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Young people turn against Critical Race Theory in Virginia

Gen Z icon? (Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

November 10, 2021 - 2:35pm

Glenn Youngkin’s stunning upset in the Virginia gubernatorial election could herald the dawn of a new political age in which the culture war against wokeness decides elections. 

In more refined terms, this represents a clash between two ideas — cultural liberalism and cultural socialism. Cultural liberalism is about free speech, due process, a colourblind approach to equal treatment, and a positive, if realistic, view of national history. Cultural socialism seeks to use culture to redistribute power and self-esteem. It involves restricting speech to protect the emotional safety of identity groups, trial by online moral jury, a colour-conscious approach to ensuring equal outcomes, and a ‘critical’ view of national history.

One can be a cultural liberal while cleaving to the political centre on many issues. Youngkin didn’t repudiate Trump, but he didn’t push a particularly populist slate of ideas either. In fact, as a polished, courteous investment banker and former CEO, Youngkin is more of a throwback to the Mitt Romney brand of Republicanism. Regardless, Youngkin locked up the votes of Trump’s white, rural, non-university educated base. In addition, he gained ground among groups that have recently drifted into the Democrat column: women, young people, Independents and voters in the Washington suburbs in northern Virginia.

Education is the battlefield upon which cultural socialism and cultural liberalism met in Virginia. In 2015, a presentation by the Virginia Department of Education instructed its public schools to ‘embrace Critical Race Theory’ and adopt cultural sensitivity toward African-Americans by not using school suspensions. ‘White supremacy’ and ‘education equity’ were among the many CRT buzzwords used in schools, with school board clashes breaking out in prosperous Loudoun County. The National School Boards Association penned a letter labelling parents ‘domestic terrorists’, prompting US Attorney General Merrick Garland to issue a memo calling for the FBI to investigate which he later walked back.

The net result is that education emerged as a major issue in the Virginia campaign. Youngkin’s attack ads showed a clip of his Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe saying ‘parents shouldn’t be telling schools what they should teach.’ Associating McAuliffe with the culturally socialist education establishment, and against parents, proved a winner with voters. 

Education (14%) was the top-ranked issue for voters after the economy (31%) and COVID (17%). Fully 35% of Youngkin voters said Critical Race Theory in education was the most important reason for their vote. Some of the largest swings to Youngkin occurred in wealthy suburban Democratic-leaning counties like Loudoun and Fairfax where high-profile clashes between educators and parents took place.

Survey experiments show messages to half of people taking a survey see whether those who read them respond differently from those who read nothing. Showing voters two messages about Critical Race Theory, one opposing it, the other claiming it to be a Right-wing invention, shifted young people toward Youngkin compared to young people that read nothing. The youngest (Gen-Z) voters moved 7 points while Millennials shifted 5. 

This predicted the actual exit polls, where the youngest (18-24) group, normally thought of as strongly Democratic, broke nearly even: 47% for Youngkin and 52% for McAuliffe. This placed them to the Right of both the 25-29’s and 30-39’s. These results also reflect new evidence that Gen-Z are more opposed than Millennials to Cancel Culture and Critical Race Theory while young Republican voters are more motivated by culture war issues than older Republicans.

On balance, it appears that the new culture war divides Democrats and unites Republicans, resulting in a net gain for the Right. The GOP will increasingly use woke overreach in institutions as a recruiting sergeant. If the Democrats fail to rein in their radicals, expect more Virginias. 

Eric Kaufmann is Professor of Politics at the University of Buckingham and author of Taboo: How Making Race Sacred Led to a Cultural Revolution (Forum Press, 4 July).


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J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

Not surprising. The Gen Z folks are young enough that they were exposed to full blown CRT in school. The Millenials got the more diluted form of political correctness. Encouraging to see that maybe kids are smart enough not to be brainwashed by this stuff.
I truly hope CRT becomes a wedge issue in the forthcoming elections. The progressive left have had it their way for so long now without much resistance from the silent majority. I’m still holding my breath to see if the Virginia upset translates to significant Democratic losses in the midterms. Fingers crossed.

James Stangl
James Stangl
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Agree. If anything gives me hope, it is that my Gen Z daughter and her peers will recoil from CRT and all the other illiberal and illogical forms of wokeism.
The Virginia results were more than just a rejection of CRT, though. Youngkin astutely spoke to parents (and I suspect, young people) across racial lines who WANT a role in their kids’ education, are concerned about the quality of education that their kids get, and want schools to foster excellence, not mediocrity. IF Republicans can focus on issues like that (and I never underestimate the ability of the GOP to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory), they’ll have a powerful weapon that cross a lot of lines.

