Republicans see education as a winning issue ahead of next year’s midterm elections after putting it front and center propelled the party to a clear victory in Virginia on Tuesday.
Governor-elect of Virginia Glenn youngkinGlenn Youngkin Democrats must stop infighting and four other lessons from the 2021 election Democrats feel new urgency on Biden’s agenda after Virginia defeat Republican optimism soars over Democratic debacle MORE He spent much of his campaign focusing on how much control parents should have over what is taught in their children’s classroom. Youngkin’s focus on the issues came when Loudoun County, an exurb of Washington, DC, became the epicenter of the national struggle centered on school boards.
According to CNN exit pollsAbout 25 percent of Virginia voters said education was their top issue, second only to the economy.
The issue may also have played a role in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race that has yet to be called. Republican Jack Ciattarelli has criticized the idea of critical race theory being taught in schools and far exceeded expectations at the polls.
Conservative activists predict that victory in education in Virginia will be the beginning of a Tea Party-like movement, which was key to massive Republican gains in Congress in 2010.
“I could see that the fight for forgotten parents is at the forefront of every narrative, every grassroots campaign, every political spending that is moving forward in a significant way because they don’t want to back down,” said Jessica Anderson, the executive. Director of Heritage Action for America, a branch of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
On Tuesday night, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Indiana), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, released a memo saying that parental concerns should be a “top-tier policy issue for Republicans.”
“There is a real parental energy that we need to understand. The good news is that RSC has been working for months to develop an education agenda that fights and empowers parents. This will include the necessary oversight of the Biden administration, ”Banks wrote.
Meanwhile, Wednesday morning, the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthy Citations are a real concern for lawmakers facing Jan.6 questions Watch Live: McCarthy Holds Weekly Press Conference The Hill’s Morning Report – Brought to you by Facebook – Democrats have many roadblocks ahead MORE (R-Calif.) And Speaker of the Republican House conference Elise stefanikElise Marie StefanikNight Defense and National Security – Presented by Raytheon Technologies – Biden backs down on Republican Taiwan lawmakers fear vaccine mandate will affect defense supply chain Legislators pay tribute to Colin Powell MORE (RN.Y.) organized a roundtable on education, along with other legislators, parents and activists, aimed at responding to the “Nationalized Education of the Democrats.”
“Glenn Youngkin ran in education and won in education,” Stefanik said. “Education is an issue that unites Republicans and we have the answers parents are looking for.”
House Republicans are also taking note of how the issue will affect vulnerable Democrats in states like Virginia. On Tuesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) moved 13 House seats to its offensive map as a result of the victory in Virginia. In particular, Rep. Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonVirginia previews Democrats’ midterm challenges Family of late Capitol police officer urges Congress to accept Jan.6 commission.The seat (D-Va.) In the 10th district, which includes Loudoun County, was moved to the column.
While Youngkin didn’t win the Blue County, he did outperform the former President TrumpDonald Trump Republicans are poised to sweep Virginia, wowing Democrats Five takeaways from a bleak night for Democrats New Jersey’s gubernatorial race is too close to call for MORE there behind the Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffeTerry McAuliffe Democrats must stop infighting and four other lessons from the 2021 election Democrats feel new urgency on Biden’s agenda after Virginia defeat Republican optimism soars over Democratic debacle MORE by about 10 points. Trump lost the county for President BidenJoe Biden Five Takeaways from a Bleak Night for Democrats Youngkin Wins Virginia Governor’s Race Michelle Wu Chosen as Boston’s First Mayor MORE by 30 points in 2020 and Youngkin’s performance there may be tied to his status as the center of the school board debate.
Republicans in other states appear to be taking a page out of Virginia’s playbook. The Iowa Republican Party released a fundraising email Wednesday, writing “Parents Matter, And Socialism Is Anti-American Awakened.”
Youngkin spoke frequently of his opposition to critical race theory and his belief that parents should have a say in curricula during the course of the campaign as controversial and heated debates raged at school boards. in Virginia and across the country.
However, the issue appeared to attract the most national attention after McAuliffe said in the September governor’s debate that he did not believe parents should tell schools and teachers what to teach. Within hours of the comment, Youngkin’s campaign appeared with an ad. Then outside groups like the American Principles Project and Free to Learn Action poured money into the race, citing the issue of education.
Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, said the group’s work will continue before the midterm elections. Schilling spoke about a metaphorical wall of political scalps that he hopes to collect from opponents who pursue conservative family values.
“Next year I want everything to be full because now the only kid up there is Terry McAuliffe,” Schilling said. “I want to collect as many scalps for the family as possible because when you collect a scalp and have someone play a political consequence for their extremism and radicalism against our families, they are going to send a message. It’s going to send a shock wave across the country. ”
Education-related issues, particularly for K-12 students, have long been contentious and contentious. Anger for the Trump-era Secretary of Education Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVosMcAuliffe Launches New Ad Against Youngkin Over Education Biden DOJ Tries To Protect DeVos From Deposition In Student Loan Lawsuit Long-standing Scam Targeting Student Sexual Assault Survivors MORE It fired up Democrats under the previous administration, and schools have been at the center of some of the most historically polarizing issues in the country, such as segregation, integrated bus transportation, and prayer in schools.
This campaign cycle, Democrats rejected, calling the conservative approach a dog whistle and a distraction from other political issues. They pointed out that critical race theory, for example, is a legal theory taught at the university level and accused Republicans of trying to cover up how history is taught.
“It’s not education that Republicans are trying to define us,” said Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright. Rather, he said, the critical race theory debate amounts to “a red meat strategy” and “white identity politics.”
“For Democrats, we have to define the message and not let them define us with their message,” Seawright said. “They have influenced several factors that can be motivating factors in any career and that is anger, fear, frustration and confusion. And that’s an old GOP playbook. ”
McAuliffe released his own ad last month saying Youngkin took his comments about parental rights in schools out of context and touted his own record as governor. Ironically, McAuliffe launched his last campaign for governor nearly a year ago on education, proposing to spend $ 2 billion a year on education.
His critics and Republicans say his campaign failed to respond to the problem by not taking it seriously enough. Republicans were particularly excited when Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke at their closing rally in Fairfax on Monday. Republicans have blamed Weingarten for coronavirus-related school closures in states like Virginia, which was also a contentious education-related issue in the election campaign.
A national Republican strategist called Weingarten’s decision to speak at the McAuliffe rally “the deafest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“Republicans expect Randi Weingarten to come out and campaign for every vulnerable Democrat in this cycle,” the strategist joked.
But the issue of education did not turn out to be a winning issue everywhere on election night. According to The Associated Press, several school board candidates who rejected coronavirus restrictions in schools and anti-racist circles lost their powers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Connecticut. On top of that, several Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates won their elections in areas like Loudoun County, where McAuliffe appeared to underperform Biden.
Still, other Republican delegate candidates were able to win in part through the message related to parental rights and education. A memo released by the Republican State Leadership Committee on Wednesday detailed how education was one of three key issues, along with public safety and the cost of living that put candidates at the top.
“We will be seeing what is happening when the state legislative sessions begin in January and February,” Anderson said. “I think there is a lot of momentum in these state legislative sessions in a way that we haven’t seen in a while.”