Here's hoping Democrats listen to Wajahat Ali

AP Photo/Steve Helber, File

Wajahat Ali is a progressive writer at the Daily Beast whose beat is calling other people racists. Ali was really working overtime last night in the wake of the election results out of Virginia.

He keeps repeating pretty much the same thing over and over. Fake bogeyman fear-mongering monsters!

But ultimately, it all fits into his master narrative (pun intended):

Many people pointed out that the Lt. Gov. who the same voters just elected is black. Ali had a snappy comeback for that too.

He explained that Winsome Sears is effectively a racist:

Anyway, he has a whole column up today making these same arguments at length. Here’s a sample.

As a student of American history and a person of color, I never underestimate the white, hot rage, anxiety, and resentment of a Karen scorned. You might think you’ve won them over with Beyonce, Oprah, chai latte, and henna, but the cult of Karen will always turn on people of color on a dime to uphold oppressive systems that ensure they remain influential and powerful handmaidens of white supremacy…

The sad truth is that a majority of white women have voted for Republican candidates since 1952, every single time except for Lyndon B. Johnson and for Clinton’s second term.

It makes sense. They vote for their interests, which is preserving whiteness at all costs. When push comes to shove, many white women in this country have historically shoved people of color out of the way.

All I can say is I hope Democrats embrace Ali and his advice in a big bear hug because if they do, the GOP will have many more election nights like last night. The alternative, which Ali’s worldview can’t even see as a possibility, is that people voted for GOP candidates for a number of reasons that make sense if you can stop your knee-jerk reaction of calling them racist for a few seconds to consider them. Over at the Atlantic Yascha Mounk has a good piece titled, “You Can’t Win Elections by Telling Voters Their Concerns Are Imaginary.”

If cable-news analysts and newspaper columnists are to be believed, Youngkin, an extremist posing in the garb of a suburban dad, was able to incite “white backlash” by exploiting “fake” and “imaginary” fears about the teaching of “critical race theory” in public schools….

In this analysis, the opposition to critical race theory is nothing more than a racist dog whistle. Supposed concerns about it aren’t just lies; they are an exercise in “race-baiting.” The real goal of Republicans like Youngkin is, simply, to prevent any discussion of the history of slavery or even to perpetuate “white supremacy.”

The idea that critical race theory is an academic concept that is taught only at colleges or law schools might be technically accurate, but the reality on the ground is a good deal more complicated. Few middle or high schoolers are poring over academic articles written by Richard Delgado or Kimberlé Crenshaw. But across the nation, many teachers have, over the past years, begun to adopt a pedagogical program that owes its inspiration to ideas that are very fashionable on the academic left, and that go well beyond telling students about America’s copious historical sins.

In some elementary and middle schools, students are now being asked to place themselves on a scale of privilege based on such attributes as their skin color. History lessons in some high schools teach that racism is not just a persistent reality but the defining feature of America. And some school systems have even embraced ideas that spread pernicious prejudices about nonwhite people, as when a presentation to principals of New York City public schools denounced virtues such as “perfectionism” or the “worship of the written word” as elements of “white-supremacy culture.”

Effective opponents of these developments, such as Youngkin, explicitly acknowledge the importance of teaching students about the history of slavery and even the injustices that many minority groups continue to face today. They do not pretend that grade schoolers are reading academic articles. Instead, they focus the ire of many parents on curricular content that can fairly be described as popularized, less sophisticated cousins of critical race theory.

He’s exactly right. People shrugging off CRT as the equivalent of unicorns and bigfoot (and there really are a lot of people on the left doing this today) are intentionally ignoring the fact that some CRT inspired ideas are making it into schools that goes well beyond teaching about the history of slavery or the Tulsa massacre. Indeed, teaching on those topics was explicitly ruled in by some of the anti-CRT laws passed around the county.

As Zachary Carter points out in a separate piece for the Atlantic, parents had other reasons to be angry with school boards and teacher’s unions before anyone was talking about CRT.

COVID-19 has been terrible for everyone, and it has been especially hard on parents. Unpredictable school closures didn’t just screw up parents’ work schedules; they drove millions of parents, including 3 million women, out of the workforce altogether. Remote learning doesn’t work well for most kids and has been accompanied by rising levels of depression and anxiety among students. From April to October last year, the nationwide share of doctor visits that were related to mental health spiked 24 percent for kids ages 5 to 11, and 31 percent for kids ages 12 to 17. Existing disparities in learning got worse, with the biggest hits coming to kids with disabilities, kids from low-income families, and kids from Black and Latino families—all demographics that Democrats expect to do well with at the ballot box.

Most students in Northern Virginia public schools went almost a full year without in-person schooling, and both teachers and teachers’ unions pretty consistently supported keeping the schools closed in the name of public health. Whether these decisions were ultimately reasonable is hard to measure—but the governor was largely absent on school policy at a time when a lot of parents were really angry.

I think it’s likely that concern over curriculums wouldn’t have gotten nearly the traction it has if not for the fact that parents were already upset with school districts and teacher’s unions. I’ve pointed this out before but the people leading the campaign to recall three very woke school board members in San Francisco aren’t conservatives. They are a multi-cultural mix of liberals who became increasingly angry with the school board messing around with renaming schools instead of getting schools reopened. Even the Democratic mayor of the city criticized them on that basis.

Simply put, Democrats have outsized control of schools in many parts of the country thanks to teacher’s unions. Last year they really pissed off a lot of parents who were suddenly no longer just dropping kids off and not thinking much about schools. Instead, parents themselves forced to engage with schools and school boards because their kids were stuck at home and often struggling. And once people are annoyed and engaged they are also primed for an argument that some of the new priorities coming down the pike are not good.

None of that fits with Wajahat Ali’s one-note explanation of last night’s results. So Democrats effectively have a choice to make. They can ignore all of the bad will their smug unions and their far left activists have generated around education over the past year. That’s the Ali approach, an approach in which only one explanation fits and therefore the only thing to do is put the racist Karens on blast. The other option, the smarter option, is to admit most of the Virginians who handed the GOP a victory last night aren’t suddenly racists but are genuinely irritated at how things have been going.

Personally, I hope they stick with Ali and the Squad and the NEA because it almost guarantees a big night for Republicans one year from now.