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Campaign 2021

Former Gov. George Allen

Republican Glenn Youngkin was narrowly elected Virginia governor last Tuesday after a campaign built on the argument that "the political insiders who have been running Virginia have failed us" and a promise to "rebuild a better Virginia for everyone who calls it home."

But his newly announced transition team is filled with political insiders with a history of advancing discrimination.

Youngkin said Wednesday that his "incredible transition team" would include former Republican Virginia Gov. and Sen. George Allen as honorary co-chair. Allen, who had a long history of racism and ties to white supremacists, lost re-election in 2006 after he was caught in a viral video using a racist slur at an event to refer to an Indian-American campaign tracker.

In the notorious video, Allen called the 20-year-old tracker "Macaca" — a racist slur likening people with dark skin to monkeys — and sarcastically welcomed him to America.

Allen has also spent much of his political career fighting against equal rights for LGBTQ people. In 1994, when he was governor, Allen said in a radio broadcast that homosexuality should be illegal and that he didn't want his kids to think it was "acceptable behavior."

As a U.S. senator, Allen co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage and opposed adding sexual orientation to federal hate crimes law. He also fought protections for LGBTQ Americans in the workplace, and even refused to adopt a nondiscrimination policy for his own office employees.

In 2012, while running for Senate against Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Allen bizarrely promised to "vote against adding sexual orientation to federal hate crimes statutes," despite the fact that President Barack Obama had already signed such protections into law three years earlier with the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.

Allen isn't the only ex-politician with a history of bigotry that Youngkin tapped to help lead his transition from candidate to governor. He also named disgraced former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell as an honorary co-chair.

One of McDonnell's first acts as governor was to strip protections for Virginia state employees against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Prior to that, as a state legislator, he infamously helped get a judge kicked off the bench because he thought she was a lesbian. He also worked to preserve Virginia's unconstitutional ban on consensual sodomy.

Youngkin's two transition co-chairs — Republican State Sen. Steve Newman and Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James — also have long histories opposing LGBTQ rights.

Newman is best known in Virginia as the co-author of a 2006 amendment that enshrined the state's ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution. Six years after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 2015 ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, Newman still voted to keep his language in the state constitution.

In 2020, Newman was one of a handful of state senators who opposed housing and employment protections for LGBTQ Virginians and was one of five state senators who voted against every single pro-LGBTQ rights measure, according to the group Equality Virginia.

James is president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative, anti-LGBTQ think tank. James opposes the Equality Act, which would give LGBTQ people broad legal protection against discrimination. In 2019, James tweeted that the bill is "anything but equality" and claimed it "would shut down businesses and charities, politicize medicine, endanger parental rights, and open every female bathroom and sports team to biological males."

In the 1990s, James worked as senior vice president of the Family Research Council, now designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. In her 1995 book, James reportedly likened homosexuality to alcoholism, drug addiction, adultery, and other "sinful" behavior.

Throughout his gubernatorial campaign, Youngkin tried to hide his most extreme views in a bid to appeal to both moderate and conservative voters in Virginia. Still, several moments from his campaign suggested that does not support equal rights for LGBTQ Virginians.

In an interview with the Associated Press — one of the only interviews his campaign granted to a news outlet — Youngkin said he is "called to love everyone" but refused to say whether he personally supports marriage equality. He admitted same-sex marriage is "legally acceptable."

Other statements make clear Youngkin's views on LGBTQ rights. Youngkin said he doesn't believe transgender girls should be able to participate in school sports with cisgender girls, defended an anti-transgender teacher who refused to use his students' preferred pronouns, supported parents who tried to get "LGBTQ-themed books" removed from their public school libraries, and attended a gala event hosted by the rabidly anti-LGBTQ Family Foundation.

In addition to his anti-LGBTQ comments and actions, Youngkin has also mounted racist attacks on Virginia's public schools by seizing on conservatives' fervor about so-called "critical race theory" — the idea that teaching public school students about the United States' history of slavery, segregation, and racial discrimination is somehow radical liberal indoctrination.

It doesn't stop there. In April, Youngkin came under fire for calling Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders "yellow" — an offensive, outdated term. And on Friday, the progressive blog Blue Virginia reported that Youngkin's prep school yearbook from 1985 included a photo of him at his senior prom next to images of students in "rice hats" and geisha robes. The prom's theme was "An Oriental Occasion" — another offensive term for people of Asian descent.

In addition to the anti-LGBTQ people on his team, Youngkin also named former Democratic Gov. Doug Wilder as an honorary co-chair. In 2019, an investigation found that Wilder kissed a 20-year old student without her consent while he was a distinguished professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Government Affairs. Wilder has denied the charges.

