Conservative explains why Glenn Youngkin is hardly a 'profile in courage'

Conservative explains why Glenn Youngkin is hardly a 'profile in courage'
Glenn Youngkin in 2021, Wikimedia Commons

Some conservative pundits and admirers of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin have been exalting him as an example of life after Donald Trump for the Republican Party, noting that he managed to defeat a Democratic ex-governor, Terry McAuliffe, in a swing state where Democrats have been performing well in recent years. But Never Trump conservative Jim Swift, a senior editor at The Bulwark, doesn’t share their enthusiasm for Youngkin.

In an article published by The Bulwark on July 12, Swift is highly critical of Virginia’s Republican governor — painting him as a slick politician and an opportunist who is hardly a “profile in courage.”

“On ‘Face the Nation’ last weekend, interviewer Robert Costa described Youngkin as a ‘newcomer to politics,’” Swift observes. “For being a newcomer, the governor has demonstrated quite a proficiency with skills your average pol requires years to refine — hemming, hawing, and misdirecting, especially. He’s so convincing that some commentators — even a few in the Never Trump camp — have pushed him as a solution to Trumpism and drawn comparisons with Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Larry Hogan. They consider Youngkin to be the sort of candidate we should all hope to see more of in the post-Trump future. No.”

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Swift adds, “There are two points to make in response to this idea: First, his success isn’t repeatable. Second, the man has principles only when it’s convenient for him.”

Arguably, Virginia has become the best state for Democrats in the South. Once a deep red state, Virginia is now a swing state that has two Democratic U.S. senators (Mark Warner and Tim Kaine). And the last Republican to win Virginia in a presidential race was George W. Bush in 2004.

But in 2021, Youngkin managed to narrowly defeat his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, by downplaying his connection to former President Donald Trump and pretending to be a Mitt Romney type of conservative. Youngkin only won by about 2 percent, but even so, Democrats were disappointed to lose a gubernatorial race in a state where they had generally been performing well.

“Even if you sincerely believe Republicans need to run more candidates like Youngkin,” Swift argues, “his path to office is simply not one that can be replicated in other contests: The state party designed a Rube Goldberg party exercise to effectively coronate him while denying state senator and hardcore Trumpist Amanda Chase their nomination because they felt they couldn’t trust primary voters to pick someone who isn’t nuts. But after the convention, Youngkin had to court the voters the state party didn’t trust to choose him over the MAGA warrior, and this required him to play footsie with election truthers.”

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Swift continues, “This is the second reason no one should hope for more Youngkins in Republican primary contests going forward: He had trouble telling voters the simple truth that (President Joe) Biden won against Trump in 2020 and the election wasn’t stolen. Why have principles if you don’t intend to stick to them?”

Swift notes that during Youngkin’s “Face the Nation” appearance, Costa told him, “You have also said President Biden was legitimately elected. Former President Trump continues to falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen. Should he stop saying that?” And Youngkin, Swift observes, “refused to directly answer this question four times and eventually forced Costa to move on to other topics.”

“He knows that the first 2024 GOP presidential hopeful to tell Trump to cut it out will be kaput,” Swift writes. “Message discipline and cowardice can sometimes be hard to distinguish…. If the past is a reliable guide, Youngkin will eventually manage to utter the truth, but only when he feels it is safe to do so. A profile in courage he is not — and unfortunately, courage is just what’s needed when facing today’s MAGAfied GOP.”

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