October 15, 2021 | OPINION | By Zoraiz Zafar | Photo by Sydney Morris
It is Jan. 19, 2010, and Republican Scott Brown has just upset Democrat Martha Coakley in a Senate special election in one of the bluest states in the country: Massachusetts. Not only does this defeat diminish the Democratic filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate, but it sets in motion a series of political events that will permanently change the Obama administration’s trajectory.
Fast forward to November 2021, and the nascent Biden administration finds itself in a somewhat similar situation. Weeks from today, Virginia will elect its next governor, and the prospect of a Republican victory in the increasingly blue state has national Democrats tremendously anxious.
Keeping up the trend of the last few election cycles, Virginia Democrats nominated former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a centrist party loyalist. Meanwhile, Republicans, through a highly contentious convention, nominated businessman and political newbie Glenn Youngkin.
Both candidates have received a slew of high-profile endorsements from their respective sides, and the race has attracted tens of millions of out-of-state political donations.
The latest polls show that the race is well within the margin of error and considering the leftward bias that polls have had in recent times, Democrats are starting to feel the jitters. With President Biden’s hallmark policy proposals, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, still making their way through the D.C. quicksand, Virginia may deliver the final gust of wind that determines the fate of these programs.
So how could this one election impact the next several years of American politics? Let’s go through the motions and see. First off, if McAuliffe were to win by a reduced but fairish margin, D.C. Democrats would consider that a public affirmation of the Biden agenda, and we might begin to see legislative progress in the U.S. Congress.
As was the case with the Georgia senate run-offs earlier this year, a Democratic victory could give national Democrats a much-needed nudge to start the ball rolling on populist legislative action and implementation.
A Democratic victory in Virginia in November could also have a trickle-down effect on the 2022 midterm elections. As the DNC looks to defend their razor-thin majorities in both chambers, a sturdy victory in Virginia could provide them with a boost in fundraising and morale leading up to the midterms.
On the other hand, a Youngkin upset could have a national fallout effect similar to the Brown-Coakley showdown. Congressional Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, would have a field day criticizing Biden and his team for their out-of-touch policies.
The ongoing congressional deadlock would not only persist, but it could also continue into next year, with McConnell already issuing threats to Biden over raising the debt ceiling.
The electoral consequences would also be dire for Democrats. A Republican victory in royal blue Virginia would put the RNC in saber-rattling mode for 2022. Incumbent Democrats up and down the ballot would have to contend with a wave of hostile attack ads, and, with morale low, it would be hard to see a situation in which the party can retain its majorities.
Having run through the possible outcomes and their snowball effects on U.S. politics, in November, Virginians will not only be electing their next governor but will also be shaping the political future of the country. As goes Virginia, so goes the nation.