Some party leaders are already taking notes on Youngkin’s mix of the standby GOP line in education – criticizing the excessive influence of teachers’ unions and supporting school elections – with anti-liberal culture war rhetoric.
“Not only was it Virginia, but Virginia was clearly the loudest message,” said Steve Scalise (R-La.) Of House Minority Whip in an interview. “Youngkin’s victory is another sign that issues such as school choice, parents’ participation in their children’s education, and standing up against union leaders across the country will continue to be a major issue … even stronger messages over the next year.”
The Republicans of the House of Representatives are working quickly to capitalize on Youngkin’s appeal to education, including making a “parental act” and making it a core piece of communications. The policy of learning was already on the mind of the GOP, and lawmakers said parents’ eyes were opened to details of their children’s curricula during a pandemic that required more online learning.
And as education was on the Republican agenda, so did the cultural war-fueled opposition to Critical Race Theory (CRT) – a longstanding academic concept that postulates that centuries of slavery and segregation resulted in racism being systematically anchored in US institutions became. Many Republicans have begun to use the term as a collective term to describe how schools teach about race or American history.
Virginia’s schools don’t teach CRT in its original form, but Youngkin successfully made it a bogeyman in the elections. And this is not only recognized by the Republicans: The Progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York said in an interview that “critical racial theory and its way of arming” [of it], was effective. “
“I think it was certainly a factor in Youngkin’s loss to McAulife,” she added. “Because we continue to have extraordinary difficulties in this country in having honest conversations about the breed.”
Along the way, Youngkin capitalized on parents’ frustration with school closings during Covids and designed the governor’s competition as a debate about whether parents had a right to participate in their children’s education. In particular, during a debate, the Republican picked up on McAuliffe’s comment, “I don’t think parents should tell schools what to teach their children” – which quickly became a GOP talking point.
Republicans in Virginia and on Capitol Hill also picked up on the Justice Department’s announcement by Biden last month to tackle violent threats against school board members. The GOP has seen this as an effort by the Democrats to silence parents who want to protest what is happening in their local schools, from public health measures to lesson plans.
This advance only intensified after Youngkin’s victory. On Wednesday, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee, led by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, sent one Letter to the FBI Call for responses to the proposed implementation of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s memo directing DOJ resources to stop threats against school board members.
And Republicans are considering proposals to reduce the federal government’s involvement in education as part of their upcoming “parental rights” legislation, said Virginia Foxx (RN.C.), the party’s senior member of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. Foxx warned the party is still hatching the details.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (RN.Y.), who is seeking governor in a state that has been bluer than Virginia for years, said he, too, has seen voter enthusiasm for a greater focus on education. He described Youngkin’s victory as a further reinforcement of what he had already seen in the campaign.
The power of a particular educational message was true, Zeldin said in an interview when he “was on the trail and spoke to a group of 700 Hispanics in the South Bronx about my positions on education – almost the entire group are Democrats – and they” respond emotionally and passionately to the message. “
Youngkin, a former private equity manager and political newcomer, has made education a central part of his final interview with voters over the past few weeks. His campaign called his events “parent rallies”. And he flooded the airwaves with television commercials about parenting participation in schools, accusing the Democrats and McAuliffe of silencing their voices.
Youngkin also announced its own education plan, which includes increasing teacher salaries and expanding charter schools.
Despite their admission that Youngkin benefited from channeling voter dissatisfaction with education during the pandemic, Democrats have yet to propose a more specific response beyond passing the infrastructure and social spending laws that are at the core of their domestic agenda .
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) Said on MSNBC Wednesday that Youngkin “appeals to parents in education,” but argues that President Joe Biden’s signature laws through Congress could be even more appealing to parents.
The party can also use a direct counter-argument to education; Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and longtime Democrat ally, campaigned with McAuliffe in Virginia. Weingarten has exploded Youngkin and his anti-progressivism educational message as using “lies, disinformation and fear to drive a wedge between voters”.
But Republicans like Utah Senator Mitt Romney say McAuliffe miscalculated by fighting the union’s face in the face of parents’ anger on issues ranging from CRT to assault allegations.
“It was so completely out of touch with … the American people or the people of Virginia,” said Romney. “You had to shake your head.”
Democrats say they are appalled that the GOP is fighting against CRT’s recognition of the reality of institutional racism.
“Wow, that says a lot about who you are as a party, that you would use race as a divisive issue to try to get the majority back,” said Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.).
In particular, the two black Republicans in the House of Representatives have vigorously opposed democratic positions in education. Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, said at a GOP education roundtable on Wednesday that some Democrats’ demand for equity in schooling is focused on lowering “expectations of black people,” which he says is “as racist as possible.” called.
One of Owens’ freshmen looked at Youngkin’s victory not just in terms of educational messages but also in meeting voters where they live.
“Youngkins Playbook is sure to be an example of how to win ’22,” said newcomer Kat Cammack (R-Fla.). “Focus on local issues, talk to voters – focus on what is important to them.”
Burgess Everett and Nicholas Wu contributed to the coverage.