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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: 2021 virginia elections

Don't Get Too Excited About Virginia, Republicans

As a lifelong sports fan, it's been decades since I let a ballgame make me unhappy. Back when my sons would plunge into mourning over Razorback basketball losses, I'd remind them that somebody loses every game that's played. No point brooding; there will be another game soon.

I feel basically the same about off-year elections. A governor elected by a 51-48 margin, like both Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin and New Jersey Democrat Phil Murphy, won't be able to alter the fundamentals of political life in those states—much less anywhere else.

To choose the most obvious example, Gov. Youngkin will find it easy to fulfill his biggest campaign promise: banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the Commonwealth. That's because nobody actually teaches it, giving GOP "cancel culture" a big head start. It's an obscure academic doctrine metamorphosed into a Fox News phantasm.

Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's awkward statement that parents have no business dictating school curricula looks was an unforced error that may have determined the outcome. Many voters understood him to mean that parents should butt out altogether, a crucial mistake.

The whole episode couldn't help but summon memories of my young wife being summoned before a rural Virginia school board after teaching Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men to tenth graders. One parent found the phrase "blue ball" (describing a toy) to be sexually suggestive and demanded her firing.

The board exonerated her.

Meanwhile, I had done some substituting at the county's segregated black high school, with its worn, hand-me-down textbooks and rocks used as bases on the ball field. I wonder what Critical Race Theory would say about that?

Don't tell the children.

But I digress. McAuliffe's biggest blunder may have been running against the ghost of Donald Trump. A handsome suburbanite out of GOP central casting, Youngkin managed to hold Trumpist voters without alienating others—mainly by keeping the big blowhard out of Virginia and far from his campaign.

Otherwise, neither the Virginia nor New Jersey results did much to justify the melodramatic coverage—particularly on cable TV. Josh Marshall put things in perspective on his Talking Points Memo website:

"New Jersey's Murphy has won what the press portrays as a squeaker, almost illegitimate and certainly embarrassing, by a margin of 77,000 votes. The Great White Hope Glenn Youngkin, on the other hand, won his Virginia landslide victory of all victories by 79,000….

"We can add to this that Murphy is the first Democratic Governor of New Jersey to be reelected in 44 years. Meanwhile, going back 48 years the party which does not hold the presidency has won the Virginia's race all but one time. That was when Terry McAuliffe won in 2013."

In short, nothing fundamental has changed. The public nearly always turns against the party of an incumbent president during his first year, partly because the losers are more motivated. In 2009, after Barack Obama had defeated John McCain, Democrats lost both the New Jersey and Virginia governorships. The year after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats won in both states. Pendulum swings are inevitable.

That's why the most intriguing reaction amid the hullabaloo on the network news programs was voiced by the far right Gateway Pundit website. Why did Virginia Democrats let Youngkin win?

See in Trumpist precincts — Gateway Pundit proprietor Jim Hoft was feted at Mar-a-Lago only last weekend — the "Big Steal" is an article of faith, although Republicans haven't won a presidential race in Virginia since 2008. Trump lost there in 2020 by 450,000 votes.

"So where were the magical votes this year?" Hoft demanded to know. "Was this omission on purpose?" Was this part of a larger psyop on the American public?...Throw in McAuliffe as a sacrificial lamb knowing they can steal any future election at will?"

Well, I certainly hope so.

Because by any rational standard, President Biden had a string of remarkable successes last week, although you sure couldn't tell from the media coverage. Never mind his successful appearance at the world climate summit in Glasgow. On Friday, Labor Department jobs report showed the U.S. economy taking off, with 530,000 new jobs created in October, and revised figures from September adding 235,000 more. Unemployment edged down to 4.6 percent while the stock market reached record highs.

Then on Friday night, the House finally passed the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the largest transportation initiative in U.S. history. Passage of Biden's $2 trillion "Build Back Better" plan appears all but assured.

Meanwhile, the Covid death rate shrinks and vaccinations of children have begun. Yet "Dems in Disarray," is the perennial theme Washington pundits have chosen, and they're not easily dissuaded. On her CNN program last Friday, the lovely and quick-witted Erin Burnett badgered and talked over guests who advised patience on the infrastructure bill.

Come Monday, she demanded to know why Biden hadn't signed it yet.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

On Election Eve, Trump Says He And Youngkin ‘Believe In Many Of The Same Policies’

Ahead of his Monday night tele-rally, former President Donald Trump praised Virginia's Republican gubernatorial nominee and said they "believe in many of the same policies."

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Is Virginia Prepared To Debunk 'Voter Fraud' Lies In Governor's Race?

