A wake up call for Democrats

Opinions on the struggling Democratic party


The Democratic headquarters in Lexington has had signs up all fall. Photo by Lilah Kimble, ’23.

Will Pittman

This is a concerning moment in time for the Democratic Party.  

The early weeks of November saw Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin handily beat Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, a race that was predicted to be far closer than it turned out to be. In New Jersey, a state where Biden beat Trump by 16 points last November, Democrat Phil Murphy barely beat Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli, the race being so close as to warrant a recount. 

And even more stunning in New Jersey, in what was perhaps the biggest political upset the state has ever seen, Republican and former truck driver Edward Durr ousted Democratic lawmaker Stephen Sweeney in the election for state senator.  

If you are a Democrat, these events are unsettling to say the least. As Sweeney said about his election, “It was a red wave.” In states where Biden had success against Trump and won over Republicans, why can’t other Democrats?  

One of the main problems McAuliffe and other Democrats have and continue to have, a problem that has haunted the party for decades, is an inability to win the support of the white working class. 

Trump understood this, and no president in history has so finely catered his image to the liking of a certain group of people. The result for him? One of the biggest upsets in presidential history.  

It seems like there could be a pattern here. 

Biden made a fair effort to win over the white working-class, often going to cities in the Rust Belt and making promises to create jobs and bring economic prosperity to these people. 

I’m glad the Democrats learned that calling groups of people “deplorables” is not the way to win their vote. 

This “red wave” Sweeney mentions is a result of years of accumulated resentment towards the government and the elite: (oftentimes) Black beneficiaries of welfare and affirmative action, immigrants flooding into the country and taking jobs, and a government that redistributes your tax money to these people and forgets you in the whole process. 

The anger that stems from these situations may or may not be justified, but it is crucial to understand that these perceptions are some of the current perceptions of the white working-class, and history shows us that a party that fails to address and understand this can and will never be successful. 

One of the other problems for the Democratic Party can be analyzed through the words of Terry McAuliffe, words said in a debate with Youngkin Sept. 29 that very well may have lost him the election: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Youngkin pounced on this blunder by McAuliffe, garnering the support of suburban parents with growing concerns over what schools are teaching their children.  

Standing 6 feet and 7 inches tall and a former NCAA Division 1 basketball player, Youngkin looks like someone who could protect you. And that’s just what he sold himself as.  

To combat escalating rates of violence, Youngkin promised Virginians that with him as governor, all schools would be required to have a resource officer on the campus. (Social science shows us that the effectiveness of this in schools is, at best, inconclusive.) 

The infinitely harmful, liberal-progressive doctrine (joke) of Critical Race Theory and an attack on school curriculum such as Toni Morrison’s acclaimed book, “Beloved,” were the ammunition Glenn Youngkin used to effectively transform Virginia’s gubernatorial race into a culture war.  

The ”Great Protector” Glenn Youngkin painted McAullife as someone who didn’t care about parents, or at least someone who didn’t think parents should be able to challenge what their kids are learning in school.  

This race was a microcosm of the culture war that has divided the country into two ideologies. If you aren’t against Critical Race Theory, you are for it. Ruining the country vs. preserving it. Us vs. you.  

Trump was a master at using us vs. them language to create common enemies and scapegoats, and it seems to have become a standard political tactic by GOP candidates.  

And a winning tactic at that.  

Herein lies the other obstacle for the Democratic Party.  

What the solutions are, I am not sure, but it is certain that Democrats have to find some sort of way to appeal to groups of people who have grown increasingly disillusioned with the party, while also not letting elections turn into a culture war in which they are on the losing side.  

And amidst the failures and defeats that make up the Democratic Party right now, a shark circles below the sinking ship, ready to strike. 

The 2024 election could very well see Donald Trump running again as the Republican candidate, and his reelection is starting to seem more and more possible.  

If the Democratic Party doesn’t have a serious readjustment, and soon, I have no doubt that will become a reality.