Elections 2021

7:20am I have exactly one hour to blog. I’m going to go old school and keep writing/publishing/editing to this blog post during this hour.

Last night was a bad night for Democrats. The media was paying attention to the tight race in VA, because the young journalists live there. But nobody was paying attention to Jersey, which was plain stupid, because the week before the election, local polls were showing that the race was going to be close. That information was out there. But the national press was completely clueless.

Also, the national press seemed to be totally clueless about what motivated voters yesterday. It was not Trump. It was schools, taxes, discomfort with covid obstacles, the price of burgers at the pub, and the feeling that others were benefiting from government handouts, while they were struggling and ignored.

Dude, it’s really hard to not say I TOLD YA SO. So, I’m not going to try.


We need to put education writers on the front page of newspapers, and not bury their stories at the bottom of the screen or the back of the paper.

I’m a Democrat. I voted Democratic. But I have a lot of sympathies for my Independent friends who voted for the Republican for Governor of New Jersey yesterday. The residents in this state had a tough year, and they feel that that their leaders were not paying attention to them. Some of their issues:

Taxes are a big issue in Jersey. We pay the highest local property taxes in the country. Ciattarelli had a killer ad that he played over and over with a clip of Murphy saying that if taxes were your issue, then Jersey was probably not your state.

The schools were closed for 18 months. Our community colleges and country-run special education programs are STILL closed. Yes, still closed.

Parents are showing up to board of ed meetings crying, because their kindergarteners are still constrained by insane covid regulations. One parent told the board this past Monday that her child cannot talk with her friends during indoor recess. The kids have to sit at their desks for an hour. A teacher goes around and hands each kid a toy.

The results of learning loss is going to be huge. I suspect that the state has the data on their latest standardized test, but purposely held back those results until after the election.

Since April 2020, I have been writing that school closures were taking a huge ton on kids and families. Subscribe to my newsletter! But this message was not echoed by people with louder voices than mine.

On top of taxes and school closures, people are just tired of all the inconveniences caused by our state’s militant response to COVID. Because the workers are still not working in their offices, it’s still very difficult to do anything with DMV. Applying for any social services takes twice the time and involves tons of errors. I heard stories about the social security office demanding that applicants send in original documents through the mail, which are then lost by the post office. It took me three months to register Ian for one class at the community college, because the workers were at home and did not answer their phones.

I do love that the new mayor of New York City talks openly about having a learning disability. I also love that he secretly lives in Jersey. (Funny story in Curbed about this.)

Our school board and town council elections were also highly competitive yesterday. People cared about their local politics yesterday. Which makes this politics geek very happy.

Do I judge writers and pundits who have NEVER attended a school board meeting, yet feel free to pontificate about the inner workings of these meetings and parents? Well, yes. Yes I do.

Am I the only person who has been reading the comments on Randi Weingarten tweets this year? Hello? This election was predictable (to those who have terrible insomnia and read weird stuff at 3am.)

I tweeted this on November 1 — Of course, parents (and all community residents) should have a say in their schools. Public schools are a government service. Political participation is a GOOD thing. If you don’t like what parents are saying, then show them why they should be making different choices. And teach parents how to properly participation in the democratic rights. Shutting down parents is a loser position. It’s not right morally, and the party that shuts them down will pay the price in the polls.

My friend, Helaine Olen, has been writing columns for the Washington Post that are totally correct. She writes that the public’s economic irritations are serious and should not be discounted. She also wrote that many people felt left out by the Washington’s economic stimulus plans, and they were going to sink Biden’s social policy plans. Again, this election was not about Trump. It was about a thousand of small cuts, irritations, slights, and inconveniences this year.

There are big sections of the country where Trump is simply not an issue. Not everything has to do with race; white parents were angry at their local white political leaders about school closures. If residents are unhappy, then political leaders will lose elections. Who knew, right?

Okay, I gotta scram. Will try to be back in a few hours.

36 thoughts on “Elections 2021

  1. I think this election was all about Biden’s approval level. This tweet summed up my feelings…


  2. Since Jimmy Carter was president, how many times has the party holding the White House won the governorship in Virginia?

    Also, if Democratic turnout dropped a lot in non-white precincts in Virginia, where’s that story?

