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Youngkin Names Former Gov. Allen, Infamous For Racial Slur, To Transition Team

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.

Republicans, The Beltway Press, And The 'Education' Charade

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.

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.

2021 GOP Turnout Proves Better Ballot Access Benefits Both Parties

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Making access to a ballot and voting more accessible does not necessarily help Democrats and hurt Republicans, despite conventional political wisdom to the contrary, as the November 2 election clearly demonstrated.

In Virginia and New Jersey, which both held statewide elections and where state officials had instituted more ways for voters to vote—early and on Election Day—Republicans turned out in record numbers.

In Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin was elected governor by nearly 80,000 votes, defeating the former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who ran a lackluster campaign. In New Jersey, incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, was leading by 15,000 votes, with the uncounted ballots in Democratic strongholds.

But, as Jonathan Last noted in The Bulwark, "challenger Jack Ciattarelli found an extra 300,000 Republican votes that weren't there for the GOP candidate in 2017. Murphy is going to hang on to win, but the story is the Republican turnout."

Analysts will offer many reasons for Democrats' showing. But expanding ways to vote should not be among them, election experts said, even though former President Donald Trump has been attacking easier access since mid-2020 when many states expanded voting options in response to the pandemic.

"One myth that both parties completely agree on is that high turnout always benefits Democrats," said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Research and Innovation. "It is an article of faith among both Democrats and Republicans that this is true and yet it is completely false."

"We see repeatedly that it's completely false in places like Florida and Ohio, which had extensive mail, early in-person, and Election Day voting, record turnout in 2020, [and] record margins for Republicans," Becker continued. "In places like Virginia and New Jersey yesterday, [where it was] easy to early vote, easy to mail vote, [there was] record turnout [and] over performance by Republicans."

Becker's point underscores that it is the candidates and their messaging, not making voting harder for perceived blocs, that is and should be the determining factor in voter turnout. That view, however, is at odds with many pro-Trump legislators who have led post-2020 efforts to curtail voting options after their candidate lost the presidential election a year ago.

"You actually don't change the political dynamic significantly," Becker said. "You just make things better for voters to make their voices heard."

A Closer Look at Virginia

Virginia's 2021 election broke turnout records for statewide elections. A closer look suggests that many Republicans and Democrats differed on when they voted. More Democrats than Republicans voted before Election Day, either with mailed-out ballots or at an early in-person site. More Republicans, in contrast, voted on Election Day, when two-thirds of the election's voters cast ballots.

While Virginia's Democratic-majority state legislature passed numerous voting reforms earlier this year that were intended to make voting easier for its base, it is also true that expanding early voting meant that fewer people would be voting on Election Day—which made Tuesday's voting more expeditious.

But tinkering with the rules of voting will not deter a motivated electoral base., said Chris Sautter, an election lawyer specializing in recounts and an American University adjunct professor.

"All these reforms were written by Democrats to increase Democratic turnout," he said. "The Democratic turnout was not bad. It's just that the Republican turnout was through the roof. Youngkin did better than Trump ever did in these areas that Trump opened up. Trump got people to vote who had never voted before and Youngkin surpassed him by quite a bit."

Organizers seeking to turn out young and infrequent voters in the state's largest communities of color said that many voters were not interested in McAuliffe, who defeated two Black women in the primary and sided with fossil fuel interests as governor but more recently sought to portray himself as an environmentalist.

"Only 15 percent of our voters age 18 to 39 showed up in early voting," Andrea Miller, executive director of the non-partisan Center for Common Ground, said. "They were not having it. They were saying, 'We're not voting for the lesser of two evils.' In my mind, that was a progressive and BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, people of color] protest. And young people didn't vote at all."

So, even though Virginia's legislature adopted 2021's more expansive set of pro-voter reforms, their ticket didn't compel voters to take advantage of easier ways to vote. On the Republican side of the aisle, voters faced no obstacles.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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.

Why Is The Press Rooting For A Democratic Defeat In Virginia?

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Sticking close to the media's preferred script, Axios this week reported that the walls were caving in on Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who's caught in a surprisingly close race in Virginia's governor's race. "It was clear the McAuliffe campaign has taken on an air of tension — bordering on panic," Axios announced.

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In Virginia, Organizers Are Turning Out Overlooked Voters Of Color

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

After 2020's election, Virginia adopted more pro-voter legislation than any state, from expanding access to starting to amend its constitution to enshrine voting rights. But these reforms have not been enough to turn out voters in this fall's statewide elections, where the top-of-the-ticket Democratic and Republican candidates for governor are close in polls but seen as underwhelming.

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