Watson: Lessons from Virginia | Opinion

For Democrats, it was troubling to see Virginians elect a Republican governor on November 2. reliable “blue” condition.

So rightly or wrongly, for Democrats, the election made Virginia voters look like they had backed off. Democrats see it that way because they see Donald Trump (not voters) as close enough to the nadir of human character and political behavior. Although Youngkin is not Trump, he was timid about supporting Trump and did not repudiate the ex-president. So in real and practical terms, Trump was still partially on the ballot.

But there were many more factors involved in Youngkin’s victory, and they all played a part. There was resentment over mask and vaccine protocols, dissatisfaction with school closures during the pandemic, disagreements over curricula in schools, and anxiety centered on inflation and others. aspects of the economy.

Were President Biden and the Democrats to blame for the languid pandemic, rising gas prices, inflation in general, and the inability to agree between themselves on the two major infrastructure bills (a since adopted) which were being debated in Congress?

If so, Youngkin’s election is worrying. A year ago, President Biden was largely victorious in Virginia. Today, his approval rating in the state (and the nation) is quite low. Given that not much has changed in a year – with mostly Democrats trying to legislate on major initiatives – Virginia’s change of mind may be illogical. After all, in Congress and in the States, it is almost only Republicans who oppose many necessary reforms. But again, “necessary” is a controversial term. Aside from improvements to roads, bridges, water pipes, broadband networks, and the power grid, there is little agreement among Americans on more controversial issues.

Among citizens, there are huge differences regarding tax levels, government money, fossil fuel use, immigration policy, vaccination warrants, internet and social media regulations. , police reform, responses to racism, school administration and a host of other problems.

There are issues and disputes in all of these areas that will be with us for a long time. and they exist within a global economy containing its own share of turmoil. Problems related to manufacturing production, supply chain disruptions, energy consumption, depletion of natural resources and capitalism’s own internal contradictions promise to be persistent.

Three other factors – in Virginia and everywhere else – make voters anxious, unstable, and less than logical. First, there is the pandemic itself. No one knows how it will end. It is costly in countless ways, and it is a drag on full economic recovery.

Second, the right-wing media ecosystem – cable news, talk radio, and Webworld – continues to promote disinformation and conspiracies, which hardens the dysfunctional beliefs of literally 40 to 50 million Republicans. They will not get vaccinated, they believe that fraud characterizes the electoral system, and they have an incomplete understanding of what “freedom” and “freedom” really mean in the context of a working collective democracy.

Third, a significant portion – almost half – of the entire American population suffers from varying degrees of past or present psychic damage or trauma, and these injuries make cooperation with our fellow citizens more difficult. Working with others – especially people outside of our media bubbles – requires mature and balanced emotional health, but too many of us grapple with wounds or epistemologies that limit our abilities to grow, learn, and manage. take a step back, compromise and trust. This is a factor that is particularly worth watching, because as a wide range of national and global conditions worsen, it will gradually become more difficult for everyone to maintain emotional equanimity.

Thus, voter groups generally feel besieged, discouraged, angry, alienated and uncertain. Sometimes for different reasons, but that just means we can add “polarized” to the list as well.

Virginia’s election is no mystery. Many understandable factors produced its result. But above all, it demonstrated two discouraging realities. First, there is just a practical limit to the speed at which change and reform can occur in a huge pluralistic country. We forget that our nation spans an entire continent, contains 330 million people, includes entire subcultures of geography and creed, and requires broad consensus to accomplish anything political. At the same time, the tools, techniques, and resources available to people – of all types and motivations – to divide our nation are far more important and powerful today than they have ever been.

And two – most disturbing – the change, disruption, inconvenience, sacrifice, responsibility, money, and speed needed to save our country (and the world) from the many serious issues that plague it – and threaten it. literally the societal order, democracy and civilization. itself – are beyond almost everyone, Democrats and Republicans.

Naturally, Governor-elect Youngkin did not dare to express these thoughts.

Brian T. Watson of Swampscott is the author of “Headed Into the Abyss: The Story of Our Time, and the Future Well Face”. Contact him at [email protected]

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