    Apparently in Wisconsin the Republican frontrunner for next year’s governor’s race leaned in very hard on some school board races/referenda (all that WI had going this year) and got thrashed. Also seeing positive (but low-key, because off-year) Democratic results from Oregon and Washington. But I guess those are too far away from NY/DC to count?

    Over on Twitter, I’m seeing a lot of “tonight’s results confirm my priors,” which is really tiresome.


    1. Doug said, “Also, if Democratic turnout dropped a lot in non-white precincts in Virginia, where’s that story?”

      Did that actually happen?


      McAuliffe got 1,585,972 votes, compared to 1,659,505 for Youngkin..

      4 years earlier, Democrat Ralph Northam won his race with 1,405,041 to Ed Gillespie’s 1,173,326.


      I don’t know how firm the answers are at this point, but Republicans have been making inroads on Hispanic and Asian voters.


  3. The swing in VA to the Republican side was fairly uniform across the state.


  4. Everyone always confirms their priors, so I’m not surprised that’s happening.

    In our city, the slate of less progressive candidates are doing well.. One is a Republican, who, if she wins, will break a 30+ ear streak of no Republicans in the city’s offices (our races are technically non-partisan with a top 2 advance primary, but people do identify as partisan, and the Republican is ahead, in spite of opposition from the official democratic political structure).

    My take home is that those on the left who think progressive politics of all incentives and no consequences are the way forward on economics, homelessness, crime, drug use, . . . . are not gathering the support they thought they could.

    And, that many people will vote their more immediate interests. The “being left out” that Laura alludes to is my example, people focusing on others getting something — financial aid, student loan forgiveness, child credits, family leave, . . . that doesn’t benefit them. This is a reality of politics and anyone who needs the consent of the governed who ignores it is treading dangerously.

    Finally, I agree with Laura that middle class people are disturbed by government not providing the basic services they require from government — public schools, functioning roads and bridges, DMV, . . . . Our public schools are working again, though masking is still required. It now annoys my kiddo, but I don’t see significant complaints in the city about masks. I haven’t noticed malfunctioning DMV/social services or courts, but I’m not using them.


  5. If the election had been fought on the practical grounds of roads and bridges and schools, I would be disappointed but not worried. But, the Virgina race, and the use of ads calling for limiting access to texts like Beloved in AP language arts and the associated dog whistles against teaching history more fully worry me for the future.

    I may think that that the support of vulnerable people in the US, including temporarily vulnerable people who will contribute if given the opportunity to go to school, get medical care, and supported in finding housing and other basic needs will require higher taxes for people like me. If people like me disagree (and, that’s part of what Laura is interpreting in NJ, that people are questioning the taxes their paying, at least partially because they aren’t getting the services they want), vulnerable people will suffer.


    1. “..the associated dog whistles against teaching history more fully worry me for the future..” There’s a line between ‘teaching history fully’ and ‘teaching a sour and anti-American version of our history’. Clearly, a lot of parents believe that that line has been crossed. We certainly see public figures pushing across-the-line narratives. Dems pushing towards and across that line should have expected reaction, they got it.


      1. ds said, “There’s a line between ‘teaching history fully’ and ‘teaching a sour and anti-American version of our history’.”

        There’s also a difference between teaching history and being emotionally abusive to children, especially since many kids aren’t doing great during the pandemic to begin with.

        If you look at Ibram Kendi’s stuff, there’s a whole school of teaching racial hyper-awareness to children from the earliest age (i.e. “Anti-Racist Baby” which could be more accurately entitled “Racist Baby”), and a lot of parents of all colors hate that stuff.


      2. I can’t even imagine the layered social and psychological effects of losing 18 months of in-person school, and then being carpet bombed with racial guilt. It’s frankly pretty monstrous in terms of hurting kids’ ability to reconnect with each other after an extremely damaging past 20 months.

        Oh, yeah, and do this while wearing masks at school all day, which makes it really hard to express friendliness and good will and convey social nuance.

        I also believe very strongly that parents and other adults should not share problems with little kids that the kids cannot make a realistic contribution to fixing. I think it’s emotionally abusive. Talk to little kids about kid-level problems (are you sharing? are you speaking nicely to friends?) and keep adult-level problems for adults.