Youngkin is set to take office on Jan. 15.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Within hours of Republican Glenn Youngkin's victory in the Virginia governor's race, the political press began churning out analysis about how the GOP had seized upon education as a savvy "wedge issue" as the New York Times put it. Compounded with frustration over the pandemic, the press was sure that Republicans had taken hold of a potent issue, swiped it away from clueless Democrats, and produced a "roadmap" for 2022, according to CNN.

"School closures, not Critical Race Theory, paved the way for Glenn Youngkin's victory in Virginia," Yahoo News announced. "And if Democrats don't grasp the deep reserves of anger parents feel over Zoom school, they face much more severe losses in 2022." CNN breathlessly claimed that Youngkin's win "raises questions about whether Democrats have taken seriously enough parents' concerns on a range of issues about education."

But the storyline is a charade. Not only haven't Republicans mapped out a new pro-education blueprint to win over suburban and swing voters nationwide, Republicans and conservatives have become even more proudly anti-education during the pandemic. They've voted against nutrition programs, universal pre-K, they've disrupted school board meetings, and this week Big Bird emerged as GOP Public Enemy No. 1.

As for frustration over "Zoom school," that's been over for most American students for months because classrooms coast-to-coast that had been closed under the Trump administration have reopened under the Biden administration.

The current analysis among the Beltway media makes no sense. That might be because it's being crafted and told almost exclusively by Republican operatives, not educational professionals. Schools opened up under Democrats — they've returned to "normal" —but parents are mad at Democrats for last year's school closures?

Note that the Yahoo article that hit Democrats for being out of touch with angry parents lead off with an anecdote of a screaming father at a school board meeting in Virginia berating members about pandemic-era Zoom classes. But that specific outburst took place ten months ago, back in January, before Virginia schools re-opened September and Zoom classes ended.

Yahoo insisted, "Even as schools stay open, a new round of closures remains an all-too-real possibility," which is news to me. Are there any major public school systems seriously considering closing down in-person learning anytime soon, at a time when Covid cases in the U.S. are falling and children can now get vaccinated? There are just a handful of schools in the entire country today that have temporarily shifted to remote learning. (Context: There are nearly 100,000 public schools in the U.S.)

Still, the Beltway press has coalesced around the idea that Democrats paid a political price for school closures even though schools are no longer closed. When they were shuttered, Republicans ran the federal government most of that time and offered up an incompetent response to the public health crisis.

I think the press rallied around the "education" angle in Virginia, and specifically the issue of school closures, because journalists did not want to tell the truth about how Youngkin spent the entire campaign lying about critical race theory being taught in Commonwealth schools. The press certainly didn't want to linger on the notion that his race-baiting tactics are why he won. (The campaign "wasn't really about critical race theory," The Atlantic assured readers.) Instead, the media narrative emerged that Democrats misread the mood of parents.

When CNN recently held Youngkin up as a new breed of Education Republican, aside from his made-up claims about critical race theory, they couldn't point to a single serious education initiative he had championed during the campaign or would focus on as governor. For the record, a new CNN poll this week shows just three percent of Americans select education as the most important issue facing the country today. (The economy is first, at 36 percent.) Nationwide, there's very little backlash to how schools handled Covid, according to a new Axios poll.

Still, the illogical coverage gets worse. The first legislative act Biden undertook as president was to sign into law the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, and he did so over the objection of every single Republican member of the House and the Senate. The Covid relief bill allocated $120 billion dollars for schools to help them reopen and to help students catch-up on lost learning.

The new money came to nearly $2,500 per student nationwide and lots of it went to purchasing PPE, hiring additional school personnel like nurses, counselors, custodial staff, as well as improving ventilation and pay for small-group tutoring program. Republicans, now campaigning on school closures, opposed all of it. But that's being left out of the current education coverage.

CNN's pro-Youngkin report last week referenced the "flood of pandemic-related education funding from the Covid-related stimulus bills," but failed to acknowledge that everyone from Youngkin's party voted against the historic funding. When CNN interviewed four pro-Youngkin suburban moms who championed Republicans as being pro-education and who said the pandemic school closures had changed their views on politics, the fact that Republicans uniformly voted down the single largest federal outlay on education spending to help reopen schools was politely ignored.

Today, Biden is trying to shepherd into law the Build Back Better bill, which would pay for universal pre-K, contains billions to help families cover the costs of child care, and would transform early education in America — and every Republican member of the House and Senate opposes it.

So much for the GOP being the "education" party.