William Hickey
William Hickey
2 years ago
Reply to  James Stangl

You also forgot the word white.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

My impression is that many students are totally exhausted by CRT. Except for the most fanatical, most professors at my college are starting to speak up about it. Unfortunately, the Democrat party refuses to see this and, from what I’ve read in the left-wing media, believe they lost Virginia because they weren’t radical enough. Apparently Youngkin’s victory was due to racist white suburban moms.

William Hickey
William Hickey
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Well, at least you mentioned the word white, but only in the words of white people’s critics The critics at least understand politics. You should learn from them, as they’ve been able to take a crazy, failed and unpopular viewpoint and win majorities with it, decade after decade.

William Hickey
William Hickey
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

You forgot the word white.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago

This is an immensely encouraging development; good sense naturally reasserting itself against hysteria and manipulation. It is also good to see “Liberalism” resuming its proper place as the most refined form of Conservativism – agreeing to reform, not standing still for the sake of it, but insisting on evidence, gradualism and a balanced view. As for socialism, it only makes any sense at all as a form of economic structuring, from which new forms of culture may or may not emerge. The furthest left of sensible would agree that unless these new forms emerge spontaneously one might as well stick with the forms we have. Anything beyond this is either nihilist or communist, a vicious attempt to manipulate society by reducing expression to a matter of centrally directed propaganda, relentless imposed upon a cowed populace by a ranting self-selected elite. As with all such situations, there is confusion as to whether this is intended to “reshape” the populace or merely to oppress it. Life cannot be carried on with any gaiety or gladness under puritan dispensations. It’s high time that we told the finger waggers where to stick their fingers.

William Hickey
William Hickey
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

You too forgot the word white.

This constitutes an incredible level of learned avoidance.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

Some quibbles: First, can we stop using the language of the extreme radical left–CRT, BLM, anti-fa? Let’s call CRT the institutional hatred of white people and the US. BLM is a self-described and proud Marxist organization, intent on destroying capitalism, the nuclear family, the US, white people. Anti-fa is, well….fascist. How about “fascist terrorists with weapons clad in black?”
I share little of the author’s optimism. Perhaps the most extreme truly lunatic fringe of the D’s left wing has been reigned in a bit (not in NJ, though, at least in the governor’s race [pay those taxes, NJ!]), but is this a victory? If the Ds get 85% of their woke, communist agenda through, let’s not pop the champagne because non-crazy people stopped the most extreme 15%. Or maybe it’s 10%. Or 5%.
With respect, I also disagree with the author’s invocation of Mitt Romney’s brand of Mitt Romney’s brand of conservatism. What brand is that: loser? Mittens is a pathetic, disgusting traitor. He refused to personally attack an extreme, filthy un-American rival because he’s too nice? Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight–isn’t that the American expression? And this traitor votes to remove–REMOVE a duly elected American president–over-riding the will of the people because….Trump is a vulgarian (true, but I sort of like it), and Mittens is too nice? Mittens knows best, as do all the “to the manor born” people. A disgusting traitor who should not be mentioned except in the context of Bernie and Nancy.
Footnote: Mittens and his team spent much energy making sure a documentary film about him and the presidential campaign never saw the light of day before the election. What a dummy! The film actually portrayed him in a very positive light, and was quite compelling and persuasive. This was before he became an active traitor.

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Romney couldn’t handle Candy Crowley in a debate let alone Obamus Optimus Maximus.

William Hickey
William Hickey
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

You’re getting there, James.

But left and right are outdated terms in the new world of multicultural America and the larger world with a rising tide of color. The real divide is white and non-white.

I know no one likes to think that, especially after all these years of ecumenical egalitarianism we’ve been conditioned by, but the statement has the benefit of being true.

White culture has minimal appeal for non-whites, except as a milk cow. They prefer their own ways.

For example, Winsome Sears got 19% of the black vote in VA. Like JJ Watts, Alan Keyes, Herman Cain, Ben Carson and Tim Scott, she brings nothing to the table except the ability to make soft-headed whites feel good about themselves.

Wake me up when a black conservative wins just 51% of the black vote in any city, district or state in America.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago

I have great hope that the overreach of the socialists will become their demise. My children’s children seem aware of and troubled by the barrage of the woke. But that isn’t uniform. Brave souls need to become more assertive in rejecting the socialists cancel demands.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

The French are a odd bunch, but their National Anthum is stirring: “La Marseillaise”
Allons enfants de la patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’étendard sanglant est levé ! (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes,
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes!

