Should Socialists Vote for Terry McAuliffe?

The Virginia race for governor has heated up over the last few months. As the Washington Socialist has covered, Virginia has been trending blue, anchored by a bold new progressive-labor-left alliance that is active in the state. Yet, while Joe Biden confidently won the state back in 2020 by nearly 10 percentage points, the race for governor appears to have tightened. Time will tell if fear-mongering over closeness of the race is all hype, but given the far-right antics being entertained by Republican Glenn Youngkin, socialists are right to be worried about the outcome.

The current situation has much to do with Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s lack of a clear and motivated base. His inability to activate progressive, labor and socialist enthusiasm has made it difficult for his campaign to field the sort of wide on-the-ground operation necessary to box out the far-right opposition. Democratic moderates have been parachuting into Virginia to try and shore up Terry’s flank, but these actors can be notoriously unmotivating.

Should socialists suck it up and cast their ballot for McAuliffe? Or should socialists, lefties and allies opt to sleep comfortably and vote their consciences instead? We asked some members in Virginia to provide their perspective on the race.

Before getting into it, we should clarify that nothing in here should be mistaken as an endorsement from Metro DC DSA. The chapter deploys an endorsement process (which you can read about here) that is meant to weed out unserious candidates and identify (and boost) serious socialist challengers. MDC DSA doesn’t like to pass out rubber stamp endorsements. The membership has generally opted to endorse candidates for races we know we can effectively influence in mobilizing chapter labor and resources.

That said, here are what a few local members had to say about the state of the race …

Marie: Given how close the race is between the two major party candidates, voting strategically for McAuliffe means stopping a big lie-promoting culture war advocate from taking office. Youngkin has promised to ban critical race theory (CRT) in high schools (there is no such teaching) and mask mandates for schools on day one. McAuliffe is far from a desirable candidate for a socialist, but Youngkin would be an absolute disaster for Virginia.

I'm personally scared of a possible rollback of all the progress that's been made over the past few years towards equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. He could rescind guidance over trans students. And he’ll almost definitely roll back voting rights gains made in Virginia over the past few years.

Kaiser: I'm still at odds myself. I'm going to end up voting for McAuliffe, even though I don't much like him and think Blanding is the only good person in the race.

It mostly boils down to the problem of voting third party without any ranked-choice system. In the present VA climate, I don't see how voting third party helps to break out of a two-party system or seriously challenge the hold of conservatives over the Democratic Party. Meanwhile there's too much risk from Youngkin and his coattails. A McAuliffe win would still mean a fight to get rid of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and address several other environmental matters, but it'll probably be fewer simultaneous fights and they will at least be on terrain we’re familiar with.

Regardless of the outcome, I think we’ll see a ramp-up in fights with right-wing activists over the next two years as conservatives and neo-fascists target school boards, promote racist conspiracy theories about CRT and target trans* students. I think Youngkin gives more ammo to them. McAuliffe ain't gonna help the working class much, but he's less likely to provide those [right-wing] groups favorable positions in the battles ahead.

Kareem: I already voted, and after staring at my ballot for 10 minutes, I chose to pull the lever for McAuliffe despite having donated to Princess Blanding's campaign. Terry is an awful guy. I don't support him, but I think Youngkin will only make life hell for trans children in Virginia public schools. McAuliffe won’t necessarily be an ally to progressives and workers in VA, but he will at least be nominally supportive of the rights of trans children.

Additionally, the legalization of marijuana marks a big step forward for VA. I think Youngkin will roll that back as much as he can through a conservative interpretation of the legalization bill. If the race were any wider, I would have voted for Blanding. I felt awful casting it, but it felt like the right choice.

That said, there is absolutely no obligation to vote for Hala Ayala for Lt. Governor or Mark Herring for Attorney General. Ayala was a DHS employee during the Bush presidency. This is completely reprehensible, and her work, direct or indirect, had material impacts on Muslims across the country but specifically in Northern Virginia. I wrote someone in and strongly urge others to do so as well.

Herring sent his Virginia State Police troopers armed with MRAPs, rifles and tear gas at all of us who protested for Black lives last summer. He made it clear that regardless of who sits in the AG office, they will brutalize protestors. He did nothing to rein them in, so I wrote in someone else.

Max: Socialists’ opportunity to influence the race passed with the lack of serious primary competition this year. So we are stuck with Terry Mac for this cycle. Incidentally, as governor he did two pretty good things: restoring voting rights for felons and taking the Medicaid expansion. Not the easiest moves in Virginia.

The broader problem is the full-on racist/homophobic/transphobic campaign being run by the Republicans. It’s tainting all the elections, from the grassroots up. If Virginia goes Trumpy, that elevates the threat across the entire country for the national elections in ’22 and ’24. In my view, DSA should be in the thick of this, at this point supporting every Democrat, not just our own candidates. Our chapters here seem to be sleep-walking on this.

Along with those statements from Virginia members, it’s worth noting that comrades at Tidewater DSA have endorsed Princess Blanding for governor and Nadarius Clark for the state house. Prior to running for office, Blanding was a teacher and high school principal. Though Charlottesville DSA hasn’t endorsed any candidates, they have released a local voter guide. Terry McAuliffe does enjoy the wide support of organized labor in Virginia, which socialists shouldn’t take lightly.

For VA voters, here are some additional resources to help you vote and learn more about the candidates:

  • Check out I Will Vote to find your polling place or sign-up for updates.
  • Visit the Virginia Department of Elections to find more info on absentee voting or to check registration status.
  • The Virginia Public Access Project is a great resource to help find info on candidates and elections and to follow the money that’s moving through the election.
  • New Virginia Majority for grassroots engagement and support (though not a socialist or strictly left-wing outfit, some might find the resource useful for keeping up to date on local issues in VA).
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