        Two of my youngest’s best pals are an Indian-American girl and a Nigerian-American girl, and I feel very strongly that we need to make it possible for kids to connect with each other when they are little. There are big people problems that they eventually need to learn about, but it’s going to be easier and more productive to do that AFTER they have the experience of multiple years of close cross-ethnic friendship.

        (I suppose I’ve just made the case for diverse elementary schools.)


    2. bj said, “the use of ads calling for limiting access to texts like Beloved in AP language arts.”

      I think you have been misled.

      If you watch the ad, the mom says that (thanks to her lobbying) the VA legislature passed a bill forcing schools to inform parents in advance of explicit material and to give parents an opt-out and to allow for alternate assignments. Then McAuliffe vetoed it twice.

      Here’s another Youngkin ad, which is a collection of clips of McAuliffe saying that parents should butt out.

      The last one has McAuliffe saying, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”


  6. The outcome of the Virginia race, to the extent that it reflected a sense of frustration with school boards, was beset by three separate issues. One was certainly frustration with interrupted access to in-person school (and, ironically, frustration with the COVID-related restrictions that had to be in place in order to have in-person schooling . . . ). But also, the brouhaha over a sexual assault by a male student using the girls’ bathroom in a high school; and also, a more free-floating sense that children are being indoctrinated into a far-left version of racial history in the US, one that forces children into a self-blaming stance (if they are white) or a helplessness stance (if they are Black). None of these issues is going away anytime soon, and Democrats are going to have to figure out a better way to negotiate them, or lose more elections.


    1. EB said “But also, the brouhaha over a sexual assault by a male student using the girls’ bathroom in a high school; ”

      This has been widely reported here in NZ – because there’s legislation currently before parliament to enable transpeople to simply declare their gender – with no legal barriers (no requirement for a judicial hearing, etc.)

      While many women (in particular) are supportive of trans rights – they also point out that there is nothing in the legislation to prevent sexual predators from falsely changing their gender in order to enter women-only spaces (e.g. female-only bathrooms, and even women’s prisons).
      Note: they are not saying that trans-women will do this, but that male sexual predators will.

      There has also been horror at the apparent ‘woke’ school administration in covering up the issue and demonising the parent who complained.


  7. Virginia election being reported here as a blow against Biden (presumably because it’s a straw in the wind indicating results of mid-terms).
    But also a big protest vote against the apparent failure and/or woke capture of education across the State.

    I don’t have a horse in this race (local politics on the other side of the world) – but to have education as a significant factor in a major political upset, surely must be indicating something is wrong.

    [NJ is being reported here as too close to call]



    1. “but to have education as a significant factor in a major political upset, surely must be indicating something is wrong”

      It seems to be less about education and more about the usual culture war stuff. The local right-wingers are trying to gin it up in my town, too.


      1. I have seen this summed up as “The children of the people who didn’t want Ruby Bridges to attend a white school now object to schools teaching that people didn’t want Ruby Bridges to attend a white school.”


  8. I’m not a Virginian, nor a New Jersey resident.

    However, inflation surely plays a role, especially when the conversation turns to taxes. https://www.bls.gov/cpi/

    5% inflation gets noticed. Energy is up 24% (as of September.) We are heading into winter

    Food is not something you can choose not to buy. From a link at the page above:

    For the year ended September 2021, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 5.4 percent. Over that period, prices for food at home increased 4.5 percent, driven by a 10.5-percent increase in prices for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs. Prices for food away from home increased 4.7 percent.


  9. “a more free-floating sense that children are being indoctrinated into a far-left version of racial history in the US, one that forces children into a self-blaming stance (if they are white) or a helplessness stance (if they are Black). ”

    Agree that the perception (a misperception) might have played a role in Virginia but one has to also consider the possibility that it was just an extension, nebulously-formed, and essentially unopposeable part of the culture wars, or white grievance, or willful misconception. We can engage on the history of race in America, but, will the engagement influence people, or is it a stand in for something else? a loss of perceived power.

    In my own town, I can see that progressives underestimated the power of their enemies and the willingness of their allies to work towards what the progressives see as longer term solutions to structural inequities.


    1. The problem is, in some places it is not a misperception. Such lessons have occurred in my area. It only takes a few misguided teachers who introduce inappropriate encounter group-like lessons to create an atmosphere where children are divided into oppressors and victims. These are eagerly covered by the press when parents (sometimes other teachers) complain. What they don’t seem to understand is lthat that if anyone should be put through exercizes like this, it is adults, not children.

