By José Niño*
In the aftermath of the Virginia gubernatorial elections, armchair pundits are still offering their spin on the upset that Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin pulled off against former governor Terry McAuliffe. While there’s a lot of talk about the results of this election being a referendum on the Biden administration’s plummeting approval rate and mishandling of the economy, education is one local contributing factor behind Republicans’ strong performance in the Old Dominion that cannot be overlooked.
After all, off-year elections at the state levels tend to be somewhat insulated from DC happenings. By default, local issues take precedence over DC topics du jour. According to exit polls, education figured prominently among issues that brought Virginians to the polls. Exit poll data from the Washington Post showed that education was among the top three issues that concerned Virginian voters.
While the instruction of key concepts of critical race theory was a major factor (and will continue to be so) in motivating Virginians to vote against the Left, other permutations of leftist indoctrination and social experiments germinating inside of public schools provoked a strong response from disaffected voters in Virginia.
After government-sponsored lockdown measures compelled many students to take their classes online, parents now had the chance to look over their children’s shoulders and find out what they were being taught. Parents who casually dumped their children off at glorified taxpayer-funded daycare centers received a rude wake-up call once they grasped the level of indoctrination their children were being subjected to. Some parents were so impacted by what they learned that they ended up rushing to their local school board meetings and gave education functionaries a piece of their mind.
It also didn’t help that throughout the campaign trail Terry McAuliffe did everything possible to position himself as the candidate of the education establishment.
McAuliffe outdid himself by declaring that parents had no right to tell schools what to teach. To cap it all off, McAuliffe held a campaign rally with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, right before election time. Weingarten heads the largest teacher union in the nation and was one of the most enthusiastic boosters of covid-19 lockdowns.
To say that McAuliffe’s campaign was oozing with elitism would be an understatement. Regardless of how one felt about Republicans, the moralizing of the promask, prolockdown crowd and the aloofness of the edu-cracy throughout the pandemic was an insufferable maelstrom of elitism that had to go down at the polls.
One of the key lessons from the Virginia elections is that paying attention to local issues is of the utmost importance for any meaningful change to occur in politics. People tuning in to their local affairs is superior to having one’s eyes glued to federal politics and futilely pulling the lever for politicians who do scant little to roll back the state’s encroachments on people’s daily lives.
Altogether, the Virginia race is not about Youngkin but the grassroots discontent that got him elected. In fact, Youngkin has all of the trappings of a conventional Republican who’ll regurgitate bland talking points about conservative values and enact some marginal tax cuts here and there. Nothing special when it comes to making transformational reforms that put the administrative state on a diet.
Nevertheless, there are silver linings that can be found. What’s on display in Virginia is a generalized discontent toward institutions that have been traditionally treated as normal fixtures of American politics. People who were previously intoxicated by propaganda about government schools serving as institutions that educated and civilized the masses are now sobering up to the realities of government schooling. Now it’s dawning upon many bewildered parents that government schools function as indoctrination centers and are increasingly turning into dangerous social experiments.
From a big picture perspective, there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic about the prospects of education reform. Over the past two decades, homeschooling has been on the rise. According to a Yahoo! News report released at the end of August, 11 percent of US households are now homeschooling. Overall, that means 5 million children are no longer under the thumbs of indoctrination agents cosplaying as educators.
Contrast this to 1999, when the percentage of students being homeschooled stood at around 1.7 percent. In that year, there were 850,000 school-aged children being homeschooled according to numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Perhaps under Youngkin’s watch government will not move much in terms of education freedom. After all, history has repeatedly shown, at least at the federal level, that the Republican Party is not a vehicle for the structural reforms Americans need in order to live free from the grasp of the managerial state. But one positive takeaway from this election cycle is the burgeoning local engagement across Virginia, and nationwide, for that matter. A redirection of energy from federal activism to state and local activism is a good first step toward building movements that will hack away at the state’s myriad tentacles of power.
Undoubtedly, winning on the education front would yield massive results for liberty, as it would deprive petty despots of the opportunity to poison millions of malleable minds with pro-state propaganda. A significant reason why statism is so embedded in the psyche of so many Americans is the state’s ability to throw countless youth on the indoctrination conveyor belt and endlessly churn out pro-state zealots.
If there’s one political fight worth seeing through, it’s the crusade against government schooling. Defeating edu-crats once and for all would be one of the most effective ways to put the administrative state on a diet.
Source: This article was published by the MISES Institute