Glenn Youngkin is, without almost any question, the worst governor of Virginia – Democratic or Republican – in a few decades. Inaugurated on January 15, 2022, after winning election narrowly over Terry McAuliffe, Youngkin went hard right in almost every way, pretty much from the outset. For just 22 of the worst things Youngkin did in 2022 (not in any particular order), see below. It’s not a pretty picture, to put it mildly.
- Even before he was sworn in, Youngkin started announcing members of his administration, and damn were they bad news. For instance, on January 5, Youngkin named Trump’s disgraceful/anti-environment former EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, as the next Virginia Secretary of Natural & Historic Resources. This pick was beyond appalling, for a host of reasons. For more background on Trump’s EPA head, Andrew Wheeler, see here, including Wheeler’s wildly false claim that the climate crisis isn’t an “existential threat” (which of course it is!); his completely batshit comment that “the threat posed by climate change is ’50 to 75 years out’”; the fact that he is – and no, this is not parody – “Vice President of the Washington Coal Club” (WTF???); his refusal to “raise environmental standards for fine soot pollution”; his weakening of mercury regulations; etc. In short, Wheeler was one of the worst, if not the worst, EPA administrator in history. Also, see here for Wheeler’s testimony to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, against a 5-cents-per-single-use-plastic-bag tax. Democratic members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors then proceeded to rip Wheeler’s idiocy.
- Fortunately, Wheeler’s nomination was rejected by the State Senate, but Youngkin kept Wheeler in his administration anyway as a top advisor (e.g., in charge of cutting regulations), and this fossil fuel industry tool has continued to do damage, including helping develop the godawful “Virginia Energy Plan” that was rolled out on October 3.
- As if the Wheeler nomination wasn’t bad enough, Glenn Youngkin tried *really* hard for an even WORSE Cabinet pick, with faaar-right (bigot, conspiracy theorist, you name it) Elizabeth Schultz for Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction! Appalling.
- Youngkin named Bert Ellis to the UVA Board of Visitors, in a move that was “either negligent or willfully rewarding behavior that endangers students.” For more on this story, see UVA’s Cavalier Daily Rips Youngkin: “utterly incompetent leader”; “spreading outright falsehoods”; “poor decision-making”; “fearmongering”; failure to “properly vet his nominees”; etc..
- On the first day of his administration, in sharp contrast to his relatively measured inauguration speech, Youngkin signed 11 executive orders/directives, with all kinds of divisive and “red-meat” stuff for his right-wing “base.” As then-DPVA-Executive-Director Andrew Wheeler put it, “Unifying words are shallow and meaningless when followed by hyper-partisan, anti-science drivel.” Among other things, Youngkin’s actions banned “critical race theory” (which isn’t taught in Virginia public schools), rescinded the COVID vaccine mandate for Virginia employees, ended the statewide school mask mandate, etc. With regard to that last point, even conservative Republican Bill Bolling, who served two terms as Virginia Lt. Governor, was highly skeptical, saying that “Local School Boards do not work for the Governor. They are a part of local government, not state government. They do not report to the Governor” and “Executive Orders are not the same as law, and Executive Orders cannot unilaterally reverse existing law.” And as State Senator Louise Lucas put it, “Hey [Gov. Youngkin]…You will learn we in the legislature write the law and it only changes if we agree to do so.”
- On January 19, Youngkin named someone who thinks “CRT” is “a dangerous philosophical poisoning in the blood stream” as VA’s Director of “Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion” (a name change from “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion”) In response, on January 20, State Senator Mamie Locke ripped Youngkin, both for “swapping equity for opportunity” and for using “Critical Race Theory” as a “red herring.”
