I am probably one of the few conservatives in America who wanted to see Terry McAuliffe win his lackadaisical campaign for a second term as governor of Virginia last week. He spent munificently. He brought in all the Democratic Party’s big guns for help. He even tapped Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden as unlikely as they were to give him a boost. He wore a mask. He did not wear a mask. He tried to make it a race all about Donald Trump, but Donald was golfing in Florida. He tried to make something of his opponent’s fleece vest, but it did not stick. At crucial points in his campaign, he appeared in public tieless. Then he did wear a tie but with a limp knot. It was all for naught.
Incidentally, his opponent, the one with the fleece vest, turned out to be a brilliant candidate. This was his first race for high office, and he did everything right. He picked the right messages (education, taxation, fund the police no matter how the Woke Folk object, and exposed critical race theory for what it is). He stayed on message, neither opposing Donald Trump nor celebrating him and let us face the facts: Glenn Youngkin struck most voters as a nice guy who, if he did not win, would go back to Carlyle and make another bundle of money. You would not mind living next to the Youngkin’s. But if the McAuliffe’s moved in, you would put your house on the market tomorrow and throw in your pet dachshund, plus, possibly, your giant iguana, the one you brought back surreptitiously from the Caribbean under your hat. Like a lot of other Democratic politicians, Terry is not normal.
So Mr. Youngkin ran a great race, and Mr. McAuliffe was a dud. But why did Terry insist on running an anti-Trump campaign to the exclusion of everything else? Why could he not introduce another issue? How about something about Mike Pence or perhaps Richard Nixon or Spiro Agnew? The truth is that Donald Trump is about the only issue that the Democrats have left, and let us not forget, most Democratic candidates think alike. They still cannot see what is wrong with running a campaign against Mr. Trump when Glenn Youngkin is on the ticket.
And there is another thing. Most Democrats think they have to mollify the left, what they are pleased to call the progressive wing of their party. They listen to discern what faction of the party is hollering the loudest, and they follow the loudmouth.
That explains the career of Joe Biden. The president of the United States has been in politics for some fifty years, always at the center of his party. It is a source of pride with him. Unfortunately, the party is ever-changing. In the 1930s, it was heavily a Jim Crow party. By the 1960s, when Joe came aboard, it was a more moderate party. Fleetingly, under the Kennedys, it was a hawkish party, but it became more peacenik as it moved into the 1970s. Today it is progressive. Through it all, Joe has mastered the changing center of his party. He calls this adaptability leadership. Tomorrow perhaps the nudists will holler the loudest. If they do, do not be surprised if Joe appears dressed differently at press conferences, or I should say undressed differently? Joe’s ability to adapt to his party’s changing center is what Democrats call leadership.
I began by saying I am sorry I will not have Terry around for the next four years. I was going to enjoy kicking him around a little bit. I still have not gotten over his boast in his memoirs that we at The American Spectator accused Bill Clinton of ordering the murder of opponents. Terry was rather proud of his mendacious claim, and when I entered into correspondence with him about it, he was very glib. Continuing this correspondence with him while he was governor could have been very diverting. But now I see that even his boon companions are avoiding him. Bill and Hillary Clinton did not show up at his campaign’s party on election night, and where else did they have to go? Things are looking bleak for the Democrats, and my guess is they are going to look bleaker next year.
• R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author most recently of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson, Inc.