“Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing — once all other possibilities have been exhausted.” —Winston Churchill
Apart from its political and cultural importance to the future of America, I had a personal reason for closely watching the Virginia election returns Tuesday night. I grew up in Washington, D.C., of which northern Virginia is a major satellite — radioactive enough to have turned the territorially conservative red state blue in the last four presidential races. A third of my best D.C. friends live there (the rest in the Nation’s Capital and suburban Maryland). One of them teaches high school History and Government in Loudoun County, better known as Ground Zero in what former President Barack Obama called a phony Culture War.
“We don’t have time to be wasting on these phony, trumped-up culture wars,” Obama said at a Virginia Commonwealth University campaign appearance for Terry McAuliffe. “This fake outrage that right-wing media uses to juice their ratings.… That’s not what this election’s about.”
As everyone now knows, it turned out to be precisely what the election was about, and what Republican Glenn Youngkin focused on like a laser from the moment McAuliffe uttered the fatal line in their September debate until Election Day: “I’m not going to let parents come into schools, and actually take books out, and make their own decisions.… I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” The resultant grassroots tornado just blew the Democrats out of power all the way down from the Virginia Executive Mansion to the House of Delegates, belying Obama’s dismissiveness. But then Obama, currently enjoying the high life in his $14 million Martha’s Vineyard beach pad, is no veteran of the Culture War — other than as the blatant race hustler he morphed into post-election. (“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin.”)
In my USA Today reporter days, I lived near Sidwell Friends, the posh high school where Obama sent his daughters, Malia and Sasha. I can confidently state it stands a lot farther from public-school parental concerns than from the Virginia border. Yet those concerns swept the Republicans to victory in all statewide races and changed the leftward trajectory of the country. But the lesson of Tuesday’s poli-cultural earthquake seems to have been lost on its survivors.
For this article, I contacted my old friend and current Loudoun County high school history teacher, Mike (not his real name). I hoped to get his first-hand observations on what just occurred there, the controversies that led up to it — Critical Race Theory and transgender acquiescence — and how his school intended to move forward under a less permissive administration. Mike had been a great college soccer player at my alma mater, the University of Maryland, and a wisecracking, sexist fellow copy-aide at the Washington Post, where we met. He appears as a thinly disguised supporting character in my semi-autobiographical romantic-comedy novel, Paper Tigers:
“She really likes me, she said, but only as a friend.”
“The F-word,” said Mike.
On Election Day, with its eventual outcome unknown, Mike and I made plans to talk the next morning. Instead, he texted me the following:
Lou, it’s my call. But I’ve been advised by our county communications office not to comment and I agree with them. Further, I would say what they will say anyway. But best to get it from them.… Again, my take is the same as what LCPS (Loudoun County Public Schools) says about CRT (Critical Race Theory) in our schools.
I had two thoughts on reading the text. One, Mike could have just talked to me off the record and articulated his personal support for CRT. Two, what sort of entity could intimidate a once politically-incorrect ex-jock like him? After all, LCPS doesn’t stand for SPECTRE. Or does it? Given that a Massachusetts high school teacher was fired last month for opposing CRT and the LGBTQ agenda in schools, perhaps it does. Countering such Stasi-level culture of oppression is what the election was all about. Terry McAuliffe supported it. Glenn Youngkin and thousands of parents opposed it, and won.
I had one more note of selfish pride in the Virginia election results, although I had nothing to do with the accomplishment. My Cuban-American compadre, Jason Mirayes, made history by beating two-term Democrat incumbent Mark Herring to become the state’s first Latino Attorney General. Mirayes made his mother Miriam’s 1965 Cuban exile to the U.S. a key point in his campaign. “She came with nothing but a dream,” Mirayes said in his Tuesday night victory statement. “A dream for a better life for her family.… Now I stand here today — elected to be the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
If I know my people, Virginia lawbreakers will have a tough time in Virginia over the next four years, even tougher than CRT teachers.
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