Virginia’s gubernatorial election has turned into a referendum on public schools


A week from today, Virginia voters will be voting to elect their next governor, and school elections have become the defining theme of the race– though maybe not quite as libertarians would prefer.

With Virginia law not allowing incumbent governors to run for re-election, the two big candidates who want to replace Democratic governor Ralph Northam are Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who was state governor from 2014 to 2018, and the Republican Glenn Youngkin, the former CEO of the Carlisle Group, a venture capital company. The race should have been relatively easy for McAuliffe in a state that is increasingly inaccessible to Republicans: Virginia has only elected one Republican governor this century, and the GOP has not won a Senate race in the state or a presidential race since 2004 .

He may still prevail, but McAuliffe stepped in during the closing debate between the two candidates last month when he responded to a question about parent-led protests at school council meetings by saying, “I don’t think parents are telling schools should what they should teach. “

That line is being rotated heavily in the campaign ads that have been pounding the Virginia airwaves for weeks.

There are two ways to see that the moment – and the advertisements it spawned – changed the race significantly. First, recent surveys show that parents of school-age children are much more likely to support Youngkin.

Second, McAuliffe had to break one of the main rules of political campaigning – never, ever, fueling your opponent’s attacks by acknowledging them – to respond directly with ads of his own, arguing that Youngkin somehow takes these words out of context:

“So that’s why I want you to hear this from me, Glenn Youngkin takes my words out of context,” @TerryMcAuliffe says in a new ad pic.twitter.com/2ke4pyiD8x

– Brandon Jarvis (@Jaaavis) October 18, 2021

To do McAuliffe justice, a bit of context is missing here. The Fairfax County protests were organized by parents who objected to the county’s high school, including Toni Morrisons Beloved on a Seniors Reading List. This is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, not a porn rag. Parents who don’t want their teenage children to read the book can of course object, but banning books is always an extreme overreaction. In 2017, McAuliffe vetoed the so-called “Beloved Bill,” which would have required schools in Virginia to inform parents of “sexually explicit content” on students’ reading lists.

But like all the most memorable political slip-ups, McAuliffe’s response to this controversy hits a nerve in the debate because it seems to perfectly sum up the candidate. McAuliffe is a longtime ally of the Clintons. Teachers’ unions love him. He refuses to go to school even though he has sent his own children to private schools. You know the guy – in fact, there are probably some of them running your own local school board.

Its sit-down-and-shut-up vibe resonates in Virginia right now, as the state’s northern suburbs – a pivotal pioneer in both state and national elections – are pretty much the zero point for Republican-led culture wars by the school board. Tensions rose in Loudoun County when parents besieged school board meetings to complain about the teaching of “critical racial theory” and then boiled over when a transgender student was convicted of sexually abusing another student in a school toilet to have.

Youngkin’s campaign has promised to “save our schools,” and it is pretty obvious that the Republicans nationally expect the Virginia Governor’s Race to provide a roadmap for next year’s interim semester. If Youngkin wins, or even just loses, expect Culture Wars to double anywhere.

Parents should of course have a say in the upbringing of their child. It is more important, however, that political leaders promote an education system that allows multiple options, that is, offers families both a say and an option to leave.

Youngkin promises to help Republicans win the battle for control of Virginia public school boards, but that’s really just a promise to keep the culture wars hotter. A better alternative would be to defuse these struggles by giving families more alternatives so that it doesn’t matter so much which political tribe controls the monopoly of the public school.

FREE THOUGHTS

The whole fuss about the so-called “Facebook Papers” is a lot of idleness, writes Robby Soave from Reason.

The revelations, published in several major newspapers this week, based on documents leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, are said to show the social media giant prioritized “anger and misinformation” to keep growing. Instead, everything seems to confirm that Facebook is struggling to attract younger users and is increasingly being split up by newer, more agile competitors.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg confirmed these issues during a call to investors on Monday:

???? Whoa. Important news from Zuckerberg:
He says that in the future, Facebook will “convert” to “make young adults the North Star instead of optimizing for the elderly”.
– Says the “shift will be years, not months.”

– Sara Fischer (@sarafischer) October 25, 2021

“No hand-wringing over addictive platforms or monopoly practices can obscure the fact that the site is declining in popularity with young people and increasingly looking like a dying star,” writes Soave.

FREE MARKETS

Thanks to a collaboration between Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and several other private space companies, the world’s first commercial space station is in the works.

Announcing #OrbitalReef – a commercial space station that is transforming human space travel and opening up new markets. Our team is developing the leading commercial target in low earth orbit: @BlueOrigin @SierraSpaceCo @BoeingSpace @RedwireSpace @ASU https://t.co/PP4wxrfkF3 pic.twitter.com/qJDdYg7BSv

– Orbital Reef (@OrbitalReef) October 25, 2021

Orbital Reef, reports the New York Times, could house 10 astronauts at a time and could be built by the end of the decade.

FAST HITS

• Thanksgiving will cost a wing and a leg this year.

• TikTok and Snapchat executives are about to be dragged before the Senate to explain the Internet to confused Seventies.

• Despite his own weak polls, President Joe Biden moves all-in in Virginia gubernatorial race.

• The US accidentally killed a food worker and his family in a drone attack last month amid a food crisis in Afghanistan:

The World Food Program estimates that almost 23 million of the country’s 39 million people do not have regular access to adequate food.

???? That number has increased from 14 million just two months ago https://t.co/qgmKKEX2xf pic.twitter.com/icOqYdFde1

– Telegraph World News (@TelegraphWorld) October 25, 2021

• Your last reminder that a war with China would be a disaster.

• Washington, DC, is the fourth most heavily rat-infested city in America, according to Orkin pest control experts. Make your own joke.



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