Who Are Those Rich Men North of Richmond? And What Is Youngkin Up To?

by Shaun Kenney

First things are first. I’m almost certain you have heard “Try That In a Small Town” by Jason Aldean. Good for a week, right?

If you want to hear true protest music? Allow me to introduce you to the bluegrass of Oliver Anthony:

Give these lyrics a try:

These rich men north of Richmond
Lord knows they all just wanna have total control
Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do
And they don’t think you know, but I know that you do
‘Cause your dollar ain’t shit and it’s taxed to no end
‘Cause of rich men north of Richmond

Holy wow.

People aren’t just angry — there is open resentment out there, folks. Whatever is working isn’t working for working-class people and they are making their voices heard in ways that work around legacy media.

For those with eyes to see and ears to hear? This sentiment is deep, real, bipartisan and lasting.

Is Youngkin Taking His Eye Off the Ball to Challenge Trump?

VCU Wilder came out with a new poll last week showing Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin dropping a precipitous eight points in his approval ratings.

Not the news we want you to see, of course.

One other interesting tidbit is the pull of the independent voter, a demographic once confused for the moderate voter, but today instinctively distrustful of both major parties and leaning towards anti-establishment candidates — in this instance, Trump:

Among the Republican candidates, Independents were slightly more likely to favor either Trump (40%) or DeSantis (37%) compared with Youngkin (31%), though all three register more support than Biden among Independents.

In case you were wondering, Biden’s approval ratings? A mere 39%.

So why is this notable? Well, it just so happens that The Wall Street Journal magically found itself in Ruther Glen, Virginia late last week, where Youngkin continues to play footsie with a future presidential bid — all before the 2023 chickens have hatched and with a little bit of help from the WSJ editorial board’s Kate Bachelder Odell:

Mr. Trump’s core support looks immovable, but it also hasn’t been tested by a compelling alternative. Mr. Youngkin is affable and winsome, but he’d need a vision for national renewal, from growth and spending to national defense—far beyond “common sense” measures that poll well.

He would also need the political courage to stick to that vision when Donald Trump is doing the political equivalent of smashing a vodka bottle over his head. Suburban town halls about teen mental health will be an innocent memory. For all the criticism of Mr. DeSantis’s stone-cold demeanor, the flip side of that weakness is that he is untroubled by elite contempt.

Must be nice to have friends at The Wall Street Journal — right?

So here comes the strategy.

The hope at present seems to be that DeSantis will crater just in time — but not too soon — for Youngkin to arrive with the laurels of victory from a newly-minted Republican General Assembly in November before taking his coalition of the willing to war against former President Donald J. Trump.

You don’t have to be Karl Rove to figure out how that is going to play out for Virginia Republicans — especially the rank and file looking for meaningful legislation during what will be a combative Republican presidential primary. Not only will there be disaffected Trump supporters on the right, but Virginia Democrats will get a vote as well as they throw every bit of sand they can into the gears of government.

Here’s the number you may want to consider.

Statewide — Trump Republicans probably consist of over 30% of the voting electorate, defined as Republican voters who will not consider any other candidate than Trump. 20% of that number is probably looking for another candidate such as DeSantis or Youngkin. That Biden-Youngkin vote at 6% isn’t enough to win, but you know what sort of legislation they won’t want to see coming out of Richmond?

  • Meaningful 2A votes.
  • Meaningful school choice and education reform.
  • Common sense restrictions on abortion.

In short, don’t expect too much coming out of a Republican-led General Assembly other than what will be palatable nationwide — or more importantly, to the rich men north of Richmond. That is to say, don’t expect too much coming out of a Republican-led General Assembly if Youngkin is taking his eyes off the ball.

…and how did that work for Republicans the last time? It kicked off nearly a decade of infighting which we only resolved in 2021 — and that was a parental rights movement more motivated by the mendacity of Virginia Democrats than anything else.

Needless to say, the dip in Youngkin’s approval ratings — and it is no blip — indicates a dissatisfaction among conservatives in Virginia, then those numbers being trotted out to the press are not just soft but manufactured for a national audience — and Virginia Republicans are right to raise the alarm.

Flirting with stadium deals, shocking 2A enthusiasts by betraying dog hunters, championing tax breaks for corporations and not working families, blocking of school choice legislation, and as predicted Youngkin’s opposition to 15-week limits on abortion — caution is one thing; cowardice quite another.

Of course, there is a simple matter of time. New Hampshire and Iowa kick off in January 2024 — just in time for the Virginia General Assembly. Should Youngkin announce against Trump in November 2023, that will split the GOP early at precisely the time we need to be united to undo the damage of the Northam-McAuliffe era. Should Youngkin wait until March? Game over.

Then there are the Virginia Democrats, whose duty it is to oppose. They know they are about to fork over the Virginia Senate. Will our own hubris undo Republican chances once again?

That we are already fanning the flames of a straight-up contest against Trump might please some, but the Republican base is already firmly united behind the former president. National politics be damned, this ought to be about what is best for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

This flirtation with a quixotic POTUS run isn’t it.

In a world of constants and variables, an eagle can catch only one rabbit at a time. Richmond — not Washington — should be the focus of every inch of our energies at present. Advice to the contrary is simply bad advice; lucrative for a few, but a terrible disservice to those who put the public trust into Youngkin’s hands and expected him to act — not abandon his charge for the siren song of higher office.

If character counts and culture commands, we are about to learn a great deal over the next four months about what sort of leader Youngkin actually is.

Conservatives will be watching; Democrats will be watching as well. Winning elections is important, but to what possible ends if we are already at sixes and sevens in Virginia before the gavel drops at the General Assembly?

Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.Republished with permission from The Republican Standard.