Of all the things in short supply right now, optimism may be the hardest to find. After 12 disappointing months of an administration whose domestic and foreign policy failures are rivaled only by the number of illegals crossing the border, Americans everywhere are desperate for some sign of hope, some indication that the country they love isn't completely lost.
This past Saturday, on a sunny day in Virginia, that hope returned. For a brief moment, there was a break from the long shadows of the Biden administration, as new Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) stood before Virginia, the state of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, and vowed to restore the promise of those great men. "It's day one," he declared. "Let's get to work."
For Americans who don't live in Virginia, the sight of the Commonwealth's tall new governor was a reassuring reminder that power still belongs to the people — and those people are hungry for someone to lead, not mandate, control, or command. And thankfully, Youngkin didn't waste any time distinguishing himself from the tyrannical ways of his radical predecessor (and infanticide-endorser), Ralph Northam. In fact, the new governor's inaugural address struck an altogether different tone to Democrats these days. It was an especially refreshing contrast to Joe Biden's maniacal rant in Atlanta, where he demonized every good and decent American on election reform. Unlike the president's increasingly spiteful tone, Youngkin leaned into the unifying message voters desperately need to hear.
"I come to this moment, and to this office, knowing we must bind the wounds of division. Restore trust. Find common cause for the common good. And strengthen the spirit of Virginia," Youngkin said. "Somewhere along the way," he lamented, "we've lost the ability to show respect to one another. To disagree without being disagreeable ... We must set our eyes on the common values and common future that unites us."
He made a point of pushing back on the Left's phony race-based narrative of the GOP, lauding voters for just electing "the most diverse leadership in commonwealth history" and "sending a message that Virginia is big enough for the hopes and dreams of a diverse people." He spoke heartfeltly about the pandemic and loss Americans have experienced but reiterated that the way forward "is not about government deciding for us what is best for us." That resonated especially powerfully with parents, who view Youngkin as a bold new ally in the fight for public schools.
The career businessman also turned the hallmark of his campaign — education — into a centerpiece of his first 24 hours, telling parents he would fight for their rights and then proving it with a slew of first-day policies. "We've tried to silence the people most responsible for the lives of young children — their parents," Youngkin said. "To parents, I say, we respect you. And we will empower you in the education of your children." Fresh off the dais outside the Richmond Capitol, he made good on that promise, signing 11 executive orders — ranging from a ban on critical race theory in the classroom to revoking the mask order for students and investigating the "wrongdoing in Loudoun County." To the cheers of conservatives everywhere, he also overturned the vaccine mandate for state employees.
After just two days, Youngkin's sincerity on the education issue is already resonating in places like Loudoun County, where leaders are acting preemptively. Embattled superintendent Scott Ziegler, who was caught lying about two sexual attacks in girls bathrooms, moved to strike a controversial transgender book from school libraries ahead of Youngkin's inauguration. Gender Queer: A Memoire has sparked an all-out war in Northern Virginia after it was discovered in both Fairfax and Loudoun County schools. Published in 2019, the "graphic novel" is graphic all right. According to critics, the book includes "illustrations of sexual contact, masturbation, and a sex toy; an erotic scene of a man and boy ... and depictions of [menstruation]."
The content is so horrifying that it's prompted a parents' protest up and down the state. Ian Serotkin, vice chair of the county school board, wrote on Facebook that the sexual content was pervasive. "It is not fleeting or brief." Late last week, after a split committee recommended keeping the book, Ziegler himself intervened. "I am not generally in favor of removing books from the library. I believe our students need to see themselves reflected in the literature available to them." But, he acknowledged, "The pictorial depictions in this book ran counter to what is appropriate in school."
Will that be the first of many dominos to fall in the Virginia education fight? We'll see. Youngkin seems in no mood to back down — on anything. When White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki bashed him on Twitter for leaving school masking up to parents — and Arlington County flat-out refused to obey — the governor had a warning for local officials. "The fact that [that refusal] came out from Arlington County within minutes of my Executive Order, what that tells me, is they haven't listened to parents yet," he said on Sunday. They'd better, Youngkin urged, because "we granted parents the option ... and we're going to protect that right."
When reporters challenged Youngkin's insistence that CRT is being taught in classrooms, the governor didn't budge. "Anyone who thinks that the concepts that underpin critical race theory are not in our schools hasn't been in our schools," he fired back. "The curriculum has moved in a very opaque way that has hidden a lot of this from parents ... There's not a course called critical race theory. All the principles of critical race theory ... [do] exist in Virginia schools today. And that's why I have signed the executive orders yesterday to make sure that we get it out of our schools ... We absolutely have to recognize what the Left, liberals do here is try to obfuscate this issue."
In the meantime, there's no obfuscating what Youngkin is doing: challenging the Leftist establishment to its very core. That's what voters love about him, and it's why FRC Action was proud to endorse him. When he spoke at our Pray Vote Stand Summit in Loudoun County, Virginians saw a man who was committed to restoring dignity, unity, and power to the people. Congratulations to him and to his stellar lieutenant governor, Winsome Sears, and attorney general Jason Miyares, who make-up one blockbuster team for Virginia! Let's hope the change they bring to the Commonwealth inspires other states to do the same!
Originally published at the Family Research Council.
Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.