Virginia’s Youngkin and the Republicans who are ‘strangers in their own party’

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL October 11, 2021

At the farmers’ market on a Sunday in October. The Virginia gubernatorial election campaign is in full swing. Photo: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Having recently been in Virginia, where the gubernatorial election campaign is in full swing, I read Peter Spiegel, the FT’s US managing editor’s comment on the contest with interest.

Mr Spiegel began by noting that “in another election cycle, in another era, Glenn Youngkin would be a Republican candidate out of central casting”. He is, Mr Spiegel said, “a former chief executive of Carlyle Group, a politically-connected private equity firm”, has an “MBA from Harvard, played NCAA Division I college basketball at Rice University and is a founder and lay leader of an evangelical church in one of northern Virginia’s toniest suburbs”.

Even so, that pedigree is not particularly helpful right now to Mr Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia. His party has degenerated “to a personality cult”. So, even though Mr Youngkin is doing relatively well against Democratic front runner Terry McAuliffe, there is no certainty he will prevail. And that may be less about him than the party he represents.

Mr Spiegel first met Mr Youngkin more than 15 years ago in London and the man he knew back then is “hard to square with the Youngkin toying with Trumpism in 2021”. But then, he writes, this is “the new reality for Reagan Republicans in the age of Trump. They have become strangers in their own party”.