      My children, in an integrated school system, had very thorough grounding in US History including major attention to slavery, racism, and their ongoing effects. But they were never made to feel personally morally stained.


    2. I won’t argue that some teachers fall short of teaching a difficult subject sensitively, and those incidents create a firestorm and backlash and that we have to continue dialog.

      But the objections to teaching books from Beloved to HS seniors in an elective class to teaching Vashti Harrison’s Little Leaders suggest to me that there is a powerful contingent opposed to teaching difficult topics about race and slavery (Beloved) or about black people at all (Little Leaders), especially when written by black authors.

      And we can’t go backwards on that teaching to appease the yellers.


      1. Also, too, I’m sure not seeing a whole lot of Black parents being interviewed in major media about how race is taught in American schools.


      2. I’ve kind of gone through a deluge (flood, ?, I don’t want to use crucible or firestorm because those are worse than I’ve experienced) on this issue in my DEI efforts at a private school. One of my conclusions is that there are parents who try to create lives for their children where they are insulated from feeling uncomfortable. In spite of all the rhetoric of shutting down debate in college, it’s not the parents of black women (who don’t want to debate their relative intelligence in the classroom) who complain the most vocally. It’s the parents of children who have enough, of everything, that they almost never feel uncomfortable (hungry, unwanted, profiled, questioned, . . . ).

        That’s not an experience that those of us who are non-white (even if wealthy, educated, and intelligent) generally have. Oprah got stopped at Paris boutiques; Tim Scott gets questioned in the Capitol. My kiddo has a teacher say “say, for example, it is wrong to tokenism people” and then turns to him, the only brown child in the class, and says, kiddo can explain how it feels (Hilarious, no? I don’t think she was trying to be ironic). Kiddo is strong and tolerates the discomfort because he as little choice. I do not run in and try to suppress the discussion because the teacher does it imperfectly, because the class does need to learn about tokenization and the impact it has on the tokens.

        The point being that learning won’t occur without occasional discomfort, and that’s OK. Targetting, shame to the point that learning shuts down should be mitigated, but teaching these subjects is not easy and requires grace and openness of dialog of everyone who sincerely desires to move forward to a better environment for everyone.


      3. I’m curious about what age Black kids generally become aware that in their own country, it used to be legal to own, buy, and sell people who looked like them. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s at 7 or 8, if not before. That seems to me the first question to look at as schools try to figure out how to teach the topic.

        The question of what’s age-appropriate is important and interesting. Of course teachers deal with these questions all of the time. If kids are reading The Hunger Games, where children kill other children, at 11 or 12 for entertainment – how does that impact the way we think about teaching serious historical issues?

        Also, at what age do they start hearing that non-Christians are tortured in hell for all eternity? I read a great article about how Jonathan Edwards and the Puritans thought that children 7 and up had attained the ability to reason, and that it was appropriate to not only warn them about hell, but tell them that their Christian parents would rejoice in their torment and damnation if they rejected Christ, because they would be happy that a just God damns sinners.


      4. My child, who is not black, asked our family at seven whether he should be careful to take his hoodie down when he walked around our neighborhood.


        There can’t be a bright line for “blaming” a 7 year old. Some seven year olds will hear the story of Trayvon Martin or Ruby Bridges or that some children don’t have enough food and feel blame, or shame, or responsibility. I can’t imagine that there are teachers who cross the bright line and say some of your classmates are hungry and it is your fault, but if they did it would be wrong.


      5. Anonymous wrote,

        “I’m curious about what age Black kids generally become aware that in their own country, it used to be legal to own, buy, and sell people who looked like them. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s at 7 or 8, if not before. That seems to me the first question to look at as schools try to figure out how to teach the topic.”

        This is not exactly your question, but my kids’ private school teaches ancient history in 2nd grade, medieval history in 3rd grade, something in 4th grade (probably the age of exploration and early colonial US?), and they cover the US Civil War in 5th grade.

