There is a certain species of argument going around again (see, for example, this Mona Charen column) that holds that the only way to “save democracy” is to vote party-line Democrat with the goal of installing one-party governance throughout the United States. Charen specifically concludes that she should vote for Terry McAuliffe over Glenn Youngkin for governor of Virginia for reasons having little to do with Youngkin and entirely without reference to the merits of McAuliffe. This is justified mainly by the behavior of Donald Trump, and the fear that Trump will return in 2024. It is, however, an argument based on both a fundamental misreading of political reality and a refusal to look at the Democrats.
Will Trump Be Back?
About 60% of the attendees who participated in the survey said they would vote for a Republican even if the candidate didn’t agree with Trump’s assertion that the 2020 election was stolen. About 44% of those polled said his endorsement would make no difference in whether they would support a candidate. Another 11% said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Trump.
What about Virginia’s Candidates?
Then there are the candidates themselves. If any race is a bad setting in which to argue for punishing statewide candidates for their party’s sins against the legitimacy of elections, it is the Virginia governor’s race. The entirety of Charen’s case against Glenn Youngkin is as follows:
Even a seemingly inoffensive candidate such as Glenn Youngkin has given aid and comfort to this sinister agenda by stressing “election integrity” in his campaign. It doesn’t change a thing to reflect that he’s almost certainly insincere. He stopped talking about it after winning the primary, suggesting that all the “integrity” talk was just a sop to MAGA voters. Still, a victory for him will send a message that the Republican Party is normal again, a party that good people can support.
First of all, the integrity of elections is, in fact, a good thing to pursue. But the fact that Youngkin insists on moderating his approach to address the concerns of the actual voters in Virginia is a pretty good indication that he’s not Corey Stewart. Here is Youngkin in Tuesday night’s debate:
Moderator: Mr. Youngkin, former President Trump has endorsed your campaign and you’ve embraced his endorsement. This month, Trump raised questions about the integrity of this election, as he has about his and other elections without evidence. He said, quote, you know how they cheat in elections, the Virginia governor’s election, you better watch it. You have a close race in Virginia, but it’s not close. If they cheat. My question. Do you believe there has been significant fraud in previous Virginia elections? And do you agree with President Trump, that Democrats may cheat in this one?
Glenn Youngkin: So I do not believe there’s been significant fraud in Virginia elections. But I believe this is a democracy issue we’re talking about, not a Republican issue, not a Democrat issue . . . I’ve said over and over again, that Joe Biden’s our president, I wish he wasn’t . . . I think we need to invest in our election system, like Florida did after that hanging chad incident, to the point where Florida’s election system is trusted. It’s trusted by all, voters in Virginians deserve that. And that’s the kind of investment I’ll make when I’m governor. I’ll invest in making sure our voter rolls are updated. I’ll ask everyone to show up to vote with a photo ID and Virginians will trust our election system.
Moderator: You did say you didn’t think there had been significant fraud in previous elections. But do you agree with former President Trump that Democrats may cheat in this one? Just yes or no.
Glenn Youngkin: No. I think we’re gonna have a clean, fair election and I fully expect to win.
Moreover, lest we forget, Glenn Youngkin has an opponent. Youngkin is a political novice; his opponent, Terry McAuliffe, is a former governor of the state, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and a longtime close ally of the Clintons. He is not some minor, obscure figure. And he is a longstanding stolen-election conspiracy theorist. At the Democratic National Convention in 2004 — a party gathering of some note, shown on national television — McAuliffe bellowed to a cheering crowd, “They STOLE the last presidential election!”
This was just one of multiple examples of McAuliffe’s claiming that the 2000 election was stolen, a position he took as recently as 2017. Youngkin noted again Tuesday night that McAuliffe, “never acknowledged President Bush was legitimately elected president.” McAuliffe refused, when confronted by Youngkin, to abandon that view. That is not surprising, given how the party he chaired treated the legitimacy of American elections for 20 years before 2020. Rewarding McAuliffe yet again is no way to demonstrate fealty to democratic legitimacy.
Neither of our two major parties is going away. A post-Trump Republican future needs people like Glenn Youngkin to win elections. And if the Democrats are ever going to dismiss two decades of their own stolen-election conspiracy theories as irrelevant ancient history, the least they can do is retire the guy who chaired their party from 2001 to 2005 and still thinks George W. Bush stole the presidency.