- On January 25, Youngkin started up an Orwellian, thuggish “tip line” to rat out teachers for doing their jobs. In response, “pretty much every education group in the state” called for him to shut down. As State Senator Jennifer Boysko put it, the “tip line” “reeks of the McCarthy era, where individuals were encouraged to turn their colleagues in for allegedly subversive political reasons.” As Del. Marcus Simon said, the “tip line” is “creeping authoritarianism” that’s “scary to those of us who have studied history in school…reminds us…of some really unpleasant periods in the world’s history, where you have governments encouraging their citizens to rat each other out, to report violations of the doctrine of the state that’s approved…what you’re allowed to say and not say in a classroom.” And as former VA Secretary of Education Atif Qarni put it, the “snitch line…has created a suffocating environment for numerous educators, especially who teach social studies and history…definitely has had significant negative impacts on our teachers.”
- Disgracefully, but not surprisingly, we saw Youngkin wage war on the environment and on clean energy, including: Youngkin’s Anti-Environment Air Pollution Control Board Votes to “imperiously shred standing law,” for “deliberate Trump-style chaos…aimed at a popular program like RGGI”; A Few Reactions to the Youngkin Administration’s Dishonest, Not-in-Good-Faith “Argument” for Why Virginia Supposedly Should Pull Out of RGGI; Superb op-ed by Del. @RipSullivan48 on Glenn Youngkin’s godawful, brain-dead energy “plan.”; Gov. Youngkin Cancels Gov. Northam’s Common Sense Plastic Reduction Plan via Executive Order;
- Youngkin waged war on public education throughout the year, including his attempt to ram through whitewashed, factually inaccurate, right-wing, etc. history standards. For more on that, see: Video: On The ReidOut, VA Sen. Louise Lucas Calls Youngkin Administration’s Proposed New History Standards “racist, historically and factually incorrect… and reflect explicit political bias”; Virginia NAACP Opposes Youngkin Administration’s History Curriculum Revisions, Calls Them “attempt to rewrite history to a narrower, whitewashed perspective”; Gov. Northam’s Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni, Rips Gov. Youngkin for “Lying,” “Spreading Misinformation,” “Beating Up on Public Education”; Former VA Sec. Education Atif Qarni Says Board of Education Has a Choice on Youngkin’s “whitewashed, false and inaccurate” History Education Standards; “Their reputations are on the line”; Audio: Gov. Northam’s Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni, Rips Youngkin Education Report as “Weird,” “Unethical,” “Political Stunt” Using “Cherry-Picked,” “Manufactured” Data
- In his first year as governor, Youngkin spent a LOT of time not doing his job, but instead campaigning in Virginia and around the country for a slew of extremist candidates like Yesli Vega (“celebrated her July 4th with a notable insurrectionist who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021“), Jen Kiggans (wouldn’t say that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 elections, literally running away from a reporter who asked her!), Hung Cao (After the January 6th insurrection, Hung Cao defended violent insurrectionists saying “these are my people, set them free”) in Virginia; Paul LePage in Maine (“met eight times with members of the sovereign citizen movement between January and September 2013″); Tudor Dixon in Michigan (“in a May 2022 debate, when asked ‘do you believe Donald Trump legitimately won the 2020 election in Michigan?,’ Dixon responded ‘Yes.’”), Derek Schmidt in Kansas (“brought Kansas into an unsuccessful lawsuit after the 2020 presidential election seeking to overturn the results in battleground states as Trump and other Republicans spread baseless claims of widespread voter fraud”), Heidi Ganahl in Colorado ( “refuses to denounce John Eastman, former CU professor and author of the fraudulent legal memo used to justify the Jan 6 plot), Tim Michels in Wisconsin (said “that illegally decertifying the 2020 presidential election will be ‘on the table’ if he becomes governor, and wouldn’t say whether he would certify the 2024 election”); Kari Lake in Arizona (“repeatedly pushed the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen – even going further casting doubt on the 2022 elections“); etc. Sensing a pattern here? Also note that Youngkin’s candidates lost most of these races, which doesn’t exactly do wonders for Youngkin’s claims to be some sort of Republican rising star.
