If McAuliffe, a former governor who wants his old job back, loses in the state in which President Biden won 10 points a year ago – and this looks like a special option – a collective shrug at Crestwood Drive will be one hint about what happened. The story of an increasingly large and diverse country can be partly understood by the story of one small suburban block.
This is because this section of Crestwood Drive is not just any block. One of the houses is owned by the former Trump administration, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. A year ago, his disapproved neighbors burned down a street in a dazzlingly colorful depiction of progressive activism. Many of the houses were decorated with several large signs – for Joe Biden, for the Black Lives Matter, and for many liberal purposes.
A community parade and rally was held in front of Wolf’s House to protest Trump and Homeland Security efforts to quell civil unrest in Portland, Ore. The political street theater in the neighborhood, which tends to be more concerned with elementary school theater, was new enough to triggers the story in the Washington Post (not an easy feat given the exhausted and generally inattentive coverage of the Metro Post).
Twelve months later, there is little evidence that McAuliffe’s attempt to revive upset emotions in 2020 and to put Youngkin as Donald Trump’s proxy is working. What seems obvious is that many residents feel exhausted and ready to go back to a time when politics was not everywhere.
“With the presidential election, everyone was exhausted. And I think there was such a sense of fear that Trump would be re-elected that when thank God he wasn’t, you know, people usually [say] ‘This crisis has been averted. I can go back to other priorities in my life, ”said Tony Sanchez, a 57-year-old Democrat who works for a defense contractor.
Crestwood Drive did not return to Pleasantville. Because of the combination of politics and a pandemic, some residents say, neighbors still don’t feel a special neighborhood. The holiday party, which has been an annual tradition – planned by the Wolf family – has not yet come to life, and at least some say they are not in the mood.
Let’s be clear about the boundaries of anecdotal reporting. There is nothing scientific about knocking on a door in a neighborhood in a city for a few days, which Democrats always tolerate easily. But the calm mood at Crestwood is consistent with other evidence that explains why Democrats are concerned.
Surveys across the country show that McAuliffe’s advantage has shrunk to statistical equalization. The Democrat has argued that Biden’s softening of support in the country and the partisan war in Washington are creating a headwind for him, and recently warned leaders of the two parties to “unite”. The fact that Republicans have not won elections across the country since 2009 may have created an exaggerated perception that the historically center-right Old Dominion is now reliably democratic. More likely, as this year’s gubernatorial contest shows, Virginia remains a competitive purple state.
Of course, no one would put Alexandria on their list of swing districts. It is a democratic stronghold that Biden won in 2020 with 80 percent of the vote. A year ago, the only Trump signs cited here were people making a confidently defiant statement aimed at insulting liberal piety. This year, however, many people apparently believe they can safely express public support for a Republican without starting a neighborhood dispute.
“You see a ton of Youngkin’s inscriptions around,” said Holly Ford, who has lived in the block for a quarter of a century. “I think there are a lot of silent voters who won’t vote for him, but you don’t see the signs in the yard [for McAuliffe] because I think Democrats are usually more modest, ”especially compared to last year.
Block of 20 solidly attractive but barely luxurious houses on Crestwood between Valley Drive and Kenwood Avenue is almost three miles from the famous Old Town along the Potomac River. In appearance it is on foot and in fact – a place where families with children and dogs walk to the nearby small market for pizza or ice cream.
But it also illustrates how in the inner suburbs of Washington, even seemingly unusual neighborhoods are imbued with historical and contemporary politics. The block is just a few hundred meters from Parkfairfax, a World War II-era building where former presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford rented apartments as young congressmen in the 1940s. In addition to the connection to Chad Wolf, this block of Crestwood is located near the Agudus Achim Temple, where former Chicago mayor and Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel once worshiped. A few weeks ago, McAuliffe himself was at the nearby home of veteran Democratic operative JB Poersch for a fundraiser involving Clinton-era celebrity James Carville, whose now-grown children attended a private school in the neighborhood.
In short, this is a place where people are usually very attentive to elections.
Most people understand the basic bets that McAuliffe and Youngkin place in their strategies.
For Youngkin, a wealthy CEO of private capital, it is that he can form a coalition of parts. One group are voters who don’t want to vote for Democrats and think the candidate looks like a version of Mitt Romney from Virginia who undoubtedly privately despises Trump as much as they do. The other is a group of voters who like Trump and who think Youngkin looks like Kevin McCarthy – they don’t care what he thinks privately until he breaks up with the former president in public.
Sanchez said he was concerned that Youngkin’s apparent insincere distortion might actually work. “I don’t know if Youngkin is perceived as as great an evil as Trump was,” he said. “He’s a Trump-ofil and a disgusting human being. But I don’t think people see him as much of a threat as they looked at Trump, so maybe there’s a little apathy in that.”
Sanchez himself can modestly illuminate the trend. A year ago, someone called the police on his family because his “Biden for President” sign was too big and violated city ordinances. His solution was to cut out the sign and display the pieces at a distance of less than an inch. It was also lit at night.
This year, McAuliffe’s sign in the front yard is clogged above a gruesome Halloween cemetery.
McAuliffe’s strategic bet is based on voter turnout: the lower he is, the bigger he is in trouble. In recent days, he has called in Biden, former President Barack Obama and political star Georgie Stacey Abrams, who have all tried to awaken the latent blocs of people leaning toward advancement but not necessarily to vote in non-presidential elections.
“We usually flirt with 50% turnout in gubernatorial elections, and we usually flirt with 80% turnout in federal elections,” said Justin Wilson, the Democratic mayor of Alexandria, who is running for re-election in that election. “And the question is, you know whether Democrats win or not, how many voters between 50 and 80 turn out in Northern Virginia.”
As for the political trauma on Crestwood Drive, where no one has opened the door to Wolf’s house in the last two days of interviews in his block, the question is when the bruises from the Trump era will finally fade.
“Not just because of Covid, but because of the protests and everything, neighborhoods have really cooled,” said one of the longtime residents, a government retiree who preferred not to be publicly identified. “Some people are still friendly, others are much less friendly than they used to be. Some people were downright ugly on both sides of the issue. “