The Lessons of Glenn Youngkin

The "Good Republicans" are ready to rock!

Thursday Night Bulwark was weirdly optimistic last night. Probably because I wasn’t on the show. If you missed it, you can watch the rewind here or listen to the podcast version here.

1. The Lessons of Virginia

The Big Brains at Cook have moved the Virginia governor’s race from leans-D to toss-up, which is a thing I’ve been bleating on about for several weeks here.

So let’s start trying to understand the lessons that “Good Republicans” are going to take from the race if Glenn Youngkin wins.

(1) You Must Deny Biden’s 2020 Win: Here are some things that are true:

  • Youngkin could not have won the primary had he acknowledged that Trump was lying about 2020.

  • Even with his pussy-footing on the Big Lie, Youngkin needed the state Republican party to rig the process to keep most rank-and-file R’s from voting for the real MAGA candidate.

  • It’s not clear that Youngkin is paying any price with swing voters for going along with the Big Lie.

  • There are asymmetrical incentives for Republicans: Deny Trump and you will be punished by the base, because they see Trump as the past, present, and future. But indulge Trump and the median voter doesn’t really care, because they only regard Trump as the past.

(2) The Party Elites Don’t Actually Like Trump: The Virginia GOP put its finger on the scale for Youngkin for two reasons.

  • He has money.

  • He doesn’t actually believe any of the MAGA stuff.

In deep red states, that’s not going to fly. And the turnover in elite GOP circles is ongoing. At some point in the medium future, most Republican elites will be true believers. But for now, the McConnell wing of the party still has a little bit of juice left.

(3) There Is a Post-Trump Republican Future: Write this down:

If Youngkin wins, conservatives will claim that this is the path to a post-Trump future for the party.

As it happens, I think this lesson is incorrect. But it’s what the Good Republicans will tell themselves to keep them from doing serious introspection and making any hard choices.

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