BRUCE EVANS • Guest Opinion
Bruce Evans was born, raised and educated in Atlantic Canada — Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. After a Dal MBA, he had a career in project finance in several cities — Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, New York and L.A. — with a variety of international (Canadian, Japanese, French and Australian) financial players. He is happily retired in Arizona, volunteering, walking a dog named Charli and working to get a golf handicap moving south.
A few weeks ago, my thoughts turned to writing another guest column for SaltWire, seeking to explain the precipitous decline in the political and economic fortunes of the U.S.A.
I didn’t want it to be all gloom and doom. I wanted to put some sort of hopeful spin on the column, but as a conservative Republican, I was beginning to despair.
In just 10 months of the Biden administration, the U.S. has ceased to be self-sufficient in petroleum supply; critical race theory has become the touchstone for the education establishment; bureaucratically backed bedlam on our southern border is facilitating unprecedented illegal immigration, including exploding human and drug trafficking; a Defund the Police movement is causing major upticks in violent crime amid reductions in police numbers and morale in our major cities; inflation has reared its ugly head with no prospect of retreating any time soon; unloaded ships are stacking up outside major ports, causing major supply-chain disruptions; COVID is being used as a political cudgel by several levels of government and there is hyper-partisan deadlock on Capitol Hill and at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
I could be forgiven for being in a “Except for that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” sort of funk.
Then what to my wondering eyes do appear but the results of off-year elections, most especially the Virginia gubernatorial outcome on Nov. 2?
Hallelujah! We the People figured it out and largely on a beyond-partisan basis. The outcomes were driven by personal concerns and family issues. Education integrity. Personal economic security. Repudiation of “woke” cancel culture. Good sense and practicality transcended party politics, especially when one party’s politics took The People not just for granted but for sheep.
The Virginia gubernatorial election understandably got scant coverage in the Canadian press. Please allow me to illuminate it, not so much for the results themselves but more as a lesson in how The People can collectively arrive at sensible solutions, confirming once again the wisdom of the drafters of the U.S. Constitution 230 years ago.
First some background. The Democrat candidate, Terry McAuliffe, had served a term as governor from 2014-18. His 45-year political career included stints as co-chair of Bill Clinton’s 1996 presidential campaign, Democratic National Committee chair from 2001-05 and co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential bid. If you look up “Dem party apparatchik” in the dictionary, McAuliffe’s picture stares back at you.
His Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, couldn’t be more of a contrast if you had let central casting write the script. He impresses as a moderate conservative and fairly modest man concerned about refocusing government on The People, not the politicians.
Youngkin spent a 26-year career at private equity firm The Carlyle Group. He entered the C-suite as CFO in 2010, later became co-COO and, in 2017, was elevated to CEO. As a senior exec of this $293-billion D.C.-based investment powerhouse, he is purported to have accumulated a net worth of $400 million-$500 million.
In September 2020, with no prior political experience, he chose, after consultation with his family, to enter the hurly-burly of partisan politics — in his own words, because he felt in his heart the need to serve his fellow Virginians. He retired early from a hugely satisfying and remunerative professional zenith that few achieve. If he was bored, he had the resources to do anything else he desired. Philanthropy. Angel/incubator investing. Travel. Writing. Sitting on a beach, giggling and playing with his toes? But he chose the gladiatorial combat of the political arena. And Virginia and perhaps the entire U.S. may be the better for it.
Youngkin began his campaign a year ago with zero name recognition beyond his own friends and family. On election night, he garnered 50.8 per cent of the vote compared to McAuliffe’s 48.4 per cent, a margin of 79,115 votes. As recently as a few weeks ago, McAuliffe had a double-digit lead in all of the polls.
What happened? Sanity happened, aided and abetted by a McAuliffe gaffe that makes Hillary Clinton’s 2016 “basket of deplorables” remark look like an “oopsy” by comparison. In a televised Sept. 28 debate with Youngkin, McAuliffe declared: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Liberal/progressive control of local school boards and controversial embrace of critical race theory and other uber-woke concepts for curriculum development have become increasingly top of mind with voters. And the distaste spills over to other aspects of cancel culture: ill-conceived concepts like defunding the police and myriad other woke mantras promoted ad nauseum by politicians like Terry McAuliffe.
To further illustrate the rot permeating certain political precincts and much of the press, we need only witness reactions to the election of two other Republicans to Virginia statewide office.
Winsome Sears, elected as lieutenant-governor, is a Black woman who immigrated from Jamaica at the age of six (she is 57 now). She served as a Marine, ran a homeless shelter, raised a family and had a brief stint as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 2002-04.
Jason Miyares (age 45), was elected attorney general. He is the son of folks who fled Castro’s Cuba in 1965. Before his election as AG, he spent six years in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Sears is the first Black woman and Miyares the first person of hispanic origin to hold statewide office in Virginia. So, are the liberal/progressive media (a.k.a. CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times and others) celebrating those facts? Quite the opposite. Many pundits are invoking white supremacy and privilege as reasons for the elections of Sears and Miyares. I’m speechless.
McAuliffe’s campaign relied heavily on endorsements and personal appearances by the cream of the Democrat crop. President Joe Biden. Vice-President Kamala Harris. Stacey Abrams of Georgia election fame. Even former president Barack Obama. All to no avail.
Youngkin’s campaign was grassroots. Kitchen table and family issues. Very few appearances or endorsements from star-quality Republican stalwarts. He appealed to The People, logically, empathetically and with solid, detailed solutions. And The People responded.
There were other similar signs from other states and cities on election night. Hopefully, all omens of first steps on a road back to sanity.
Finally, one visual from Nov. 2 seemed to me to epitomize the shift in U.S. political sensibility. Just after 10 p.m. Arizona time, I was watching Youngkin’s spirited yet somewhat humble victory speech on Fox News. The network went to a split screen. On one side, the exultant scene from the Youngkin HQ. On the other, a scene of President Biden’s halting gait, in the dark, descending from Air Force One upon arrival back from Rome and Glasgow. The contrast was stark. Time will tell if it was also a harbinger of the future.