Republicans Win Virginia’s Governorship: What You Need To Know

Glenn Youngkin by Kate Magee Joyce Wiki Commons.

The Virginia governor’s office will not belong to Democrats in an upset that suggests Democrats could be in for a world of hurt in the midterm election. Republican candidate and now Governor-elect Greg Youngkin won the state with 50.9 percent of the vote, an extremely close and downright disturbing result to see in a state that Joe Biden won by 10 points. His opponent, former governor Terry McAuliffe, had several missteps in his journey to return to office. Despite having the endorsement of current governor Ralph Northam and former President Barack Obama, McAuliffe failed to push the issues and, by extension, failed to win over the votes in a state that should have been his for the taking.

Lacking Support and The Trump Effect

While historical parallels can explain what happened here, there are also fundamental problems that activists have struggled to deal with for years: voter apathy. Since early October, McAuliffe struggled to match voting enthusiasm among his voters, with only 44 percent of his voters saying they were motivated to vote compared to Youngkin’s 50 percent. This flies in the face of the overwhelming and historic voter turnout Biden managed to secure in 2020, suggesting that Democrats, and perhaps even Biden, are not as politically strong without the Trump effect.

There is some evidence to suggest that Trump’s influence and the lacking presence of his toxic personality helped Youngkin. One poll shows that Democrats are convinced that Youngkin supports Trump too much, with Republicans saying the opposite, but among Independents were much more mixed in their view. Among independents, 46 percent said Youngkin supported Trump too much, and 41 percent said he supported the former president at just the right level. To put this another way, the attempts to make Youngkin look like a Trump stooge were, at best, minimal in their success.

Those two factors are important for a variety of reasons, but the fact that McAuliffe could not lock onto his less experienced opponent and get a sense of who his voters were supposed to see him as is a major part of why his campaign was so flaccid at the end of the campaign. When facing an opponent, it is critical to give your voters something or someone to fight for, or at the very least, give them something to support. McAuliffe’s failure to do that is partially to blame for this loss.

Biden’s Approval Rating

While it is difficult to ascertain how much Biden hurt McAuliffe’s chances and most recent presidents have seen declines in their approval ratings, as I noted before. But there is little reason to believe that Biden didn’t harm the former governor’s chances. Exit polls showed that 53 percent of Virginians disapproved of Biden’s performance as president compared to 46 percent who said they approved. A solid 90 percent of Youngkin voters also disapproved of Biden.

It isn’t too surprising that a majority of Republicans would disapprove of their opponent, but the degree to which they did, combined with the percentage of the state who dislike him despite voting him in just a year ago, speaks volumes about the influence of Biden’s presence in the election. This is especially true when you consider that Democrats have won every statewide race and four presidential elections in the state since 2009. While it is possible that Biden’s approval will recover, and as I argued before, that does not mean its current state was helpful for McAuliffe.  There will be more examinations of the data, of course, but for now, it seems as though Biden lurked over the election field in ways that he probably didn’t want.

Critical Race Theory and Familial Control

This one is a bit more difficult. It would be a mistake to say that CRT was the only reason for this victory, but it is equally mistaken to ignore its role. Education and the economy were the top two issues that dominated the polls, with 24 percent of voters saying that education was their main issue. And while education is generally a vital issue for Democratic voters, the use of CRT as a cudgel changed that game. Previously, education voters favored McAuliffe, but by the end of October, Democratic fortunes soured. When faced with a campaign by Youngkin criticizing McAuliffe for opposing a bill that would allow parents to veto certain books in school, McAuliffe infamously responded, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach. The parents had the right to veto books… also take them off the shelves… I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions.” This move played into the narrative that McAuliffe and other Democrats were trying to force a certain perspective on parents and their children irrespective of their choices.

This isn’t to say CRT itself decided the election, as other states saw anti-CRT candidates lose their races. In New Hampshire, Democratic Mayor Andrew Hosmer won reelection over his staunchly anti-CRT opponent, who falsely claimed that anti-bias training in schools was an example of ‘racist’ Critical Race Theory. In Connecticut, yet another anti-CRT candidate lost in a local race. But the fact that McAullife played into the narrative that Youngkin was creating does suggest that, if given proper cultivation, anger at establishment politics can sometimes persuade voters to accept nonsensical claims about education and other policy, turning them to vote for a candidate that they otherwise would not.