- Since Kari Lake lost her election to Democrat Katie Hobbs, Youngkin – who called Lake “AWESOME!” when he campaigned for her in October – has said nothing as Lake has spewed conspiracy theories, attacked U.S. democracy, refused to concede, etc. Disgraceful.
- Youngkin pushed anti-LGBTQ policies, spurring a much-deserved and much-needed backlash. For more on that, see: Over 12,000 Virginia Students Walk Out Over Glenn Youngkin’s Hateful LGBTQIA+ Guidelines, ACLU of Virginia Explains, in Detail, Why It Opposes Youngkin’s Proposed “Model Policies” on the (Mis)Treatment of Transgender and Non-Binary Students; 10s of 1000s of comments – mostly against – Youngkin’s proposed anti-transgender-students policy; etc.
- After Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul was brutally attacked in his home in an assassination attempt aimed at Nancy Pelosi, Youngkin appeared to make light of it, saying at a campaign rally for far-right-Republican candidate Yesli Vega, “There is no room for violence anywhere, but we’re gonna send her [Nancy Pelosi] back to be with him in California.” Disgusting. And no, Youngkin didn’t apologize, as the news media falsely reported; instead, he simply said he “didn’t do a great job.”
- In early February, Youngkin’s campaign attacked high school student Ethan Lynne, putting up a photo of Lynne with Gov. Northam, who they added, “had a Blackface/KKK photo in his yearbook.” As Lynne said at the time, “I will not be intimidated by these attacks and will continue to be a voice for students across the commonwealth.” Still…why was the Youngkin campaign lashing out against a high school student at all?
- Youngkin continued to hide his actual position on abortion, which is that he’d “‘happily and gleefully’ sign ‘any bill’ to restrict a woman’s ability to make her own health care decisions.”
- On a related note, in early July, Youngkin delivered a cringe-inducing, falsehood-filled speech in Nebraska, in which he declared that he couldn’t “go any further with stopping and taking a moment to thank our Lord for our Supreme Court that rightfully returned the responsibility to make decisions on behalf of those that have elected us.” In that same speech, Youngkin wildly lied (something he’s an expert at) about American energy, the public schools, and many other things. Typical Youngkin.
- Also on a related note, Youngkin’s budget proposal for the 2023 General Assembly session included a “cruel and discriminatory provision that would force low-income Virginians to carry pregnancies with severe fetal diagnoses.” And Youngkin’s budget contains funding for a 15-week abortion ban here in Virginia.
- As if that wasn’t bad enough, Youngkin’s budget “gives major corporations and the top 1% massive tax cuts at the expense of those who need it most.” Voodoo economics, anybody? “Trickle-down?” “Supply-side?” “Laffer curve?” Ugh.
- Youngkin has continued to refuse to condemn Donald Trump, who endorsed Youngkin multiple times in his 2021 gubernatorial run, despite Trump’s increasingly unhinged, dangerous, extremist rhetoric, not to mention the criminal referrals against him by the 1/6 committee, and despite the fact that Trump literally attempted a violent COUP against the U.S. government and our democracy.
- In response to a horrific mass shooting at a Chesapeake WalMart, Youngkin – as Shannon Watts put it – “manage[d] to tweet about [it] without using the words gunman or shooting.” Youngkin also refuses to take any serious action to stem the continuing scourge of gun violence in Virginia or to take on the gun lobby. Instead, Youngkin has continued to state that he “will not sign a piece of legislation that has anything to do with imposing limitations on our Second Amendment.”
- As DPVA put it, “Youngkin would not support a constitutional amendment to remove a ban against same-sex marriage from the Virginia Constitution at a time when same-sex marriage is under attack.”
- And last but not least, as DPVA put it, “Youngkin’s bizarre policy banning telework has led to a mass exodus of hundreds of state employees – crippling state services.”
What a year, huh? And yes, this list could have been a lot longer, but we’ll just leave it at 22 Youngkin disasters for 2022. Let’s hope that next December, it won’t be so easy to find 23 Youngkin disasters for 2023, but knowing this guy, it probably will be…