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Editor’s NotebookEditor's Notebook: Channeling his inner John Major ...

Editor’s Notebook: Channeling his inner John Major …

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It took a while, but I’ve finally figured out who Glenn Youngkin’s political spiritual guiding light was. Whether Youngkin is aware of it or not, it is former British Prime Minister John Major.

Think about it: Back in the early 1990s, after having succeeded Margaret Thatcher after she was ousted by some in her own party, Major and the Conservatives were given no chance of winning the parliamentary elections against Neil Kinnock and the Labour Party. Yet win it, Conservatives did.

How? Not by sartorial splendor, certainly; while the early 1990s weren’t as bad as the 1970s in terms of clothing, look at the eyeglasses on people, Major included. Yuuuuuuge, as the Don-Don might say. You could see the other side of the universe with those things.

Nope, Major won it for his team by being low-key, focused and generally liked by the public. Meanwhile, poor Kinnock (who had previously lost to Thatcher a few years before) was acting like he was a sure bet, even though his party was still seen by voters as having veered too far left in preceding years. Kinnock may have been a relatively moderate, but he couldn’t escape the public’s disdain for the wackier elements in his party.


Sound familiar?

Major impressed the electorate, who perceived him as being competent (if colorless) without being threatening to their existing way of life.

Sound familiar?

Labour in 1992 lost its fourth straight national election going back to 1979, Kinnock was kicked to the curb as leader, and middle-of-the-road elements in the party worked to further purge the far-left remnants. In 1997, the long-out-of-power party would come roaring back with centrist Tony Blair at the helm, holding power for more than a decade.

Will Democrats of 2021 here take the hint?

THE GHOST OF 2013 HUNG OVER 2021: Don’t think I have ever told this story, but it does have some bearing on how things played out in the gubernatorial race.

Back eight years ago, when Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe were running for governor, the Sun Gazette was part of a larger media group that also included outlets in Loudoun and Prince William counties. Which meant that, except for Alexandria and teensy Falls Church, we spanned all of Northern Virginia.

The person running the company at the time loved to have roundtables where politicians came in and fielded questions from reporters. Being old and cranky even then, I would always lob curmudgeonly, pointed barbs, which I’m sure the pre-pubescent reporters from other parts of the empire found terribly gauche.

So invitations were sent out to both Cuccinelli and McAuliffe. Cuccinelli accepted and sat for the ordeal; McAuliffe either declined or, through his staff, never found a convenient time to do it. Perhaps they thought they were too big-time for a community-news organization.

Flash forward to the weeks right before the election. I had written up a Sun Gazette endorsement of McAuliffe (being perhaps the lesser of two evils on the ballot) and sent it up the food chain, as the poobahs liked to look them over. Sometimes they came back unchanged, sometimes with minor changes. It was kind of like having Bob Ross, the paint-trees guy on PBS, offering suggestions to Michelangelo, but had to be endured.

This time, however, there was an edict that we would not be endorsing McAuliffe, because he never found the time to sit down for a Q&A. OK, I replied (thinking it all rather petulant), but we weren’t going to endorse Ken Cuccinelli in Arlington and northern Fairfax County. So there was no endorsement that year.

McAuliffe won that race, but by a much closer margin than expected. And while not getting the endorsement from Ye Olde Sun Gazette hardly impacted the final result, the too-close-for-comfort result seems to have been caused by a thousand little political paper cuts, like dissing a local news group.

One wonders if the McAuliffe team learned anything between 2013 and 2021, because this time around, the Youngkin people were heavy on outreach to us, while the McAuliffe people far less so.

This time, perhaps, the thousand little political paper cuts added up to a defeat for McAuliffe in a campaign that was plagued by his self-inflicted wounds.

  • Scott McCaffrey

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