- - Friday, November 17, 2023

The Washington Post called it a “disastrous night.” In the two weeks since the election, media outlets on the left and right have announced with the glee of children on Christmas morning that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin had met some terrible political end.

Fox News anchors called the losses an “epic failure” for the governor.

Politico screamed, “Glenn Youngkin’s white knight era is over.”

Even a week later, The Associated Press exclaimed, “GOP election losses in Virginia are likely to quiet the presidential speculation about Gov. Youngkin.”

A Newsweek headline blared, “Glenn Youngkin‘s Devastating Loss in Virginia Sparks Wave of Jokes, Mockery.”

That’s right. Apparently, holding Democrats to razor-thin majorities in the legislature in a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential nominee since 2004 is “devastating.”

Even conservative outlets joined in on the epitaph-writing, driving the perception that the 2023 election was a total disaster for Virginia Republicans.

At a time when Washington politics seems one step removed from pistols at dawn, some history and perspective are instructive to ensure we cultivate higher-caliber leadership.

Mr. Youngkin’s supposed Waterloo resulted in Democrats having just a one-vote majority in each house of the Virginia General Assembly. The GOP missed keeping control of the state Senate by less than 2,000 votes.

Republicans won in 13 districts President Biden won in 2020 and in seven districts where a congressional Democrat won in 2022.

Unlike party leaders who claim they’ll strenuously campaign and raise money for candidates, then vanish when the going gets tough, Mr. Youngkin appeared at more than 100 events in the closing months of the campaign. His political action committee raised and spent some $14 million for this year’s contests despite the risks.

Political pile-ons that are divorced from reality are a disturbing trend in our politics, and conservatives shouldn’t play into them.

Politics has always involved kicking the other guy when he’s down, but the best way to self-destruct as a party is for Republicans to take their lead from the talking heads and social media trolls who dig political graves for officials who are very much alive.

Imagine if, when Ronald Reagan was governor of California, his political obituary was written when Republicans lost seats in 1970 and again in 1974. He dealt with Democratic majorities all eight years he was governor. 

As California governor, he faced a recall pushed by organized labor, and in 1973, his referendum to make it harder to raise taxes failed at the ballot box.

None of it stopped him.

As venerable Reagan biographer Craig Shirley is fond of reminding us, before politics, the nation’s 40th president made 56 movies in Hollywood. Some were good, and some were terrible. Reagan had grown a thick skin long before his name ever appeared on a ballot. He played the long game.

The left in this country has such a shallow bench that it now includes prominent socialists such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, has-beens like Hillary Clinton, and Kamala Harris, the most unpopular vice president in history. Gavin Newsom, Democrats’ golden boy from the Golden State, presides over the homelessness capital of the nation, from which taxpayers are fleeing at a higher rate than anywhere else. 

Let them eat their young. Conservatives should know better.

No serious observer in the run-up to 1980 said Reagan was unelectable or that his career was over because he lost a few seats in the state legislature years earlier.

Nobody credible signaled the end of Reagan because he had to negotiate with Democratic majorities. In fact, the rough and tumble of both Hollywood and California politics likely helped make him the strong leader of the conservative revolution that changed the world.

John Sears, Reagan’s campaign manager, once said that “politics is motion.” Ronald Reagan stayed in motion, and my guess is that so will Glenn Youngkin, driving a broadly popular agenda focused on growing the economy, regulatory reform and education, among others.

He can stay in motion after he leaves office in January 2026. Reagan gave speeches, wrote columns and had a radio show — all things that kept him relevant.

Will Mr. Youngkin be the next Reagan? Who knows. But at a time when the GOP has lost or underperformed four elections in a row, maybe Republicans and conservatives should take a longer view of politics than the trolls on X.

So, before you join the chorus of the uninformed talking points crowd, get the facts. Understand the motivations of those behind the hype, chiseling the political headstones. When it comes to Gov. Glenn Youngkin, it wasn’t a death blow — more like a flesh wound.

• Tom Basile is the host of “America Right Now” on Newsmax and the author of “Tough Sell: Fighting the Media War in Iraq.”

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