New York: Sounding an alarm for the Democratic Party, a Republican has been elected Governor of Virginia, a state where President Joe Biden had defeated his predecessor Donald Trump last year, and the party’s leads were trimmed in many of the key elections around the US.
With Trump out of office and President Joe Biden’s job approval sliding in the polls, Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated former Governor Terry Mcauliffe in the elections on Tuesday.
In a surprise in New Jersey, Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli was ahead of Governor Phil Murphy with a razor-thin lead of under 1 per cent with results incomplete as of 2.30 a.m. on Wednesday in the state.
The postal ballots may ultimately give Murphy a victory, but the closeness of the race shows a steep erosion of Democratic Party support because Biden had a 16 per cent lead over Trump in the state last year.
The results could be seen as an omen for next year’s mid-term elections to Congress where the Democrats hold a thin majority and have both parties rethink strategies.
The election results were a blow to the left wing of the Democratic Party which has emerged as the face of the party through its vociferous advocacy of cutting back budgets for police and of racially and socially polarising education agendas.
Indian-origin House of Representatives member Pramila Jayapal leads the Democratic Party faction in Congress as the Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Republicans went after the Democratic Party by highlighting the left’s agenda. And even within the Democratic Party, some like Eric Adams who won the New York mayoral race distanced himself from the progressives.
An African-American former police captain Eric Adams defeated his Republican adversary only by taking a hardline against crime and taking a moderate stand on education issues and rebuffing the progressives in his party.
But in the incomplete results, the Democratic candidate’s lead was down to 37 per cent from the 53 per cent that Biden had over Trump.
In Minneapolis, the national epicentre of protests against police brutality last year, voters defeated a referendum proposal to abolish the police department and replace it with a “public safety department” which was backed by the leftist leaders of the Democratic Party like Ilhan Omar.
Learning from the results of last year’s presidential election Youngkin and Ciattarelli kept Trump at bay because his polarising politics turns off centrist voters and did not hold rallies with him.
The Democrats’ attempts to tie them to Trump did not seem to work with the voters.
Biden, who campaigned for McAuliffe, called Youngkin an “acolyte of Donald Trump” and McAuliffe himself falsely claimed that Trump was in Virginia campaigning with Youngkin.
Biden sent his wife to campaign for Murphy and former President Barack Obama also campaigned for him.
Now Biden’s job approval is down to 43 per cent in RealClear Politics aggregation of national polls.
His standing in the party has also weakened with the Marist Poll reporting that 44 per cent of Democrats and independents sympathetic to the party don’t want Biden to run in the 2024 election and only 36 per cent back a re-election bid.
Biden hasn’t been able to get his multi-trillion dollar programmes for fighting climate change, expanding social and health programmes, rebuilding the infrastructure and revitalising the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic because of the conflicts within his party between the left and the right.
The chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan that led to the Taliban returning to power has also dented his popularity.
The other factor that hit the Democrats, especially in Virginia which Biden had carried with a 10 per cent lead, is the social and educational agenda of the party.
The party policy that in schools transgender students should be allowed to use the bathrooms of the gender they choose regardless of their biological sex came to haunt the party on the eve of the election.
A boy wearing a skirt sodomised a girl in a Virginia school’s girls’ bathroom. He was transferred to another school where he sexually assaulted another girl.
When the father of the first victim protested at a school board meeting, he was arrested and prosecuted by the local prosecutor who is a Democrat.
Parents have also protested sexually explicit books like one describing men having sex with animals prescribed at schools and a racially polarising school curriculum based on an academic idea called “critical race theory”.
McAuliffe’s response was that parents shouldn’t have a say in what their children learn.
And there is concern about crime everywhere, while the progressives have been calling for abolishing police departments or cutting them down during a year of protests against police brutality and the killing of African Americans.
US recorded the biggest increase in murders last year with a 29 per cent jump from the previous year reaching 27,570 cases, an increase of 4,901, reversing a falling trend.
Youngkin, who engineered the upset in Virginia, is a 54-year-old businessman who was the CEO of a private equity and financial services multinational, the Carlyle Group.
He had a racially diverse team running with him: an African American woman, Winsome Sears, for lieutenant governor, and a Latino, Jason Miyares, for attorney general.
McAuliffe was the governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2017, but a state law that prohibits anyone from serving two terms consecutively kept him out of the last election.
For the Democratic Party’s leftists, a ray of hope appeared in Boston where their mayoral candidate Michel Wu won.
Republicans and Democrats won one seat each in the by-elections in Ohio for the House of Representatives.