        When we’re not having a pandemic, there’s a yearly history fair where the 2nd and 3rd graders do posters and presentations on aspects of their subjects, the 4th graders show various scenes from the American Revolution (the Boston Massacre and a circle of ladies sewing and talking about how they aren’t going to drink tea anymore and how they are going to boycott English cloth), and then the piece de resistance, the 5th grader’s Civil War presentation. You get a walk in the dark with the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman, you meet Clara Barton, see the Confederate surrender, see Lincoln shot in Ford’s Theater, and then hear Whitman’s O Captain, My Captain. It’s really good! In past years, I’ve had one kid play Mrs. Lincoln and another kid play General Sherman.

        The kids spiral through history chronologically twice more before they graduate. My 11th grade son was reading King Leopold’s Ghost and Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee over the past year.

        For everything, there is a season.


  10. When all this parent/school board stuff starting showing up in the press, I was baffled. I go to school board meetings every other week and never saw anything like that. Our five member school board includes one Jewish guy, a Korean woman, one senior, and an Indian guy who ran on a platform of introducing Muslim holidays to the school calendar. (He was successful.) All members have been highly supportive of racing consciousness about race, gender and ethnicity. I have tried to get disabilities including to that list, but haven’t been terribly successful.

    I never once heard a parent comment about race and teaching in school. I called a school board member to ask her what she was hearing, and she said she was getting nothing from the community on this topic. She hadn’t heard any gossip in neighboring towns.

    I do have to wonder if there was a great deal of cherry picking by reporters and candidates who were looking for wedge issues.

    There has been a lot of unhappy parents about school closures and the lack of social interaction among the little kids. Learning lag and all. There were a few local specific issues. Also, debates about the budget and some personality clashes between the board members. But nothing like I read about in the newspapers.


    1. I think there are differences in different school boards — but I’ll note that one of our school board candidates spotlighted his opposition to teaching of race in schools, so our liberal city is seeing some of it. I might expect to see it come to a school board near you.


    2. Youngkin’s anti Beloved ad is pretty prominent and I don’t think it can be dismissed as cherry picking, especially now that Youngkin will be governor.

      I agree that finding firestorms in tiny school districts and making them a national story can be fear mongering. But there is real troublesome targeted antagonism in large, diverse districts in Texas and Florida and the Midwest.


    3. I do agree with a larger point, though, that Democrats/Progressives selectively focusing on the potentially disingenuous complaints about teaching about race in school (which we do not think we can stop) shouldn’t be used as an excuse to avoid addressing the broader problems, including transparency, open dialogue, safety in schools, curriculum, and the services we expect from schools.

      Speaking to people without presuming ignorance and without condescension is necessary, though we shouldn’t ignore hidden agendas and bad faith arguments, either. True about teaching about race, but also about vaccines.


  11. I see that no one has mentioned Winsome Sears, the Jamaican-born Republican and ex-Marine who won the VA lieutenant governor’s race, and became the first black woman to win state-wide office in VA. Given that VA only allows one term at a time for governors, she has a decent shot at becoming governor someday. Here’s the victory speech she gave:

    If you watch, start around 1:40, as that’s where the speech gets going. At 6:00, she starts talking about their campaign promises: full funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, lower taxes, safe communities, good education for kids (“because education lifted my father out of poverty, education lifted me out of poverty, education will life us all out of poverty”), so they can have marketable skills and create generational wealth. She also promises transparent government.

    It’s pretty basic, bread-and-butter stuff.


    1. “Southfield, MI, public schools.
      A district that is 94% Black & 56% low income randomly decides to do remote learning every Friday. You read that correctly, they have decided to have a 4-day school week.
      *This* is what institutional racism looks like.”

      The linked article says:

      “Students at Southfield Public Schools will be at home for remote learning on Fridays.
      The announcement Monday came as a shock to many parents.”

      Looks like a civil rights violation to me, but what do I know?


      1. This has been tried in quite a number of school districts, mostly rural/mostly white. It seems to differ in that they add more time to the remaining 4 days, and do not offer remote instruction on the 5th. There do not seem to be a lot of complaints, the main one being the need to find day care on the 5th day (but as one parent noted, many of the regular old weeks included a non-school day because of holidays, teacher institute days, etc.



  12. DeSantis is certainly paying attention to New Jersey: “The crowd applauded Gov. DeSantis, who then joked that Republicans would have won the tightly contested New Jersey gubernatorial race if the state’s Republicans hadn’t moved to Florida.

    DeSantis explained that Republicans are fleeing to Florida to escape coronavirus restrictions, lawlessness, crime, and other factors. “


Comments are closed.