Issues & Insights
Republican Glenn Youngkin, who won Virginia's governor race on Tuesday over heavily favored Terry McAuliffe. Source: Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license (

2021’s Big Election Lesson: ‘It’s The Culture, Stupid’

By any reasonable measure, Tuesday’s off-year elections around the country were a sweeping repudiation of the Democratic Party, as the defeat of Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe by virtually unknown Republican Glenn Youngkin shows. The donkey party’s extreme-left vision for America has suffered what could be a fatal blow, but only if the GOP is smart enough to take advantage of this great opportunity.

A quick look around the country on Wednesday morning led to an inescapable conclusion: Average Americans are fed up with the Democrats’ woke agenda and are eager to escape it.

After four years of Donald Trump, Americans in 2020 handed the reins of national government over to the Joe Biden Democrats. And what do they have to show for it?

Rising inflation, an unprecedented flood of 1.5 million illegal immigrants, radically politicized public education, soaring crime rates, the loss of our hard-won national energy independence, totalitarian federal government targeting concerned parents as possible “domestic terrorists,” the disastrous pullout from Afghanistan that left hundreds of Americans stranded, among many other things.

Headlines since the elections around the nation show just how badly the Dems fared:

We could go on, but you get the idea. Democrats did worse than expected across the country, while Republicans did better.

How did this happen? As the saying goes, a fish rots from the head down.

A recent poll shows 71% of Americans think the country is going in the “wrong direction” under Biden, while 54% “disapprove” of his performance. Meanwhile, a recent I&I/TIPP Poll showed that if a presidential election were held today, Biden and Trump would be in a dead heat, with Trump leading Biden in three of four major U.S. regions.

Biden has become one of the most unpopular presidents in recent history, a deadweight on his party’s chances.

But it isn’t just Biden and his awful policies that hurt Democrats.

No, of equal or greater importance was something Republicans usually think of as their weakness but now could be their strength: our common culture.

It’s often said that the Democrats and their sympathetic far-left allies occupy the commanding heights of American culture. They dominate academia, Hollywood, publishing, social media, journalism, music, visual arts, museums and philanthropic organizations. Even sports today is woke. The MLB, NBA and NFL all toe the Democrats’ woke line.

The Republican Party has long largely shrugged at the leftist titans of culture who determine what’s cool and hip, what words are permissible, what we watch and read online, and who gets jobs and influence in the cultural realm.

Tragically, the cultural elites have shaped the moral contours of our national discourse. They begin by ridiculing religion, ignoring conventional American morality and savaging our history, and end by ignoring common sense. They chill dissent by calling any who disagree “fascists” and “racists,” among other far worse things.

Yet, thanks in large part to the parents’ revolt against the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Virginia and elsewhere, which severely damaged Democratic candidates, the GOP may have rediscovered the potency of culture.

Instead of talking like wonkish accountants, Republicans actually began talking about things that matter to average Americans, independents and even some Democrats.

Those “things that matter” include America’s traditional culture of openness, free speech, religious tolerance, merit-based advancement and equality of treatment under the law, as opposed to the Marxist-inspired class warfare, racial division, and hatred for America’s past espoused by the now-mostly socialist Democratic Party.

We’ve heard for years now that “It’s the economy, stupid,” which is no doubt true in part. But, as it turns out, you might also add “It’s the culture, stupid,” to the political mix.

Americans care desperately about the kind of people they are, about how they treat others, how their kids learn, their ability to worship and freely associate with those they choose, and get ahead in life by hard work and talent.

Those are all elements of our national culture that have been systematically attacked by the organized left and its political arm, the Democrats.

“From the West Wing to the west coast, the Democrat Party has devolved into a clear and present danger to this republic,” columnist Deroy Murdock wrote this week. “It is virtually impossible to identify a realm in which Democrats are wreaking anything but havoc, division, and devastation.”

True enough. It’s not simply about “policies.” They’ve taken a wrecking ball to our national political and social culture, part of the ongoing culture war meant to disorient, demoralize and distract average Americans.

If Republicans are serious about winning in 2022 and restoring America to its former glory, they should know it starts and ends with culture, the very definition of who we are as Americans.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • Correction: “After four years of Donald Trump, the Joe Biden Democrats in 2020 STOLE the reins of national government.”

  • America didn’t “turn over the reins…”, the election was stolen. Then covered up. Now they get their comeuppance.

  • Bigger gains? Not unless there is solid election integrity in every state. the commie dems will think of even more ways to sabotage the elections by 2022. And the RINOS will be gloating and miss the boat once again.

  • The past is often prologue to the future in politics and that is why Democrats, stung by losses in Virginia and unexpectedly close calls elsewhere, are scrambling. But instead of a clear-eyed understanding about what has gone wrong so quickly on the road to Nirvana, the party’s potentates and their media acolytes have engaged in magical thinking, as if we hoi polloi cannot focus on what our eyes and ears register. Thus, Democratic prestidigitators tell us that we are racists, the go-to explanation for every Democrat who loses, even though the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Virginia introduced racism when he decried that there are too many white teachers in his state’s public schools and then stated that parents should not question school authorities about educational priorities. If that does not unnerve attentive independent voters, I don’t know what could. The continued bad-mouthing of Sens. Sinema and Manchin about the Biden Build Back Better program is another stumbling block for the attentive voter, but incredible hubris keeps Democratic royalty in thrall to this failing dream as it becomes a nightmare.

  • ‘but only if the GOP is smart enough to take advantage of this great opportunity.” ‘Nuf said, am I the only one suffering profound depression here?

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