As the Virginia governor's race heads toward a nail-biting conclusion – with polls from Fox News saying that Republican Glenn Youngkin is ahead and the Washington Post saying that Democrat Terry McAuliffe is ahead – how prepared are election experts to quickly counter disinformation should McAuliffe, a former governor, pull ahead in the first unofficial results?

The answer is not very, according to interviews with election officials, Democratic Party lawyers, election protection attorneys, and experts in academia and policy circles.

At best, it appears that government officials and experts with election administration experience will say again what Americans heard after the 2020 presidential election: that the voting process is trustworthy, includes checks and balances, and therefore the results are legitimate. What is not likely to be seen is quick and easily understood proof of the winner based in public election records that attest to legitimacy of the voters and the accuracy of the vote counts.

"I just don't think there's a factual way to combat this, or debunk this, nor do I think that's an effective strategy," said David Becker, executive director and founder of the non-partisan Center for Election Innovation and Research. "The simple fact is that if McAuliffe wins, the election deniers will claim fraud, regardless of facts, and then will make things up to support their false claims. We need a broader narrative about the security of elections, and force them to answer to that."

Becker continued, "The fact is that since 2017, Virginia has paper ballots statewide, and in the last couple of years, has instituted risk-limiting audits throughout the state. Ballots cannot be made up or dumped. I am firmly against getting into a meaningless cycle where we have to prove that an election had integrity when we've already done so. We've seen how that won't change minds."

Becker is referring to post-election claims, most notably in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In those states, pro-Trump legislators have launched "bad-faith audits" where they have hired Trump partisans with little election auditing experience, and given them great leeway look for problems that could be used to cast doubt on results where Trump lost.

During a press briefing on Monday by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which hosts a hotline to assist anyone having trouble accessing a ballot, Alexandria Bratton, senior program manager with the Virginia Civic Engagement Table, also pointed to the post-election audits—which would come after the results are certified just before Thanksgiving.

"Our elections, time and time again, have shown that we don't have any large-scale anything [wrong] that's really going on," Bratton said. "I think it's just a matter of using our facts, instead of some of the narratives that folks are trying to push to place fear into our voters."

Bratton's comments were similar to those from other election experts, including recently issued reports that said voting system-testing protocols and audits sufficed to counter disinformation. When Voting Booth noted that disinformation started on Election Day or sooner, while audits occurred weeks later — leaving a void that can be filled with conspiracy chatter — Bratton noted that false claims about Virginia's governor's race have already appeared, but reiterated that the job of election protection advocates is to help voters cast ballots and then arm them with facts.

"We've actually already started seeing some of that disinformation floating on social media… [and at] some of their rallies," Bratton said. "It's not even waiting for results to come in. Folks are already pushing those types of narratives to get those thoughts into folks' minds ahead of time. So what we have tried to do, as the nonpartisan election protection coalition, is just remind folks what the facts are, and when to actually see the results."

The partisan organizations most heavily invested in the governor's race are the political parties. Frank Leone, an election lawyer working with the Democratic Party of Virginia said the party has been "monitoring all that stuff pretty closely, which include Republican and MAGA [Trump's Make America Great Again] group efforts… basically watching everything they do with their theory that somehow in the middle of the night they are switching votes."

Leone said that MAGA factions have begun to copy Arizona activists by knocking on some voters' doors to ask them if they really requested a mailed-out ballot — a tactic that, as the Department of Justice warned Arizona's Trumpers, may violate federal voter intimidation laws. The state's Democratic Party is also monitoring GOP efforts to reportedly deploy several thousand poll watchers as a "line of defense against election fraud," as the Washington Post reported. Top Virginia GOP officials also have been saying that the state's use of drop boxes to receive the mailed-out ballots was an invitation for voting more than once — which is not true, as every return envelope goes through several checks to verify the voter before being opened.

Leone said the state party "was trying to be in the position to respond to these things," and was also concerned about what's been called the "Blue Shift." That's shorthand for the tendency of lower population, rural, GOP-heavy counties to report first on Election Night — presumably putting Youngkin ahead — followed by the state's urban centers, led by suburbs of Washington, D.C., which report their results later in the evening — presumably tilting the count toward McAuliffe. But for the most part, the party has "stayed out of the papers and haven't put our side in."

The Virginia Department of Elections has put up web pages seeking to debunk false claims about elections. Most of its messaging has been consistent with efforts by election officials in other states, emphasizing that there are many safeguards along the path of verifying voters and counting ballots—but not getting into much detail about those protocols and underlying data.