'An absolute frenzy': Columnist explains how the GOP is using a Virginia race to road-test ‘fake outrage’

'An absolute frenzy': Columnist explains how the GOP is using a Virginia race to road-test ‘fake outrage’

In Virginia's 2021 gubernatorial race — which will be decided on Tuesday, November 2 — Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin has been aggressively campaigning against "critical race theory." And it may be working: recent polls have found Youngkin and Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor, in a dead heat. Washington Post opinion writer Paul Waldman, this week in his column, points to Youngkin's anti-CRT fear-mongering as an example of Republicans getting "their groove back" after losing the White House and the U.S. Senate — and they're doing so, he stresses, by creating hysteria over "fake issues."

"The GOP is still, in many ways, a chaotic mess, but Republicans are demonstrating their mastery of opposition politics," Waldman explains. "They're like an experienced team of technicians deftly using their finely honed tools to mix ingredients and produce a chemical reaction. What they're manufacturing happens to be a cloud of poison, but boy, do these folks know what they're doing."

Youngkin, Waldman observes, is "manufacturing" a crisis where one doesn't exist. There are no public high schools or middle schools in Virginia that actually teach critical race theory, a field of academic study that can be found on some college campuses. But Youngkin, according to Waldman, is resorting to something that Republicans are very good at: "fake outrage."

"Throughout the conservative world," Waldman observes, "the issue of 'education' — i.e., the rage of conservative parents over the idea that their children might be taught that racism is something more than a 19th-century curiosity — has consumed the right…. This is happening while Glenn Youngkin, the party's candidate for governor in Virginia, has decided to center his campaign on the supposed threat of critical race theory. The closeness of that race has convinced everyone on the right that this issue will be extremely profitable for them, paying untold dividends in rage and resentment, the fuel that powers their movement."

If Youngkin wins on November 2, he will do so in a state that President Joe Biden won by 10% in 2020 —a state that has two Democratic U.S. senators (Tim Kaine and Mark Warner), a Democratic governor (Ralph Northam) and a Democrat-controlled state legislature. And Republicans will view Youngkin's focus on CRT as a major success in what has arguably become the most Democrat-friendly southern state in the U.S.

But whether they're obsessing over CRT or something else, Waldman emphasizes, Republicans are experts at firing up their base with "fake outrage" over "fake issues."

"Their propaganda system is both agile and mature, so that as soon as they find an issue that appears to induce the proper anger among their base, they can find ways to whip it into an absolute frenzy," Waldman says of Republicans. "At some point, they'll decide that this has run its course, and they'll find something else to pretend to be mad about. If you watch Fox (News) for a day, you'll see a dozen fake issues being road-tested to see what might catch on. But one thing is clear: Republicans are back in their comfort zone."

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