Verse 1:
Let’s go children of the fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us tyranny’s
Bl**dy flag is raised! (repeat)
In the countryside, do you hear
The roaring of these fierce soldiers?
They come right to our arms
To slit the throats of our sons, our friends! Refrain:
Aux armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons ! Marchons !
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

Grab your weapons, citizens!
Form your battalions!
Let us march! Let us march!
May impure blood
Water our fields!
Verse 2:
Que veut cette horde d’esclaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis)
Français ! pour nous, ah ! quel outrage !
Quels transports il doit exciter !
C’est nous qu’on ose méditer
De rendre à l’antique esclavage ! Verse 2:

This horde of slaves, traitors, plotting kings,
What do they want?
For whom these vile shackles,
These long-prepared irons? (repeat)
Frenchmen, for us, oh! what an insult!
What emotions that must excite!
It is us that they dare to consider
Returning to ancient slavery! Verse 3:
Quoi ! ces cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! (bis)
Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploiraient !
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres de nos destinées ! Verse 3:

What! These foreign troops
Would make laws in our home!
What! These mercenary phalanxes
Would bring down our proud warriors! (repeat)
Good Lord! By chained hands
Our brows would bend beneath the yoke!
Vile despots would become
The masters of our fate! Verse 4:
Tremblez, tyrans ! et vous, perfides,
L’opprobre de tous les partis,
Tremblez ! vos projets parricides
Vont enfin recevoir leur prix ! (bis)
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre,
S’ils tombent, nos jeunes héros,
La France en produit de nouveaux,
Contre vous tout prêts à se battre ! Verse 4:

Tremble, tyrants! and you, traitors,
The disgrace of all groups,
Tremble! Your parricidal plans
Will finally pay the price! (repeat)
Everyone is a soldier to fight you,
If they fall, our young heros,
France will make more,
Ready to battle you! Verse 5:
Français, en guerriers magnanimes,
Portez ou retenez vos coups !
Épargnez ces tristes victimes,
A regret s’armant contre nous. (bis)
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
Mais ces complices de Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,
Déchirent le sein de leur mère ! Verse 5:

Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors,
Bear or hold back your blows!
Spare these sad victims,
Regretfully arming against us. (repeat)
But not these bloodthirsty despots,
But not these accomplices of Bouillé,
All of these animals who, without pity,
Tear their mother’s breast to pieces! Verse 6:
Amour sacré de la patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs !
Liberté, Liberté chérie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs ! (bis)
Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents !
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire ! Verse 6:

Sacred love of France,
Lead, support our avenging arms!
Liberty, beloved Liberty,
Fight with your defenders! (repeat)
Under our flags, let victory
Hasten to your manly tones!
May your dying enemies
See your triumph and our glory! Verse 7:
Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n’y seront plus ;
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus. (bis)
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre ! Verse 7:

We will enter the pit
When our elders are no longer there;
There, we will find their dust
And the traces of their virtues. (repeat)
Much less eager to outlive them
Than to share their casket,
We will have the sublime pride
Of avenging them or following them!

Edith Piaf sings La Marseillaise https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FGkyWHWY24

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Blimey. Makes Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem feel positively progressive!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

awaiting for approval….. for the word Bl**dy it would seem…..so I post it again with the ** Play Piaf wile reading, come on youth, the barricades call……

Last edited 2 years ago by Galeti Tavas
William Hickey
William Hickey
2 years ago

This article reflects the conventional view, which today makes it deceptive. Allow me to present the real explanation of VA, 2021.


Republicans win when they energize their 95% white voting bloc; Democrats win when they successfully divide white voters and take a decent share of that bloc.

Democrats can always count on large majorities from all groups that resent or fear whites; and nothing that Republicans can say or do can gain them majorities of non-whites.

With whites the largest single voting bloc and the only swing voters, the bigger the majority of whites the GOP gains, the bigger their victory. Percentage-wise, low 50s and you lose; high 50s and you win; get into the 60s and you have a landslide.

The reason whites have been divided (swing voters) is because they have been the comfortable, prosperous majority in the US for a very long time. They could afford to be divided. They felt no threat from the minorities around them, so ethnic solidarity was unnecessary.

That is changing.

Not only did anti-white racism, also known as CRT, scare the suburban white mothers of VA about their children’s future, it also revealed the virulent hatred and resentment that non-whites and their fellow-travelers have toward white culture and white people by putting it in the words of school curricula. So they flocked to the GOP in greater numbers than last year.

And the increasing anti-CRT feelings of Gen X compared to Millennials is simply the younger cohort’s recognition of the jealous enemy they are confronting every day, in schools, in advertising and in media. facts that they, unlike previous generations of whites, can no longer shrug off or sugarcoat with pretty MLK fantasies.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  William Hickey

Astute, if depressing, comment