They’re Just Not Into You

While it is tempting to see the Virginia elections as evidence of Biden’s unmitigated failure or the fall of Democratic political power, the candidate himself needs to be considered. Though McAuliffe was a well-rounded candidate with strong connections, he never possed the reputation or the groundswell of support that other candidates before or after him had. Nor did he ever reach a majority of the vote in his previous runs for governor. In 2013, when he won his seat, McAuliffe won with only 47.8 percent of the vote, just 2.6 points above his opponent. It is also worth mentioning that a third-party candidate on the Libertarian ticket took home 6 percent of the vote in the same year, meaning that McAuliffe never had the political strength to secure reelection in the first place. There was no popular mandate for Terry McAuliffe to return to Richmond.

What Now?

While Republicans are sure to celebrate the results of their victory, albeit a close one, the questions over how effectively they will govern remain unanswered. They may gain a majority in Virginia’s legislature, but their control is far from guaranteed, nor is there is evidence to suggest it will be permanent if it exists at all. That said, Democrats’ failure to adequately deal with the issues on the ground, overemphasis on Trump, and their fundamentally bad candidate choice should serve as a warning for Democrats across the United States. Relying on traditional candidates without offering anything new and inadequately responding to culture war propaganda is a recipe for failure that Democrats can ill-afford deal with. A new strategy is necessary.

Conspiracy Nonsense: Trump Will Not Let The 2020 Election Go

Aside from making dubious claims about the U.S. constitution, Trump fundamentally fails to accept the reality of his defeat, putting American democracy in an even weaker position. However, this is par for the course with him.

From the very beginning, Trump clung to claims of rigging during the 2016 election. In October of 2016, when the Trump campaign saw its numbers sagging in the polls, then-candidate Trump tweeted that “The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places – SAD.” 

Trump claiming that the election was rigged in 2016

The usual suspects like Rudy Giuliani echoed these claims and even went so far as to claim that Democrats were more likely to commit fraud because they had more control of cities than Republicans. As if having control of cities made committing election fraud easy. 

Of course, it would be asinine for most politicians to make such overarching claims of fraud before the election was even over. But Trump is not a normal politician. Covering for his lacking qualifications to govern, Trump’s fraud claims hit hard with a base of people who want to view their Democrat counterparts as inherently illegitimate. 

And polling shows that this strategy of continued objection appeals hits home, especially among Fox viewers. A recent poll of 2,508 adults found that 30 percent of Americans believe that Trump’s 2020 election was stolen. Among Fox viewers, that number is an overwhelming 82 percent.

This is, of course, nonsense. Trump’s own Attorney General William Barr came out and denounced the claims by Trump and called the accusations “bullshit.” Despite going to court 62 times and losing in nearly all cases, Trump insisted that the election was an illegal fraud. And, just as a side note, if you lose even half the number of court cases, maybe you should consider the efficacy of your case, especially when some of the judges are there because of you. But no, Trump continues to insist on this tired old lie that sent people to the capitol on January 6th and disgraced us in the eyes of the world.

I don’t know how Trump continues to pursue this without getting exhausted by his failure, but it is almost certain that he is using it to galvanize his base. If he can convince the members of his party to suppress the vote, as I argued before, he can at least prepare for 2024. And considering the state of the nation right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up making it the center of his campaign.

Responsibility Now: Don’t Let Trump Officials Get Away

Steve Bannon by Gage Skidmore on Wiki Commons

Steve Bannon is facing charges for contempt of Congress, a sign of the growing ferocity with which the January 6th Commission is willing to fight against obstructionist forces. And it is a welcome sign, but it must go further. From the very beginning, the Commission has been the subject of opposition and obstruction. And if there is to be any justice, the Commission must overcome this opposition with intense fervor.

