Can Education Flip States Red?
Education issues could be a new way that Republicans win even difficult races.
Education is rarely a battleground issue. Most campaigns revolve around the economy, national security or social issues like abortion and gun rights. But recently the issue of education has become more potent as a campaign theme. It also appears that the Republicans are the ones best placed to take advantage.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is extremely unpopular in schools. Conservatives pledging to ban it have been rewarded at the polls. Virginia was a deep blue state, carried by over 10 percentage points by Joe Biden in 2020, and had not been carried by Republicans since 2008. At state level, the Virginia Democrat Party boasted of having not lost a state wide election since 2009. But in 2021, the Republican Party seized on CRT in particular and parental control over the curriculum in general and gained hugely. Democrat Governor candidate Terry McAuliffe was leading in the polls by 3%, when on September 29th he bluntly said “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." Within one month, he was behind in the polls, and on election day, he lost by 2%, not even saved by the huge Democrat vote in Northern Virginia.
Education is clearly a winner for Republicans, and winning in a deep blue state is testimony to this. What further suggests it is a winning strategy, is the Democrat Party's obvious discomfort fighting on this territory. In January 2022, the Michigan Democrat Party was forced to delete a social media post that questioned why parents should be involved in school curriculums. The Michigan Democrats issued a sheepish clarification hours later. Just days later, the Wake County (NC) Democrat Party was also forced to delete a social media post linking parents with concerns about CRT to extremist groups. This too resulted in deletion and a vague statement about how important parents are. The Twitter account that made the post limited who could reply. But the damage in both cases was done. This seems to further prove the power of education as a political issue for the GOP, given the Democrats' obvious discomfort addressing the issue. In addition, the Republican Party in several states has tabled bills funding parental choice. This seems popular with parents and further builds up the Republicans on this issue.
Perhaps critically, education issues appeal to one of the most important voting blocs in America; suburban women with school-aged children. With the Democrats winning the inner cities and Republicans winning the rural areas, the suburbs have become the contested terrain. Until recently, Democrats had the edge with this group, but perhaps school issues may swing this. If Virginia is anything to go by, and the Democrats remain as uncomfortable on the issue as they seem to be, it is a rich campaign theme for the GOP.
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