Ian Prior: Virginia governor's race is a fight for the soul of America

The distinctive lines have been drawn – McAuliffe as political servant, Youngkin as public servant

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The race to be governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia is a fight for the soul of America and the result will shape our politics for years to come. At its core, this race is about which of the two candidates is listening to his potential constituency and giving them hope for their children.

The Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, spent his campaign listening to concerns of parents who watched schools remain closed during COVID, push sexualized and racially divisive material in classrooms and libraries, and fail to keep students safe from sexual assaults. 

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Youngkin’s rallies draw thousands, but he’s not bringing in big national names – he’s bringing in parents that have become heroes in their communities. Youngkin has recognized the growing parents’ revolution and is meeting the moment.

The Democratic Party candidate and former governor Terry McAulliffe is running a campaign that is attempting to nationalize the race. He campaigns with national star power from his party’s establishment. 

On education, McAuliffe has been clear that he believes that parents should have a minimal role in their children’s education, instead believing that powerful national unions and state bureaucracies should be calling the shots. 

The distinctive lines have been drawn – McAuliffe as political servant, Youngkin as public servant.

Nowhere has this crystalized more than in Loudoun County, a Virginia exurb just outside of Washington, D.C. Over the past 17 months, the nation has watched a burgeoning parents’ revolution over the direction of what had once been considered a model school system. 

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It began with schools remaining closed for most of 2020-21. It went to another level this past March when members of a private Facebook group plotted against parents and a teacher for speaking about their concerns at school board meetings. Members of that group included six school board members, the local prosecutor, and an elected government official who won a seat in 2019 after she rose to fame for giving the middle finger to former President Trump’s motorcade.

It continued this summer when a teacher was put on administrative leave for exercising his First Amendment rights at a school board meeting, later winning his case in court against the school board and successfully defending its frivolous appeal.

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Over the past month, however, the nation learned of two horrific events that proved what Loudoun County’s parents had been warning about – school officials were far more interested in political activism than they were with the core functions of school administrators – a high quality education in a safe environment. 

Specifically, on May 28th a freshman girl was sodomized against her will in a school bathroom. Yet, on June 22 the Superintendent of Loudoun County Public Schools told the public that there were no records of any sexual assaults in bathrooms. 

What was his motivation to lie? Politics. The truth would have derailed a controversial policy allowing students to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identified. 

Worse, neither the superintendent nor the school board took any action to keep the assailant out of school, instead transferring him to a different school where he allegedly committed another sexual assault. Loudoun County Public Schools denied that the school board members had specific details of the first assault – and one member denied any knowledge – but in fact the Superintendent emailed them about the assault on the day it happened.

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The two candidates have handled this, and the parents’ movement overall, very differently. Youngkin has been listening and advocating for parents throughout the campaign. After this latest incident, he mirrored rightfully outraged parents, calling for the superintendent and the school members board to resign and asked for an investigation by the Department of Justice and the Virginia Attorney General. 

Meanwhile, McAuliffe has spent his campaign falsely claiming that parents in Loudoun have been pushing conspiracy theories.  Appallingly, he has said nothing about the Loudoun cover-up, which should be a non-partisan issue that everyone should denounce. But even after these terrible incidents and a clear cover up, former President Obama campaigned for McAuliffe and accused parents of engaging in "phony, trumped-up culture wars."

The bigger picture of this election is one of heroism. Of rising to the moment to stand up for the people you will fight for in the governor’s mansion. For parents, they have put on a suit of armor, at great personal and professional cost, and have advocated for their children with a fire that will never extinguish. 

Youngkin has taken the mantle to stand up for those parents and has committed to raising the bar in education, keeping children safe at schools, and leaving political agendas out of the classroom and school board room.

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The question that will be answered on Election Day is which vision of Virginia will prevail. The McAulife vision that puts the power of education in the hands of unions, bureaucracies, and special interests, or Youngkin’s vision that empowers parents to have a seat at the table to collaborate on how their children are educated.

If it is the latter, Virginia will have been the spark that changed the soul of the nation away from government power and back towards the power of the people.

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