When Republican Glenn Youngkin narrowly defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe to become governor of Virginia, the media roundly hailed him as a “post-Trump” GOP avatar. Youngkin had made hay out of a misstep of the McAuliffe debate – “parents shouldn’t tell schools what to teach” – which was really all about white parents’ efforts to get Toni Morrisons Lover from the advanced English class, no declaration of intent to sovietize public education. Youngkin and the GOP presented it as the latter.
At a time of Covid fatigue and frustration with school closures and changing education guidelines over the pandemic, Younkin played the reassuring Suburban Fleece Daddy, promising parents he would listen and restore sanity to the state’s Covid policy, particularly as it relates to Schools. It seemed to be working: Youngkin outscored Donald Trump by 14 points and even captured liberal counties in northern Virginia like Loudon and Fairfax. Laurel Wise of Henrico County, who said The Washington Post She usually supports Democrats, opting for Youngkin: “I never thought I would vote for Youngkin, and then I really liked what he started saying about business and education and getting rid of mandates.”
She continued, “Youngkin has distanced himself from Trump. That was a very clear distinction that he made very cleverly, and I, naive or not, bought it. I think there will be a new Republican Party.”
Democrats who voted for Youngkin were indeed naïve. In his very first day as governorYoungkin issued a raft divisive executive orders that would make Trump proud. One broke a campaign promise. While candidate Youngkin said he opposes a statewide mask mandate for schools, he also said he would not ban them. “Municipalities have to make decisions the way the law works.” One of his first acts was to ban them instead. Seven school boards have sued to maintain their mandates.
Youngkin made good on his promise to ban the teaching of “critical race theory” in Virginia schools (which do not teach it) along with other “divisive concepts.” And he took first steps to pull the state out of the regional greenhouse gas initiative set up to combat climate change. Worse, he appointed Trump’s former director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, as his secretary for natural and historical resources.
Attorney General Jason Miyares, a Youngkin campaign ally, could be even trumpier. Even before he was sworn in, he 30 employees laid off in his office, including 17 attorneys who limit civil rights enforcement. He dumped the lawyers for two universities, the University of Virginia and George Mason University; One is currently part of the House Select Committee inquiry on Jan. 6, and the other led the probe into August 2017 violence against white supremacists in Charlottesville. (A spokeswoman insisted none of the factors were behind his movements.) And he reversed Virginia’s formal opposition on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, represented by a friend’s brief filed by his Democratic predecessor along with 23 other attorneys general, and instead asked the Supreme Court to overturn it Roe v. calf. Youngkin publicly supported Miyares’ decision and on the same day tweeted his support for participants in the anti-abortion March for Life who crowded Washington, DC
Youngkin’s sudden redundancy of his right-wing abortion stance should anger all the Democratic women who voted for him over Covid fatigue and McAuliffe’s real or imagined educational flaws. During the campaign he played soft on the issue, describing himself as “pro-life” but refusing to say if he favored a coup roe. “When I’m governor and have a majority in the House of Representatives, we can start going on the offensive [on abortion restrictions]’ he told an undercover pro-choice activist who recorded the conversation. “But unfortunately as a campaign issue, that won’t win my independent votes, which I need to get…. I’m not going to get muddy, but I have to win to stand up for the unborn.” He won, and now we see that the real Glenn Youngkin is not an anti-abortionist, but an anti-choice crusader.
However, he may have gone too far in banning mask mandates. “The governor [is] Throwing jet fuel at an already divisive culture clash in Virginia,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University The Washington Post“and inviting lawsuits that will now occupy much of his administration.” He also throws jet fuel at the often violent anti-mask rebellion: On Friday, a mother in rural Page County threatened “every single gun loaded and ready” to their children’s school if the board continues with its mask mandate.
Nationally, Republicans have hailed Youngkin as a model for post-Trump success. He fought comparatively moderately, but in his early days made sure to rule from the hard right. We’ll see what kind of model he is at the midterms in November. We hope that at least the Biden-to-Youngkin Democrats will see that they elected a fleece-clad Trumpy wolf.