Perhaps the most useful 96 seconds in the post-Glenn Youngkin victory period you’ll spend, but let’s set the context up first. Before, during, and after Election Night, Democrats and the media insisted Republicans and Youngkin created a “dog whistle” campaign about critical race theory and education. Terry McAuliffe insisted on arguing simultaneously that Virginia schools didn’t teach CRT, and that parents who opposed the teaching of CRT were probably racists.
This argument leached into practically every media outlet’s news coverage on Tuesday night as an explainer for McAuliffe’s loss and the red wave in Virginia. MRC/Newsbusters has a sampling that’s MSNBC-heavy, but the CRT-doesn’t-exist argument got heavy rotation on every network except (presumably) Fox. The Washington Free Beacon has a video montage that captures the moment as well (via Power Line).
The New York Times has a follow-up today in the Republicans Pounce!® genre, which is a bit more subtle about the actual status of CRT influence on education:
Seizing on education as a newly potent wedge issue, Republicans have moved to galvanize crucial groups of voters around what the party calls “parental rights” issues in public schools, a hodgepodge of conservative causes ranging from eradicating mask mandates to demanding changes to the way children are taught about racism.
Yet it is the free-floating sense of rage from parents, many of whom felt abandoned by the government during the worst months of the pandemic, that arose from the off-year elections as one of the most powerful drivers for Republican candidates.
Across the country, Democrats lost significant ground in crucial suburban and exurban areas — the kinds of communities that are sought out for their well-funded public schools — that helped give the party control of Congress and the White House. In Virginia, where Republicans made schools central to their pitch, education rocketed to the top of voter concerns in the final weeks of the race, narrowly edging out the economy.
The message worked on two frequencies. Pushing a mantra of greater parental control, Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, stoked the resentment and fear of some white voters, who were alarmed by efforts to teach a more critical history of racism in America. He attacked critical race theory, a graduate school framework that has become a loose shorthand for a contentious debate on how to address race. And he released an ad that was a throwback to the days of banning books, highlighting objections by a white mother and her high-school-age son to “Beloved,” the canonical novel about slavery by the Black Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.
But at the same time, Mr. Youngkin and other Republicans tapped into broader dissatisfaction among moderate voters about teachers’ unions, unresponsive school boards, quarantine policies and the instruction parents saw firsthand during months of remote learning. In his stump speeches, Mr. Youngkin promised to never again close Virginia schools.
Note well that the NYT doesn’t float Youngkin’s argument as a lie or a falsehood. Ross Douthat’s column yesterday may be the reason for that, to which we’ll get in a moment. First, though, let’s hear from an actual school administrator, who explains that there is a campaign to lie about school curricula to parents — only it’s not coming from CRT critics. Tony Kinnett works as a school administrator in Indiana as well as conservative activist and commentator on education, and he translates how CRT gets baked into academic curricula as “anti-racism”.