One GOP governor is no surly brawler. Many might welcome that in presidential race.
If Glenn Youngkin wants the Republicans’ 2024 presidential nomination, he might have to enroll in scowl school. Virginia’s governor needs to study not anger management but anger cultivation. Or how to feign anger. He lacks a knack for sustained grumpiness fueled by ever-multiplying grievances. Affability can ruin a Republican’s reputation with the party’s surly base.
In a recent conversation that took place about nine blocks from the White House, Youngkin said, “I’ve made it through two years without calling anyone a name.” He had better pick up his pace of invectives if he wants to compete in the Republican pugnacity sweepstakes.
Youngkin, 56, was elected in 2021 partly because his opponent, former governor Terry Mcauliffe, was incinerated by a cultural bonfire he ignited by saying, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Perhaps Mcauliffe meant merely that K-12 schools should not become politicized. Parents know they already are. (What were you, dear reader, taught in third grade about gender fluidity?) Republican presidential aspirants must enchant a nominating electorate dominated by people for whom politics is supremely important. People, that is, who are unlike most Americans. People who, so far, like the cut of Florida Gov. Ron Desantis’s jib.
Winston Churchill, unenthralled, reportedly said Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was a bull who carried a china shop around with him. The GOP base, however, relishes the evident enjoyment Desantis derives from trailing clouds of dust from myriad dustups. He has brawled with corporations that make political agendas part of their brands; with the multibillion-dollar “diversity, equity, inclusion” industry; and with K-12 educators who seem to despise the society that funds them and the parents who supply their pupils.
One can consider Desantis’s dislikes admirable but still wonder: Do most Republicans, does the nation, want another president defined by truculence? American politics, indeed American life has become unhealthily president-centric. It would become even more so with a president who, having campaigned as a brawler, could claim a mandate for incessant interventions in cultural disputes best conducted below the presidency.
Most Americans are not angry; they are exhausted and embarrassed by exhibitionistic political anger. So, they might want someone more, shall we say, emollient than Florida’s governor. Or than Joe Biden, who periodically wants in on the fun of shrill nonsense (e.g., last year he called Georgia’s mild voting reforms — the ones followed by record turnouts — “Jim Crow 2.0”).
Biden recently said, accurately, that there was a time when festive crowds gathered for lynchings, snapping photographs. Then he added: “And some people still want to do that.” This slander of the nation was just tone-deaf Joe fumbling with a foreign language: progressive-speak. Still, it shows that wretched excess is almost everywhere.
That includes Richmond, where some Democrats are as obsessed by race, and as unpleasant, as were their predecessors when implementing “massive resistance” to school desegregation. Youngkin recently nominated to the state Board of Education Suparna Dutta, a dark-skinned (sorry, pigmentation is, alas, pertinent) American.
An India-born Hindu, she is the mother of a former student at the acclaimed Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, where she has resisted policies designed to make the school less selective in the name of “equity” but for the purpose of reducing the number of Asian American students.
After a Virginia Senate committee voted 14-0 (all its Democrats concurring) to confirm Dutta, some progressives (in conjunction with some Virginia Muslims) branded her a “white supremacist.” Democrats control the state Senate, and teachers unions control many of them. The Senate killed her nomination.
Youngkin advocates expanded school choice for a state that has only seven charter schools, 128 fewer than neighboring District of Columbia. Terming himself pro-life, he favors limiting abortions to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy, when about 95% of U.S. abortions occur. This is what a conservative electable in a purple state looks like.
A Harvard Business School graduate, Youngkin was COCEO of the Carlyle Group private-equity firm before he, in today’s ideologically loaded language, went into “public service,” as though wealth-creation is not a grand service to the public. Biden, who immoderately invokes the specter of “extremism,” has said this menace can come in an assault on the Capitol or “in a smile and fleece vest,” a reference to Youngkin’s demeanor and his signature campaign apparel.
Again, Biden is innocent of sincerity. Youngkin, however, is guilty of politics practiced without gritted teeth or clenched fists. Nowadays this is eccentric, but potentially welcomed by many.