When Glenn Youngkin first stepped out of the C-suite to joust with the windmill that was the Virginia governorship, he looked like just another Miracle Whip Republican ready to bland his way to gentlemanly failure. But he did not fail. He won, against all odds. And he did it not by tacking to the squishy center and trying to please the Washington Post, but by ignoring the consultant consensus that he should disregard issues the people were concerned about and focus on the same losing platform that these hacks haven’t changed since 2005. And then he followed up by keeping his word.
It's a radical new direction for Republicans, pioneered by Donald Trump. And it’s the answer to the question “What do Republicans do after Trump?”
Dumb people think the secret of Trump was mean tweets. No, those were just an amusing fringe benefit. Trump’s gift to the party was to demonstrate how Republicans can win going forward. And it’s not with some warmed-over perversion of Reaganism that the consultant class pushes. It’s easy. Focus on the concerns of the voters, not the donors or the elite, and then keep your promises. Simple, but effective. That’s the recipe for GOP success in the post-Trump era.
And Youngkin did it. A Republican moderate is not supposed to attack the institutional racism of CRT in the schools even though the people are screaming about it. That kind of cultural issue is icky, and people at the country club will turn up their noses at you. Talk about tax cuts, about liking the cops, and about building a bridge across the aisle to a better tomorrow.
But Youngkin was having none of that. He smelled blood and went for the jugular. He listened to the people, instead of trying to tell them what they wanted.
There’s a lesson there. Actually several.
Lesson One is to let the people set your agenda. So often we see amorphous puffballs like Jeb! waddle out and tell us what we peasants need to be concerned about. Another tax cut to benefit woke corporations that hate us. Another war we have no interest in fighting. Another Federalist Society invertebrate on the Supreme Court. And in the rare case that the candidate deigns to address the issues the peons were obsessed with, it is to chide us for our unapproved opinions. Don’t you racist hicks understand that illegal aliens breaking our laws to enter our country are actually committing an “act of love?”
Well, the voters told Jeb! to go perform an act of love upon himself.
Youngkin did something radical. He listened. His campaign was not some hack consultant-driven Astro-turf slog. It was a flexible, dynamic campaign that reacted to what the people cared about and changed to focus upon those things. And to his credit, Youngkin went hard on issues where other mainstream Republicans would flee at the first cry of “Racist!”
Maybe he was not so moderate after all. Maybe he was tougher than he looked, because the hell he got from all the people of his social caste had to be intense. But he did it anyway.
Lesson Two is find the resonant issues and drive at them hard even if the elite howls. And, of course, the elite howls because those issues draw blood.
Lesson Three is do what you say you are going to do.
So far so good. On Day One, Youngkin issued his executive order eliminating the cancer on Virginia’s education system that is CRT. He also banned mask mandates. Right there, he did what we have come to expect since Trump pioneered this innovative concept: Promises made, promises kept.
For people who only came into politics in the last few years, it is hard to understand both how radical and how important this simple concept of “promises made, promises kept” is. For decades, the GOP would elect the hardest of hardcore candidates who would then go to Washington and become Jeff Flake-ish sissies more concerned with what the local paper said than about the nightmare their constituents were experiencing – sons and daughters dead in endless wars, jobs going to Mexico and China, illegal aliens, and their country being turned into something alien and malign.
Trump came in saying a bunch of things people were desperate to hear from leaders but never did – he pioneered the concept of taking on the themes that concerned the grassroots and beat 16 others for the nomination in 2016 doing so. But most people, at some level, never really expected him to follow through. Except he did it. And so far, Governor Youngkin is doing it.
The lib heat is still there. One Twitter twit whined, on Inauguration Day, that “Glenn Youngkin just removed the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion section of the Virginia Governor’s website. Sickening.” No. it’s glorious. He then sputtered about a maskless campaign event: “Sneak-Peek into the indoor & no-masks Youngkin superspreader, I mean afterparty, going on right now.” Cry more, lib.
Youngkin promised normalcy, about getting beyond pandemic panics and racial insanity, and he delivered. If he is smart, he will keep delivering.
And by delivering, he will make himself a contender for president, maybe as early as 2024. Ron DeSantis is another Republican who has learned these lessons, and he already is a contender. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas is trying to be like this. Gov. Kristi Noem pretended she was like this, but she was ruined when she first submitted to the establishment on transexual athletes, then compounding her error by trying to explain that we were stupid for noticing how she submitted to the establishment on transexual athletes.
Let Gov. Noem’s failure be a warning to you, Gov. Youngkin. You get no second chances with the base. We have been lied to and abused for decades, and the minute you do that to us – like Noem clumsily did – you’re history. It’s harsh, but that’s how it is. Republicans, in the words of that other Rush, conform or be cast out.
Listen to the people and act on their concerns, not the donors’ and not the elite’s. Keep your promises, even if you take heat from the ruling class. That’s the secret to future GOP success. That’s the lesson of Trump.
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