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November Gubernatorial Elections

In the wake of the November gubernatorial elections, the analysis has flowed heavy and swift. Many who are much savvier than I have already spoken to the lessons learned, the causes, the potential effects, and the early indicators for the next slate of campaigns. While many of these thoughts are very much true, there is a larger movement happening, which is being overshadowed by the immediate outcomes.  

These elections don’t just serve as a gauge of the nation’s political leanings as we launch into next year’s midterms. They show us something truer, deeper, and more lasting. They show us that even after a few particularly politically divisive years, at the end of the day, a common-sense agenda based on educational and economic opportunity can still prevail over culture wars. 

In the Virginia gubernatorial race, for example, we saw traditional kitchen table issues trump the D.C. narrative, which is becoming increasingly more important to voters. Terry McAuliffe leaned heavily on national messaging, largely reminiscent of the negative contrasts employed during the 2020 presidential election. The campaign focused more on drawing on hate on the other party than it did on what real changes will happen upon their victory. Glenn Youngkin’s message, on the other hand, centered largely on middle-of-the-road issues, which both political parties have often attempted to own for themselves. His voters and supporters were in search of a full and balanced education for their kids, a strong and stable economy, safe communities, and protections for their individual freedoms and choices. Rather than pushing trending topics and federal issues, Youngkin discussed problems that every Virginian family was dealing with, reinforcing his platform and campaign as the solution.  

In other words, Youngkin’s priorities were refreshingly… normal. While McAuliffe’s campaign leaned into the national division that hyper-partisan and ultra-politically involved groups have capitalized upon for years, Youngkin’s team tapped into something more basic, but perhaps far more powerful: voters’ continued pursuit of their own version of the American Dream.  

Americans want to work hard and pursue our goals—it’s in our blood. Americans do not want the government to solve all their problems, they just want the opportunity to be able to do so. 

They want to be able to afford to put food on their table, and buy a Christmas tree, and gather with their families. They do not want high gas prices, they do not want to pay more for their Thanksgiving dinners, and they do not want to have to tell their families that the holidays are going to look different this year (again). Americans are tired of the hyper-partisan fighting and blaming the other side of the aisle, they want solutions. This race proved that.  

So, too, Americans from small towns and mid-size cities all across the country showed up to their city and school elections, often at higher rates than ever before. From Colorado to Connecticut and Minnesota to Texas, observers saw a steep increase in political spending – and participation – in school board races in particular. The results were mixed in terms of partisanship, but one message was clear: parents want to have a say in their child’s classroom, and they’re willing to show up to make sure their voices are heard. Folks are paying attention to what affects their, and their children’s, everyday life. The tale-as-old-as-time was shown to be as true now as ever: all politics are local.  

This is, undoubtedly, a look into the next election cycle; but more importantly, it is an indication of where America stands. I hope to see politicians focusing on how to push America to a place of acceptance, rather than hatred. America needs to once again become a place of hard work and dedication toward achieving your dream, whatever it may be.  

By The Honorable Mike Rogers, LEAD Founder and Former U.S. Representative and Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence