A Liberal Strategy Post-Virginia

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Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat
Terry McAuliffe in Virginia

San Francisco / November 2, 2021

In the Virginia governor race, Republican Glenn Youngkin just defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe. President Joe Biden won Virginia in 2020 by 10 points. McAuliffe could have won this race. This Virginia election is grim news for the Democrats.

The Democratic Party has increasingly adopted David Shor's theory of "popularism" (link). Shor wants the Democrats to emphasize their most popular policies, such as economic redistribution or lower healthcare costs. The Democrats could not implement Shor's theory today because the Biden Administration still has not passed its core initiative. Biden's "infrastructure" plan aims to radically improve America's social safety net. But the legislation has not passed the Congress. If you step back, the Democratic Party holds the Presidency, Senate, and House. In theory, they should be able to pass legislation.

 

They cannot in this instance because there are sharper divides between the center-left and far-left (i.e., the self-identified "progressives"). Even in the GOP, there are greater divisions between the center-right and far-right. The US Congress increasingly resembles a parliamentary system where there are 3 or 4 discrete parties rather than 2.

If the Democrats do not change, they will lose the House and Senate in 2022 and the Republicans will probably pick a replacement for Justice Stephen Breyer. What is the optimal next step for liberals?

The center-left and far-left must cooperate more to pass the Biden Administration's agenda. The Democrats must deliver practical gains for constituencies they want to win. The negotiations between the center-left and far-left on the "Build Back Better" plan are a basket case. Both factions must rank their preferences and close a deal. It is true that Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin are not cooperating with mainstream liberal thinking, but the Democrats must figure out a path forward.