years ago that Virginians are hesitant to change their views, but they are frequently willing to change their votes. If they do, don’t be surprised to see Republicans on the winning side of the ledger next week.

Scott Lingamfelter was a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 2002-2018, representing the 31st district in Fauquier and Prince William counties.

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