Biden: Second-Place Candidate Is ‘Real Governor’ of Virginia
“Today, I make this sacred pledge to you. The defense, protection, and preservation of American democracy will remain, as it has been, the central cause of my presidency.” So said President Joe Biden during a January 5 speech at Valley Forge. That “sacred pledge” lasted about two-and-a-half weeks. At a January 23 abortion rally in Manassas, Va., Biden began, “Hello, Virginia! And the real governor, Terry McAuliffe.” Thus, the self-styled defender of democracy indulged in pointless election-denialism — over an election whose results were never significantly challenged.
According to the official results of Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial election, Glenn Youngkin (R) received 1,663,596 votes (50.57%), and Terry McAuliffe (D) received 1,600,116 votes (48.64%). According to the final tally, 63,480 more Virginia voters chose Youngkin over McAuliffe to be their next governor. Youngkin won an absolute majority of votes and led McAuliffe by nearly two whole percentage points — a comfortable margin of victory. The Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE), then controlled by the party of the sitting governor, Ralph Northam, a Democrat, certified the results on November 15, 2021.
There is no question of who won the race to become governor of Virginia in 2021: Youngkin placed first, and McAuliffe placed second. No question, that is, until Tuesday, when Biden baselessly claimed that McAuliffe was “the real governor.”
Election-denialism is nothing new to Biden. In 2013, he argued that Al Gore “was elected president of the United States of America” in the 2000 election against President George W. Bush, three presidential terms earlier. Again in 2016 he insisted, “I think he won that election.” In 2019, in response to the claim that Trump was an illegitimate president, and that Democrats should use every form of lawfare to remove him from office, Biden said, “I absolutely agree.”
Nor is election denialism new to McAuliffe. Over two decades, stretching at least from 2001 to 2021, he has claimed the 2000 election was stolen from Gore, including the years when he served as chair of the Democratic National Committee (2001-2005) and governor of Virginia (2014-2018).
In fact, election denialism has been a pattern of the Democratic party throughout the 21st century. Numerous Democrats have insinuated nefarious foul play regarding the 2000 presidential election, the 2004 presidential election, and the 2016 presidential election — in other words, every one their party’s candidate lost.
More recently, they intensified the campaign to include non-national races, too. Democratic candidates Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum (backed by many others) questioned the legitimacy of the 2018 elections of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), respectively. In 2020, at least two Democratic candidates in races for the U.S. House of Representatives attributed their losses to voter suppression. Now, the president of the United States has chosen to call into question Governor Youngkin’s 2021 election, without any discernible proof.
I nearly ended the previous sentence with “… for no discernible reason.” But there is a reason, of a sort. The sense in which Youngkin “stole” the election from McAuliffe is, that McAuliffe wanted the governorship, and thought it should be his, but Youngkin actually obtained it. (Indeed, McAuliffe likely tanked his own campaign when, after leading in many of the polls, he insulted all parents — a sizable voting block — less than a month from election day, when he insisted, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”) To put it another way, Youngkin “stole” the election from McAuliffe by convincing more people to vote for him. How dare he?
“Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election: either they win or they were cheated. And that’s where MAGA Republicans are today,” insisted Biden during his “sith lord” speech at Independence Hall in September 2022, during which he claimed democracy would end if “MAGA Republicans” won the 2022 midterm elections. Surely readers can detect which party espouses this democracy-killing doctrine.
There’s an alternate interpretation to Biden’s remark. “The president was making a joke” about McAuliffe’s former term as governor, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained tiredly on Wednesday. “What’s the joke?” Fox News’s Peter Doocy shot back. Beats me, too.
The biggest problem with the “joke” interpretation is that Biden only weeks ago insisted at his Valley Forge speech that “democracy is still a sacred cause,” and discussions about it are “deadly serious.” The leading Republican candidate, Biden alleged, is “willing to sacrifice our democracy to put himself in power,” and so by contrast he has chosen to make his campaign “about preserving and strengthening our American democracy.”
If democracy means anything, it means that whatever voters say on election day should be final. From their verdict, there is no appeal, no naysaying, no attempts to undermine, no snide, underhanded comments that seek to undermine the legitimacy of their choice. The losing side has to live with it, consoled by the knowledge that they will get another chance to persuade voters of their cause or candidate at regular intervals.
A minority of Virginia voters wanted McAuliffe to be their next governor in 2021. A hardened minority of those voters may be so embittered against the governor’s commonsense education polices that they have decided to express their frustration with a whisper campaign against his legitimacy — against the legitimacy of the election process overseen by Youngkin’s political opponents. This whisper campaign, which recently reached the lips of the president of the United States, is undermining trust in American elections for the sake of their agenda.
“We’re living in an era where a determined minority is doing everything in its power to try to destroy our democracy for their own agenda,” Biden warned. Which minority? Whose agenda?
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.