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Reality Bites the Democrats

The party's attempts to deny reality are a political loser

edited from Getty Images and the AP
• November 3, 2021 2:30 pm

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If Democrats have any intention to reflect upon and adjust for the changing currents in American life that led to their humiliation in Tuesday’s elections, it isn't evident.

Republican gubernatorial candidates won in Virginia and vastly overperformed in New Jersey running on kitchen-table issues like inflation, education, taxes, and COVID restrictions. These are matters that affect, on a day-to-day basis, the suburban white women who fled back into the warm embrace of the GOP.

The Democratic riposte, thus far, has been to deny to these voters what they can see with their own two eyes—the very kind of "gaslighting" they've spent the last few years blathering about.

Throughout the campaign, Democrat Terry McAuliffe grossly exaggerated the number of COVID infections in Virginia, including among children.

His allies took the same approach on other pertinent issues.

The erstwhile Iraq war cheerleader turned MSNBC talking head Nicolle Wallace marveled that "critical race theory, which isn’t real, turned the suburbs 15 points to the Trump insurrection-endorsed Republican." What, she asked, are Democrats to do about that? The MSNBC analyst Errin Haines asserted that "critical race theory is the big lie of 2021." Not to be outdone, Politico‘s influential morning newsletter, Playbook, referred to the impact on the races of the "mostly ginned-up CRT issue that dominated Twitter and Fox."

This naked deception hides behind the fig leaf of "technicalities," as Ross Douthat explains in Tuesday's New York Times:

The problem with the McAuliffe strategy is that it fell back on technicalities — as in, yes, fourth graders in the Commonwealth of Virginia are presumably not being assigned the academic works of Derrick Bell — while evading the context that has made this issue part of a polarizing national debate.

That context, obvious to any sentient person who lived through the past few years, is an ideological revolution in elite spaces in American culture, in which concepts heretofore associated with academic progressivism have permeated the language of many important institutions, from professional guilds and major foundations to elite private schools and corporate H.R. departments.

There is a shortage of sentient persons in this country, but there is no shortage of bullshit. President Joe Biden, who dragged down Democrats across the board, has pinballed between denying the rising inflation affecting families across the country—on July 4, the White House boasted that a cookout was 16 cents cheaper than a year ago—and, gallingly, pointing to it as evidence of the success of his economic agenda and "recovery."

Between August and November, Biden's average approval rating took a nosedive. The president went from solidly positive territory to solidly negative. His descent coincides roughly with the administration's disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was completed on Aug. 30.

Biden's response then paralleled that of his Democratic allies now: denying the American defeat and, instead, insisting his botched pullout was a great strategic success.

If Tuesday's elections tell us anything, it's that the Democrats' attempts to deny reality are a political loser. It's something the party should keep in mind as it plunges toward a massive infrastructure boondoggle whose chief selling point, they say, is that it costs nothing.