From the very beginning, Republicans opposed the January 6th investigation. When he had to propose members to put on the Commission for his party, Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) proposed five members. Two of which were Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, who believe that investigation is a farce. The result was surprising to nobody. Speaker Pelosi rejected Jordan and Banks to keep the investigation running, causing McCarthy to remove all Republicans from the committee.

This, in turn, created the idea that the investigation was partisan when Democrats gave Republicans every opportunity to take part in it. To put this in other words, Democrats were forced to reject their opposition to have a committee in the first place. And it is precisely that obstruction that Democrats should punish. Steve Bannon’s refusal to testify aside, the reality is that Trump and his allies are working tirelessly to avoid the consequences of their actions. And investigators ought to consider why that is.

Just this week, former President Trump sued the House of Representatives to prevent them from accessing documents related to his involvement in the January 6th insurrection. All of which is to say that Republicans are fundamentally opposed to the investigation because it would undermine much of their rhetoric surrounding the 2020 election and would undermine their claims of Democratic corruption. Instead, they are trying to undermine this thorn in their side before the midterms.

As the charges go before the Justice Department, the Commission needs to tear through every last one of these officials. Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and every person involved in January 6th should be forced to testify, no matter what. Our democracy can’t withstand any more obstruction or obfuscation. There is a time and place for negotiation and bipartisanship, but when one party actively wants to hide what they did, that time and place cease to exist.

If You Can’t Win Fairly, Break The Game: The GOP’s Attitude Towards Democracy

Image by Gordon Johnson via Pixabay

The fight for voting rights hit another wall on Wednesday when Senate Republicans unanimously voted down Sen. Joe Manchin’s voting rights bill. The bill, a compromise-based version, was the most recent attempt by Democrats to pass voting rights protection. Combine the failure to pass the legislation with the efforts by states across the country to suppress the vote, and the future of voting rights in America becomes almost nonexistent.

Despite arguments to the contrary, Republicans are certainly aware of the impact of their restrictive voter laws. After Biden won the election, numerous Republican-controlled states began banging the drum for ‘election integrity’ and calling for more restrictions on mail-in-ballots. In the case of Arizona, the state legislature passed at least 22 bills intended to restrict voting rights, including restrictions on mail-in-ballots. In 2020, 70 percent of all votes were cast by mail, including mine. 

States like Texas are also adding to this cascade of restrictions, even with an already abysmal turnout rate. Legislators proposed laws such as S.B. 7, which would prevent county officials from offering mail-in-ballot applications and would punish them for promoting mail-in-ballots along with other restrictive measures. In addition, legislators in Texas have also endorsed laws to restrict voting times.

Republicans in Texas and across the country have long played into the false narrative of voter fraud, and it is no surprise that they are trying to restrict the vote now. And their motivation is completely partisan. Republicans created the vast majority of the bills proposed or enacted. 

The ultimate goal here is to keep Republicans in power, as the high voter turnout of 2020 destroyed their chances at keeping Trump in power. Something they thought was impossible. Therefore, Republicans must restrict and limit voter turnout as much as possible to avoid a repeat. Studies show that states with more barriers to voting are more likely to lower voter turnout. 

Without a strong voting rights bill to prevent that, Republicans will do what they do best: break the game and start again. While a voting rights amendment is nowhere close to being passed, it is downright reprehensible that a simple whittled-down bill to protect voting rights can’t pass even with a majority of the Senate behind it. So long as the filibuster remains and so long as Republicans are permitted to keep it up with this charade of ‘security,’ American democracy will continue to degrade beyond all repair.

The Fight for the Republican Nomination

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Questions have swarmed the political sphere, as Americans of all parties have wondered just who is going to run as the Republican nominee in 2024. The default answer is the former president, Donald Trump. However, others posited that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis or former Vice-President Mike Pence. And while 2024 is years away, a new poll by Morning Consult may help answer that question. 

The poll surveyed 1,999 registered voters and found that 67 percent of Republican voters want Trump to run in 2024, with 29 percent saying he shouldn’t. Trump’s approval rating is also high among Republicans, with 87 percent of registered Republicans viewing him favorably. By contrast, only 17 percent of respondents view him negatively. 

