FORT WAYNE – Tuesday, November 2, 2021 was a vote in very blue states (i.e. non-competitive for Republicans) and the bluest of blue cities (e.g. New York, Boston, Minneapolis). The marquee races for the national media were for governor of Virginia and New Jersey. 

In 2020, Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in Virginia by 450,000 votes. In 2021, Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin won by around 65,000 votes. In New Jersey in 2020, Trump lost to Biden by 725,000 votes. In 2021, the race for governor was pulled out by incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy by a miniscule margin out of 2.35 million voters. 

Virginia has gone from red to purple to darker blue. Supposed Democrat base voters are increasing every year; Republican base voter numbers are declining. Virginia was on the verge of becoming a Democrat base state. New Jersey was also becoming more Democrat. Republicans were losing congressional seats and largely irrelevant in statewide elections. 

If these two stories were the only ones from election night, it would be tempting to just look at the over-arching trends of no Trump and the continuing muddled disaster of the Biden presidency and say it was a referendum on boring Republican candidates minus Trump who rode a wave of anti-Biden. But there were, in fact, other stories as well.

Progressive Democrat domination of congressional news

Biden, Pelosi and Schumer look like they spend most days trying to accommodate the extreme left policies of a fraction of their party. This is probably how it looked to those not involved in 1995-96 when the freshman class of Republicans, of which I was a part, enabled the Republicans to win control Congress for the first time in 40 years. 

Here are a couple of differences: 1.) Our ideas in general represented the majority of the country as well as the Republicans especially when combined with 2.) We compromised. Frankly, Bill Clinton was smart enough that he actually accepted some key parts including welfare reform and an actual balanced budget (though very briefly). We got a quarter of a loaf. Held the House in 1996, and got some more. Same in 1998. Then in 2000, Bush won and we got more.

The progressives are not in line with their own party majority. They seem to be out to prove that everything we Republicans have said for years – liberals are just fronting for socialists – is absolutely true. If the Democrat-controlled Congress passes even the latest version of its massive spending proposal, igniting inflation, they face a potentially disastrous 2022 off-year election. They had a bad night; they may have a nightmare coming unless they backtrack rapidly from catering to the progressives.

Progressive domination of news in major cities

New York, Boston and Minneapolis are not even typical of the political diversity of most cities. They are way to the left. But even in NYC, after a brutal primary, the mayor-elect Eric Adams is a former police captain who had been blasted as too establishment. 

In Boston, Michelle Wu won easily over a fellow progressive, becoming the first female mayor in Boston history. Boston is Boston.

Minneapolis, where George Taylor was murdered by a policeman, was ground zero for riots and the defund the police movement. There was a ballot initiative generally considered a proxy for “defunding the police.” (It was actually more complicated but was essentially a proxy for the movement’s goal of changing the ways police departments function.) Progressives in Minneapolis, led by former congressman and now Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and current Minneapolis congresswoman, Gang of Five member Ilhan Omar, supported it. 

Minneapolis voters soundly rejected the proposal. Austin, Texas – the most liberal city in Texas – had wanted to defund its police. The backlash resulted in a referendum to significantly add policemen, but it was soundly defeated. The city’s core liberals are still trying to sort out what they favor.

But the political impact goes far beyond just the debates in already overwhelmingly Democrat big city cores. Everybody else is watching the debate as well. The cities may be divided, but the smaller cities, suburbs and rural areas have watched the progressive dominated cities’ crime rates go up. Businesses are watching as well. The progressive movement is helping turn independents and moderately liberal Democrats into Republicans outside the city core.

The education factor

In Virginia, Democrat candidate McAuliffe gave the Republicans a quote that will keep on giving for a long, long time. He said: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” There will be plenty of time to discuss the nuances for the next three years but it was a great gift to the Republicans that is symbolic of Democrat governing arrogance. Politics is about symbols, like it or not.

Election fraud

The biggest single factor, generally true in non-presidential elections, is that Republicans turned out to vote in higher numbers than Democrats. That is not news except that supposedly Republicans felt that the process was corrupt, that voting machines were rigged, that it was impossible to win. And that was talking about states with Republicans in charge like Georgia and Arizona. However, Republicans turned out to vote – in Democrat-controlled, blue states – as if the whole election fraud claims were just some sort of a political gimmick. Interesting. 

Virginia’s New Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears

Virginia also elected a new Republican lieutenant. governor. Winsome Sears is an African-American. She and her win may become more and more significant in the future. Furthermore, one poll that identified voter segments (many shall follow) showed that Republican Youngkin actually won the Hispanic vote narrowly. It is admittedly not huge in Virginia but still it’s an estimated 5% segment. Another warning sign to Democrats that conservative issues have some serious traction among minority voters.

The Trump factor

And speaking of symbols, the question for Democrats is now their greatest fear: What if Donald Trump actually stays comparatively silent? Maybe they would have been better off if Trump were on Twitter and other social media. The numbers are indisputable; he wasn’t invited in to campaign (Pence was), Youngkin was a supporter of and friend to Senator Ted Cruz (but did not stress that either). Youngkin ran as a bland, somewhat inconsistent, business Republican with no record of governing. He capitalized on issues that the liberals made toxic to swing voters. He was a “safe” vote.

Trump, amazingly and to his credit, stayed comparatively silent. The Democrats did not. They tried to make 2021 a re-run of 2020. They tried to make Youngkin another Trump Jr. It failed so badly that near the end they had to pull the attempt. Voters are not stupid; they could see that Youngkin was not Trump. In fact, many Republicans (if not most), voted for Donald Trump because they didn’t want Biden and the progressive Democrats to run the country. This once again confirms that view.

Instead of hurting the Republican, the anti-Trump ads turned out Republicans. Trump voters do in fact exist. Youngkin, however, didn’t have to work to hold and activate Trump voters. The Democrats solved that Republican delicate dance by attacking Trump.
Hopefully, going forward, elections can be about issues and what candidates will do about them. If this happens, Republicans will generally prevail. 

Souder is a former Republican congressman from Northeastern Indiana.