Virginia Gubernatorial Election: Youngkin’s Win Proves that Voters Are Ready to Move on from Trump

Zach DelGaizo ’25

Contributing Writer

On Nov. 2, I went back to my hometown for a few hours to do as millions of other Americans have done year after year: cast a ballot. To answer the inevitable question before it is asked, I’ll just say it now: I split my ballot. I split my ballot because, in my view, I’m not just voting for a party, but for people. More than that, when people, including me, vote, they are taking part in a referendum on their futures. The triumph of a ballot measure or of some candidate over another has an immeasurable impact on the shape and form that future will assume. I split my ballot, then, because the future I champion is a future which consists of two crucial elements: consensus and momentum. These, I feel, could only find their way into a government consisting of individuals who put their polity above their party loyalty. 

Now, I’m not from Virginia, the Old Dominion State, and I don’t claim to have some special connection to it. I’m a son of Connecticut, and I always will be. Yet, in the frenetic excitement of election day, my mind wandered to Virginia. There, Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe were facing off in what was perhaps the most energetic gubernatorial race in recent memory. As Youngkin often pointed out on the campaign trail, the contest had attracted the attention of the entire nation. Ironically though, most people outside of Virginia don’t know too much about the two men. Perhaps this was the case even in Virginia, but, if so, one is led to suspect that voters knew less about their former governor, McAuliffe, than about the first-time candidate Youngkin. This, on the surface, seems paradoxical. Even last year, I was definitely aware of McAuliffe, but I certainly had no clue who Youngkin was. The whole matter only makes sense when one pauses and considers another apparent paradox: McAuliffe ran on the past, while Youngkin ran on the future.  

When I speak of McAuliffe running on the past, I don’t mean to say he’s an archconservative. He’s a Clinton-style New Democrat with a progressive streak. No, McAuliffe ran on the past by, in a way, not bothering to run against Youngkin at all. Instead, he ran against Donald Trump. Youngkin is, certifiably, not Trump. They are two different people with different ideas, but McAuliffe insisted on bringing the former president up throughout the campaign, even going so far as to falsely claim that Youngkin was out campaigning with the former president. Far from campaigning with Trump, Youngkin was more or less ignoring him. Sure, he got an endorsement from the wannabe-kingmaker, but he wasn’t prone to touting it. He hardly even mentioned his name in stump speeches. He was too busy presenting his vision for a new day in Virginia, and, in some ways, though never admitting as much, visions for a post-Trump GOP and post-Trump America. If elections are referendums on the shape of the future, then Virginia voters had to make the decision between two drastically different visions of those shapes. In McAuliffe’s vision, the future is defined by ceaseless re-litigation of the darkest of hours which history will record as the Trump Era, thus extending the great political stagnation in which the nation has been mired since the 1960s. Meanwhile in a Youngkinite future, Virginia and the nation move on from Trump, and while some of elements of that era persist, the underlying theme is one of momentous hope, rekindled prosperity, and, most importantly, a future not shackled by the chains of the past. To me and the people of Virginia, it seems, the choice is clear. 

Youngkin winning means something. It is not just a victory against Democrats, but a victory, in many ways, against the looming specter of Donald Trump. Youngkin won without him. Trump will undoubtedly try to claim credit, as he always does, but Youngkin has shown that the American people are ready to move on from Trump. People are sick and tired of debating his legacy, and when we elected Joe Biden, we were trying to send a message that we wanted to turn the page. That hasn’t happened, and for the past year the government has been weighed down by Trump-fueled spats. The silent majority of Americans don’t care anymore. We just want to move on with our lives and start addressing the real problems of the 21st century. As I write this, a report has been released to the public that the Chinese Communists are seeking to obtain 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030. Meanwhile, the American government has turned itself into a bad sitcom. The election in Virginia was McAuliffe’s to lose, and his refusal to promise a new chapter caused him to do just that. 

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