Though Trump is the most popular among his fellow Republicans, he is not without opposition. Trump’s return is not popular among most Americans, with 55 percent of Americans opposing his return. A quarter of the Republicans who oppose Trump’s return favor former Vice-President Mike Pence. 

While unexpected, Pence does have name recognition, experience, and the experience to challenge Trump. And his polling is not too bad among registered voters. YouGov’s polling shows that, on average, Pence has a low approval rating. As of January of this year, the latest data YouGov has available, only 42 percent of registered voters approve of him. But not all of those people who approve of him are Republicans. 

Fundamentally, the issue of understanding whether or not Trump will gain the nominee depends on party identification. Trump can be as unpopular and hated by the majority of Americans as humanly possible. Trump never received an approval rating above 50 percent and still won the presidency and made significant changes to the political system. So long as Republicans continue to see Trump as their savior, he will continue to control the party and its future.

The Pandora Papers: Tax Havens and Global Corruption

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Earlier this week, we learned what has been known to many worldwide: The rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. Of course, that is not all that was revealed this week, as the recently leaked Pandora Papers show that part of that problem is due to the offshore industries’ manipulative tactics to help wealthy elites avoid their taxes. And while no American presidents are identified in these documents, the role of America’s rising tax havens is far from absent.

The papers, released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, identifies multiple participants in this international network of tax avoidance, including 35 world leaders and 300 public officials. Among some of the leaders discovered is King Abdullah II of Jordan, who has a $100 million property empire spanning the United States, including a house in Malibu, California. Despite not having its government officials exposed, America’s influence in this market of avoidance is strong. 

States like South Dakota have seen their lax tax laws luring corrupt officials and business owners from around the world. Despite federal warnings about trusts, the state’s assets in trusts have increased to $360 billion in the last decade. One such trust is Trident Trust. Trident, which has an office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was one of the main sources of information about the offshore trust industry. Its influence, being extensive, is symbolic of the rising tide of secretive trusts in America. 

Already states like Nevada, Alaska, and Delaware are likely to do the same thing despite the lack of transparency. Critics have warned that due to the private nature of these trusts, there is a serious risk of human rights abusers using these trusts to avoid sanctions or legal penalties for their actions.

The potential for corruption within the government is also a massive risk. The UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is facing intense pressure to return a donation from a conservative donor involved in a bribery scheme involving Uzbekistan’s president. In response to the allegations, Johnson said, “But all I can say on that one is all these donations are vetted in the normal way in accordance with rules that were set up under a Labour government. So, we vet them the whole time.” If true, then this would suggest that Johnson knew of the bribes and accepted the donation. Or perhaps their vetting is so flawed that they didn’t notice. Either way, the conservatives have made a massive mistake.

It was only because of the leaks that these donations came to light, and it was only because of these leaks that Boris is facing any consequences or push back. If anything, there are probably more examples of corrupt donations like this that haven’t been found. Imagine how much money and power are influencing our political system. So long as these trusts remain in their current condition, they will continue to maintain the power of the rich and powerful while the average person continues to suffer. 

The best hope for change is a national and international effort to curb these offshore trusts from spreading further. But that can only come when leaders are forced, by the people, to acknowledge the dangers of these trusts’ continued existence. And for that to happen, people need to mobilize.

Correction: A previous version of this article said that Trident Trust was based in South Dakota. That is one of their offices, not their headquarters.

The Progressive American Newsletter is Here

Good afternoon everyone!

The Progressive American newsletter is coming to WordPress! After sometime considering the newsletter, I decided it was best to put all of my cards on the table and bring my work here. Much like the original newsletter, The Progressive American newsletter will have argumentative essays in addition to what is provided on the website!

You can sign up for emails on the newsletter page.

In other words, recipients will receive more content with easier access! Once you sign up, all my posts will be sent directly to your email for free. I look forward to writing more and giving you all the informative content that The Progressive American is dedicated to making.

Thanks again for your support,

Conor

Project Update: The Lost Cause Video

The United Daughters of the Confederacy at Arlington, 1923 via Wiki Commons

Good morning everyone, I hope you are doing well. As I said on my last blog post, the blog is going to be used for project updates and other communication about the work I am currently doing. With that in mind, today is my first project update on my upcoming video on the Lost Cause.

