Wilder, 91, the first African-American to be elected governor of any state since Reconstruction when he took office in 1990, told “Your World” he was honored to be a guest at Youngkin’s ceremony in Richmond on Saturday – after the Falls Church businessman defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe last November.
Youngkin promised education reform and a ban on critical race theory in the classroom, telling the crowd that his administration will “refocus on essential math, science and reading. And we will teach all of our history, the good and the bad.”
Host Charles Payne noted many observers were offended or upset by those comments, and asked Wilder why that might be.
Wilder replied that such a platform should be a welcome sign in a divided country; to remove politics from the classroom and focus on the children and parents. He told Payne that Youngkin and Sears’ policy proposals highlight the “independent” nature of Virginians.
“I was pleased to be at the inaugural on Saturday, when he made those kinds of statements, as well as emphasizing what was taking place,” Wilder said.
“First of all, we need to make certain that people understand that Virginians are very proud people – they’re not to be taken for granted by anybody — anybody. They’re not red. they’re not blue. They are more purple than anything else. They are not defined by color. They are defined by spirit,” he said.
“[Virginians] would vote for that person who is in the best interest of their interest, and who is promoting what they want to do.”
Wilder, who was born 2 years after Martin Luther King Jr, and noted he entered the Virginia State Senate about a year after the civil rights icon was assassinated in 1968, remarked that King also focused on education reform in his public advocacy.
“King was so much interested in education, and I think Youngkin is doing the same kind of thing– looking to promote what’s in the best interest of the people,” he said.
In a post on his “Wilder Visions” blog Monday, the former governor wrote that King “was not confined to marches, demonstrations, and songs. He was about those things necessary to bring attention to what it takes for government to measure its responsibility not by color of skin in any degree of judgment in its operation.”
Wilder reiterated that idea to Fox News, saying that King was a “visionary [who] believed in the high possibility of the individual,” especially through education.
He said Youngkin, like King, has made education reform a focus of his fledgling administration.
“[Youngkin] is emphasizing what King spoke about,” he said. “[A]t the inauguration on Saturday, walking through the crowd, talking with people, Republicans, Democrats, independents, many of them were pleased to see us coming together. America needs that more than anything else.”
“And I think in King’s instance, he wasn’t a Republican. He wasn’t a Democrat. He wasn’t confined to being a preacher or marches or demonstrations. He was a philosopher… One of his quotes was ‘Do not just be concerned with increased numbers because on a column on numbers will eventually end up adding up to zero’ — And that’s why it’s so important now for those people who would not be in office today, but for King working for the right to vote for people needing the opportunity to vote.”
“But once they vote, they look to see what they’ve got and they become disillusioned. Our responsibility is to give back that spirit, double up and give back that upward looking, give back the light and let them understand that all things are possible.”
Reflecting on the fact that Sears became the first Black woman to serve as lieutenant governor in Virginia, and Attorney General Jason Miyares becoming the first Cuban-American in his role, Wilder said he never considered his own landmark 1989 election to be “making history” in that way, and remarked that the best thing the new administration can do is to make Virginia as “strong and profitable” for its people.
“It’s not an individual agenda, it’s a giant thing that we all need to do for the good of the people,” he said. “I never considered myself making history… I served in the Senate for 16 years. I chaired any number of committees. I became involved in knowing what the laws were and how they needed to be changed… But I wanted that for the people. And so consequently, I didn’t go into political office for Doug Wilder, I went in there to serve the people.”
Later, Payne asked Wilder about his fellow Democrat, President Biden, and how the president’s approval rating has cratered to the low 30s amid various crises.
“I would say that in terms of being worried about [the direction of the party], the people who are really actively involved in the Democratic Party should be really concerned because there doesn’t seem to be a direction flow [nor] anyone really in charge,” he said.
“You’ve got to talk to the media because the media talks to the people. You’ve got to not be afraid to be on the wrong side of an issue. But you can’t say certain things, for instance, the border incident, in my judgment hasn’t been handled. To the extent that you’re talking about spending money… with no idea about how you’re going to stop spending and when is it coming back and how is it coming back?” he said.
Wilder added that a congressional return to Republican control in November’s midterm elections is not “the end of the world” as many other Democrats view it – remarking that his party should be working to find a way to show the voters they deserve a chance to hold onto their majorities.