This article is not about the Lincoln Project or the Bulwark if you are looking for a thorough mocking, though I will say, I am glad the former GOP consultants at the Lincoln Project finally got a Republican elected. There is a first time for everything. There were a few comments from Never Trump Republicans who haven’t completely abandoned every conservative position for money that completely missed the big picture in Virginia.
The first commenter was Meghan McCain. Her beef with President Trump is understandable given his pretty caustic comments about her dad. Most daughters are rather fond of their fathers. However, she openly advocated for Joe Biden in 2020 and only became remorseful with the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. Her mother is also an ambassador to the United Nations food program appointed by President Biden.
It is one thing not to vote for your party’s candidate. It is another to advocate for the opposition openly and go to work for them. So the “we” in this tweet seems a little odd:
We can win 2024 without Trump.
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) November 3, 2021
The other tweet is from former Ambassador John Bolton. Once appointed by Trump to the position of National Security Advisor, the two had a falling out. Bolton also seems to think that Trump is in the rearview mirror for good:
Congratulations to @glennyoungkin who earned a huge win in Virginia! His campaign capitalized on the trends my polls have shown for months — the GOP is moving on from Trump. Time to start winning again!
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) November 3, 2021
I hate to break the news to both of them, but President Trump’s base was a vital part of the gubernatorial win in Virginia. Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin did not abandon President Trump or reject his endorsement and complimented several America First positions. He did not have Trump campaign for him in the state or attend the former president’s virtual event.
However, he also did not denigrate Trump and said that the former president was one of the reasons he decided to run. They are both successful businessmen with no political priors. Youngkin’s balanced approach allowed him to turn out Trump’s base in southwestern Virginia. Youngkin’s authenticity and focused time in the region close to the election coupled with McAuliffe’s hard turn to the left helped Youngkin exceed Trump’s share in a number of the southwestern counties.
In rural and exurban counties all over the state, voters selected Youngkin, Lt. Governor-elect Winsome Sears, and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares in near monolithic blocks. In many counties in the western part of the state, the Republican ticket took between 80-90% of the vote. The coalition Republicans need to take back electoral victories includes the rural and working-class voters in Trump’s base. They will not vote for someone who runs away from him or fails to take on cultural issues.
Youngkin understood this fact and embraced the culture wars that came his way. The most obvious was K-12 education, and he received an assist from his opponent and Attorney General Merrick Garland. To his credit, Youngkin did not just give the issue lip service. He ran toward it, took the beating in the corporate media, and provided policy prescriptions that appealed broadly.
If you look at Team Youngkin’s social media accounts, they embraced meme culture and played back and forth with Sears’s team with humor and sass. The campaign took on anti-police sentiment, battled progressive criminal justice policies, and actively wooed minority communities. In the weeks leading up to the election, Youngkin held rallies with a familiar style if you ever attended a Trump rally, including music everybody knows with a positive, aspirational message and unabashed American pride, all delivered by authentic candidates.
The Republican Party is at a crossroads and cannot afford to look in the rearview mirror. If our country is to remain a republic that functions on a colorblind meritocracy that rewards those who grab the opportunities presented to them, then we need for the coalition that President Trump started to put together to expand: Increasing shares of minority voters, working and middle-class voters, rural and exurban voters, and suburban voters who still believe in the American Dream. Youngkin grew that coalition in Virginia.
Youngkin shows that you don’t do this entirely without Trump and his policy ideas. Or Trump’s willingness to take on the culture and prevailing media narrative. You certainly can’t do it without his voters. Ask former Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler from Georgia. There are counties and states where President Trump will need to appear in 2022. There are other races where an aspirational, authentic candidate will need to do the balancing act Youngkin performed. But we will not retake the House and the Senate completely without President Trump.
And the Republican Party will not be returning to the party Bolton served in and that Meghan McCain’s father joined. It must offer prosperity, national security, community safety and spare our blood and treasure at all costs. America First—period.