All the way back in April 2021, I wrote about how Texas could be a useful barometer of where the US is heading politically. The mayoral election in border town McAllen was the biggest highlight where then-Republican candidate, Javier Villalobos, won the race. It was a monumental event because it used to be a "safe Democrat" stronghold:
If you check the voting history in Hidalgo County, back in 2016, Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton led former President Donald Trump by about 40 percentage points. This can be considered as a "safe margin". However, 4 years later, the percent margin shrank by more than half. In 2020, Joe Biden led Trump by only about 17 percentage points.
Even though Hidalgo County has a large Hispanic population, Trump managed to improve his numbers in this county among other border counties substantially. In terms of raw votes, he improved by 86% whereas Biden only improved over Hillary by 7%.
Fast forward to June 6, Javier Villalobos won the mayoral election in McAllen by capturing 51% of the vote. While the margin was minuscule, Villalobos's victory is actually huge when taking the full context into account.
In my conclusion, I noted how this could be a paradigm shift as Democrats might not be able to rely on the minority vote. Fast forward to today and we have seen just that with the Virginia gubernatorial election being the poster child of that massive shift.
The Virginia Gubernatorial Election
If you haven't heard already, Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Terry McAuliffe to become Virginia's new governor. Up until the beginning of October, such an outcome would've been unfathomable. Joe Biden beat Trump in Virginia by 10.1 percentage points. According to RealClearPolitics, its aggregate would consistently have McAuliffe ahead by around 5 to 6 points. Instead, Youngkin won the race by a 2.5 point margin which would constitute a 12.6 point swing from 2020.
But how did McAuliffe turned what used to be a "sure victory" into a costly defeat? Well, he said this during the gubernatorial debate in response to the backlash against Loudoun County Schools teaching critical race theory:
And that was just the tip of the iceberg. Since then, McAuliffe would just make one critical mistake after another with some that would leave you scratching your head in disbelief. Loudoun County parents were not just angry about CRT being taught in schools, but the county also covered up a massive scandal of a skirt-wearing-male sexually assaulting a girl in the girl's bathroom in school. One would think McAuliffe would denounce the Loudoun County Schools for trying to sweep this incident under the rug, but instead, he went along with the "domestic terrorist" labeling spearheaded by the Biden administration and US Attorney General Merrick Garland.
If that was not enough, on election eve, McAuliffe made a rather racially charged statement about how there were too many white teachers in Virginia.
Other than education, McAuliffe made another critical error by focusing way too much Donald Trump. Whenever he spoke, he kept making the election about Trump despite the fact the latter was not on the ballot. Because McAuliffe wouldn't stop scaremongering about Trump, it gave Youngkin enough content to turn it into a satirical political ad.
While McAuliffe made so many mistakes, he did not do so with a lack of effort. In fact, he threw the kitchen sink by recruiting the help of notable figures like Joe Biden, Jill Biden, Kamala Harris, Barack Obama, and Stacey Abrams. The problem was that much of their "help" was unhelpful. For instance, Jen Psaki violated that Hatch Act by endorsing McAuliffe on the White House podium and Kamala Harris violated IRS law by playing her endorsement campaign ad in black churches. In early October, McAuliffe called Biden "unpopular" and yet later that month, Biden campaigned with him on the 26th.
What in the world was Kamala on...? No seriously, what was she taking...?
The cumulative effect of all of these missteps ultimately led to a large upset in Virginia. In response, the mainstream media attempted to make sense of what happened and were very off the mark. MSNBC, for example, chalked up Youngkin's victory to "white ignorance". However, there are several pieces of evidence that suggest that was far from the case. The Associated Press' poll had Youngkin winning 55% of the Hispanic vote to McAuliffe winning 43% of it. In addition, the same voters who elected Youngkin also elected Virginia's very first black female Lieutenant Governor, Winsome Sears. Jason Miyares became the first Latino Attorney General of Virginia after defeated incumbent Mark Herring.
If anything, there's a stronger argument that McAuliffe was the more racist candidate when he once told a Hispanic audience to "get busy" so they can get to 11% of the state population. On top of that, as Latinos comprise of a significant portion of the blue collar and small business owner populations, they were more concerned about the economy and inflation. McAuliffe did not focus on these issues as much as Youngkin and the consequences are clear.
Closing Thoughts: And It Doesn't Just Stop Here...
Youngkin's victory over McAuliffe was the most noteworthy outcome of November 2. However, that was not the only race that rocked the Virginian boat. As I already mentioned above, Republicans Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares won the Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General positions, respectively. On top of that, the Virginia Republicans gained control of the House of Delegates. The major shift from +10.1% Biden to +2.5% Youngkin was largely due in part of McAuliffe botching the Loudoun County Schools situation and overlooking the Latinos' economic concerns, which pushed the "soccer mom" and Hispanic voterbases, respectively, to the other side of the aisle.
As Kamala Harris said on election eve, "What happens in Virginia will in large part determine what happens in 2022, 2024, and on". The last Republican presidential candidate that won Virginia was George W. Bush all the way back in 2004. The last time a Republican won the gubernatorial race was Bob McDonnell back in 2009. What used to be a "solid blue" state significantly shifted to the right in just a year.
And considering how McAuliffe had every Democrat bigshot you can name backing him up and still lost to a candidate that never held office before, this election also served as a de facto referendum on Biden and his party's policies. It should be a major wake up call to them that they need to change their stances. However, if their overall attitude towards Youngkin's victory is like MSNBC's, then they will be in for an extremely rough 2022 and 2024.