I’m riding a bit of a high this morning, after reading the nearly complete election results here in Virginia. The results gave Virginia exactly what it, and America, needed, a firm rejection of a Republican Party that includes Donald Trump and his destructive vision for America. A firm rejection of the politics of fear and divisiveness, and of racism and misogyny.
Ralph Northam’s 9-point victory over Republican Ed Gillespie is four percentage points higher than the margin Hillary Clinton took the state by in 2016. Democrats also swept the other two state-wide races, for lieutenant governor and attorney general, by similar margins. They are poised to pick up at least 14 seats in the House of Delegates, with at least four still too close to call and destined for recounts, putting control of the House within range, something the Democrats have not accomplished in nearly two decades. It was something most commentators, including myself, had not thought possible, given the power of incumbency and the fact the Republicans held a 66-34 edge in the House before yesterday’s vote. The Democrats defeated at least eleven Republican incumbents in doing so, including the Republican incumbent in my own district who was turned out of office by a resounding 15 percent margin, by a woman he had disparaged as unqualified, as men have been saying about women who they see as threatening their place in society for years. A Republican incumbent was even beaten soundly by Virginia’s first openly transgender political candidate.
Basically, the Democrats won every race that they even had a chance of winning. It was a true wave election, the kind that can sometimes herald political realignment for years to come.
This victory is particularly sweet for many reasons. It marks the first time I have given money to a political campaign, the first time I was willing to have a political sign placed in my yard, and the first time I have volunteered my time to a political party. That’s how important I thought it was, and still think it is.
Polling data shows that the wave was driven by high turnout of women and minorities, who all voted resoundingly Democratic, demonstrating that a “white men only” approach to politics is doomed, in Virginia at least. The disgusting flood of racist, fear-mongering and dishonest attack ads by Gillespie over the last few weeks were rejected by the electorate, which is good for us all.
The data also shows that turnout was driven to a significant degree by rejection of the destructive politics and policies of President Trump. Gillespie tried hard not to associate himself too closely with Trump, but the extremely smelly elephant in the room cannot be ignored. Trump, of course has already attempted to distance himself from the candidate he endorsed many times, including just a day ago, now trying to deflect by saying Gillespie lost because he did not fully embrace Trump and his hate-filled message.
Of course he did. In Trump’s self-delusional imaginary world, he is always a winner and has no time for losers. Let this be fair warning to every Republican who compromised their morals and ethics in favor of ambition to serve in Trump’s government. He will cast you aside just as quickly if you become a political liability. Loyalty means nothing to him.
So, today I’m just going to feel good about the resounding victory for common sense and compassion that yesterday’s voting represents. It restores my energy and my hope for America. The future looks less dark than it did 24 hours ago.
But then it’s back to work. Virginia is just one state, and we must duplicate this victory across all of America next year in the Congressional elections to get the Republican Party and our country back on track. This was a good first step, and it will undoubtedly worry many of those in power in the GOP. However, I do not believe it will be enough to jar them from the dangerous and destructive path they are on. Only a broader rejection by the American people will force them to do the hard and difficult work of taking their party back from the lunatic fringe that runs it now. Only a broad rejection will force them to address the racism that has infected the party to its core. Only a broad rejection has any chance of restoring the Republican Party as a legitimate conservative option for the American people. Only once that is done will America truly be safe again from the siren calls of right-wing populism, white nationalism and bigotry.
So, tomorrow we set our sights on 2018 and don’t let up the pressure.