For those unfamiliar with the Lost Cause, the Lost Cause is a mythology created by former confederates, southern educators and memorial associations like the Ladies Memorial Associations and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It is largely centralized around the denial that the Civil War was not about slavery, and that the South fought for states rights. While not the only thing about the Lost Cause, the consistent refusal to accept that slavery was central to the confederacy’s existence is perhaps one of the most controversial elements of this myth.

Part of the reason I started this project is tied to the recent removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue from Memorial Avenue in Virginia. The removal has prompted some responses that do little justice to the complex and sometimes violent history that underline the statues now removed. I hope that this video will work to answer some of the questions surrounding the Lost Cause, but also to respond to some of the pundits who try and pretend there isn’t a legitimate reasons for concern.

Starting my research, I sought out monographs (historical books) that could help explain the nuances of the smaller arguments that make up the larger myth. The first monograph I completed is the late Edward Bonekemper III’s The Myth of the Lost Cause: Why the South Fought the Civil War and Why the North Won (2015). Through his detailed analysis, Bonekemper carefully examines and debunks Lost Causer arguments one at a time. Whether its the argument that Robert E. Lee was the best general who ever lived or that slavery was not central to the confederacy’s reasons for secession, Bonekemper successfully and persuasively argues his case without the usual anger, albeit understandable anger, that permeates through the usual response to Lost Cause deception.

This factual take down is an exceptional and incredibly useful resource for debunking the Lost Cause. That said, there is little discussion as to how the Lost Cause came to be.

With that in mind, I began examining Caroline Janney’s Bury the Dead, but Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause (2008). This monograph is unique in that it doesn’t argue that the UDC was the main source of Lost Cause propaganda. Rather, Janney points to the role of Ladies Memorial Associations (LMAs) in creating monuments and grave ceremonies to former confederates. This approach details how wartime ladies organizations developed to support the war effort before creating their own associations during Reconstruction. Through their work, these memorial associations established the ceremonial and political foundations that would later allow the United Daughters of the Confederacy to come to prominence.

Janney’s work is an excellent source for understanding many of the tactics that would later play a role in UDC politics and the Lost Cause. That said, due to the examination point in her research, Janney doesn’t get into the racialized nature of the monuments as, according to her research, that racialization did not take place until the UDC became the arbiter of the Lost Cause in schools and much of public life.

After I complete Janney’s work, I will begin Karen Cox’s Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture (2019). This monograph is an integral part of my research, as it focuses heavily on the role of the UDC in creating much of the racialized undertones that are part of the Lost Cause. I look forward to using her work.

Finally, I have several articles that address the Lee monument and its creation as well as the conflict that surrounded it. I hope to have this video out in a week or two, but this issue is complicated and with grad school, it takes longer. If you want to see some of my previous work on the Lost Cause, I would highly recommend my article from June.

Welcome to the page!

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Progressive American, an independently-run project dedicated to political discourse, history and political movements. This page is thanks to me wanting to know exactly where all of my work is, both for myself and for my audience, but was also created because I wanted to professionalize my work to make it more digestible for the wonderful people who have made my other projects work so well.

What You Will Find here

Here you will find a wide array of content for your choosing. Whether you prefer to read about the news, listen to podcasts or watch YouTube videos, you will find it all here. You will also be able to get articles from The Progressive American newsletter, which is currently hosted on Substack and linked on the newsletter page.

Project Updates

Project updates are my way of making sure that you all know what I am doing and how my work is progressing. If there is a video that I plan to make and something delays it, this is where you will find out about it! The blog is dedicated to updating you and allowing you to contact me directly through the comment section. Feel free to say hi, I don’t bite!

Thank you

Finally, I would like to say thank you to all of the people who have helped me as I have slowly grown online and in-person. Thanks to all the guests I have had on my show, people who have helped me develop a decent podcast and commented on my articles. I appreciate your continued support for all that I do. I couldn’t be doing what I do without your wonderful help.