There is no consensus around the extent to which a backlash against the left’s all-consuming fixation with racial power dynamics in America contributed to Democratic defeats at the polls on Tuesday. Some believe it mattered quite a bit. Anti-critical race theory messaging featured prominently in many Republican candidates’ stump speeches, and hostility toward race-conscious curricula in schools mobilized the parental vote. Others think it played a supporting role while pocketbook issues, such as the rising cost of consumer goods, and the seeming permanence of the pandemic were more relevant to most voters. Who knows?

If Democrats aren’t careful, however, they might retroactively condition the public to believe that race featured most prominently in the 2021 elections. In their efforts to salve the wounds voters meted out on Tuesday, progressives are busily branding these election results a manifestation of America’s latent racism. In the process, they’re writing a narrative about this election cycle that will only reinforce their psychological alienation from the voting public and accelerate the Democratic Party’s retreat into the wilderness.

Why did Glenn Youngkin win the governorship of Virginia? To hear the New York Times tell it, the Republican owes his victory to many factors. The more legitimate among them, the story goes, are overshadowed by nefarious efforts to balkanize the electorate. He “appealed to Asian parents” who fear that progressive efforts to reduce the Asian-American talent pool in colleges and advanced placement programs will rob their children of opportunities. He reached out to “Black parents upset over the opposition of teachers’ unions to charter schools.” He even released an ad featuring Republican parents who were critical of a decision to assign Toni Morrison’s difficult novel Beloved to high-school students—a “coded racist message,” according to Democrats.

All this, we’re told, is baseless fear-mongering. “Critical race theory isn’t being taught,” said Color of Change president Rashad Robinson. The backlash against the racialized curriculum that swept into prominence with dizzying speed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder is “about banning Black history.”

This self-soothing narrative has caught on in center-left media. Glenn Youngkin “did stoke white grievance politics to mobilize the Republican base,” according to MSNBC host Chris Hayes. His colleague, Joy Reid, deemed the Republican narrative around education “code for white parents [who] don’t like the idea of teaching about race.” The nearly universal assessment among those on the left is that critical race theory isn’t being taught in schools. It is a “manufactured bogeyman” and “the latest incarnation of the Southern Strategy,” via the Daily Beast’s Wajahat Ali. Any mention of it or its tenets is “dog whistle” signaling to racist whites, who are anxious over losing their cultural power to rising demographics. Youngkin’s goal, per Ja’Han Jones, is to “stigmatize any discussion of American racism.”

This is a truly confusing message, as you might expect of a fabricated narrative that is designed only to muscle scared Democrats into ignoring the lessons voters taught them on Tuesday night. The idea that the grab-bag of quasi-academic theories we now refer to as critical race theory isn’t a prominent feature of modern pedagogy is an idea that challenges parents’ experience. Young children are being divided by race in the classroom. They are being taught the principles of intersectionality, which convey to children that the accidents of their birth set them on what is in many ways a predestined path in life. Many who support this initiative have defended it from critics in a highly visible way, and the issue has organically driven local elections for months preceding Tuesday’s contests. Telling parents that they should not believe their own eyes is insulting.

If there is a parents’ revolt afoot, it is also the opposite of a racist backlash. When parents object to ongoing efforts to artificially circumscribe Asian students’ potential by eliminating standardized testing and advanced-placement programs or by imposing racial quotas on selective schools specifically to keep the wrong races out, those parents aren’t standing in a schoolhouse door. They’re doing their best to keep those doorways open. When parents resent the classification of elementary school children by their “power and privilege” and their place within an “oppression matrix,” they’re insisting that their child must not be defined by the color of her skin. When parents refuse to allow their children to internalize the notion that “urgency, deadlines, and time management” are racist concepts that shouldn’t be applied to minorities, they are defending the egalitarian ideals that still draw the oppressed peoples of the world to American shores.

In their convalescence, the left is convincing itself that everyone who doesn’t agree that critical race theory is an apparition and, also, that its tenets must be applied at every level of education is a racist. Judging from Tuesday’s results and the country’s uniform swing away from Democratic candidates and issues, that’s a whole lot of racists. The alternative to that message, one that centers on colorblindness and equal access to opportunity, will be left to Republicans. And judging by the incremental but observable shift in the minority vote away from Democratic candidates over the last 18 months, the audience for that message is only growing.

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