Democrats claim mo­men­tum from elec­tion wins

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Gun con­trol ac­tivists, Oba­macare sup­port­ers, im­mi­grant rights ad­vo­cates, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, gay rights ac­tivists — ev­ery part of the Demo­cratic coali­tion — claimed mo­men­tum in the wake of stun­ning vic­to­ries in the off-year elec­tions.

Al­though no fed­eral of­fices were at stake, the fall­out could reach deep into Capi­tol Hill, where Democrats said they are newly en­er­gized in their bat­tle against the tax-cut bill and warned Repub­li­cans to heed the signs in Vir­ginia.

Given a choice be­tween a pro-Oba­macare can­di­date in Ralph Northam and a tax-cut­ting can­di­date in Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Ed Gille­spie, vot­ers picked Mr. Northam, who posted the largest Demo­cratic vic­tory in the state in decades.

“We just had a trial run about whether a tax cut was ap­peal­ing in a bat­tle­ground state. The an­swer was no,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, Vir­ginia Demo­crat.

Mr. Northam’s vic­tory was just one part of an elec­toral wave. Democrats swept both of Vir­ginia’s other top state of­fices, made his­toric gains in the state House of Del­e­gates, re­cap­tured the gov­er­nor­ship in New Jer­sey, seemed poised to win con­trol of the state Se­nate in Wash­ing­ton and flipped a num­ber of high-pro­file ex­ec­u­tive jobs in sub­ur­ban coun­ties in New York.

Most im­por­tant, Democrats said, was the bat­tle­ground in those races: sub­ur­ban ar­eas that make up the key bat­tle­grounds where next year’s midterm con­gres­sional elec­tions are likely to be fought.

Those are also the places with mid­dle­and up­per-class tax­pay­ers poised to lose some of their big­gest tax breaks un­der the Repub­li­can tax-cut bill while be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­fort­able with Oba­macare nearly eight years on.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat, ticked off a list of House Repub­li­cans whose con­stituents would lose the gen­er­ous state and lo­cal tax de­duc­tion un­der the tax bill, say­ing they would be “com­mit­ting po­lit­i­cal sui­cide” if they backed the plan.

“If you con­tinue to try and elim­i­nate the state and lo­cal de­duc­tion, you’re go­ing to kill sub­ur­ban leg­is­la­tors who are al­ready in trou­ble be­cause the sub­urbs don’t seem to like Don­ald Trump,” Mr. Schumer said. “As Clint East­wood said, you want to pass this tax bill, you want to hurt the sub­urbs? Make our day. Make our day.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can, in­sisted those sub­ur­ban fam­i­lies will end up ben­e­fit­ing from the tax cuts be­cause the loss of de­duc­tions is more than off­set by lower tax rates for many of them.

He said vot­ers were not re­act­ing to a too-ex­pan­sive Repub­li­can Party, but a tootimid party that has failed to de­liver on the agenda Mr. Trump promised vot­ers.

“What peo­ple want to know and see is that this Don­ald Trump pres­i­dency and this Repub­li­can Congress makes a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in my life,” Mr. Ryan said on the “Brian Kilmeade Show.”

He flatly ruled out the idea of Repub­li­cans dis­tanc­ing them­selves from the pres­i­dent and re­turn­ing to a party more closely tied to the Bush years.

“We al­ready made that choice. We’re with Trump,” Mr. Ryan said. “We merged our agen­das. We ran with Don­ald Trump.”

Out­side of Capi­tol Hill, lib­eral ac­tivists crowed over the re­sults of the elec­tion, say­ing the vic­to­ries cre­ated an across-the­board suc­cess for the rain­bow coali­tion of racial and sex­ual mi­nori­ties, young peo­ple, women and other de­mo­graph­ics who gave Democrats wins in 2008 and 2012, but who frac­tured in 2010, 2014 and 2016 — years Pres­i­dent Obama wasn’t on the bal­lot.

Gay rights sup­port­ers said this has be­come the “year of the trans can­di­date” be­cause a hand­ful of vic­to­ries will place trans­gen­der peo­ple in the Vir­ginia House and lo­cal boards across the na­tion.

Im­mi­gra­tion rights ac­tivists said Mr. Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion plans are in tat­ters af­ter Repub­li­can can­di­dates for gov­er­nor in New Jer­sey and Vir­ginia adopted his rhetoric against sanc­tu­ary cities and were soundly spanked by vot­ers.

“Vot­ers soundly re­jected hate, im­mi­grant bash­ing and racism across the coun­try,” said Frank Sharry, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Amer­ica’s Voice. “The na­tivism and di­vi­sive­ness of Trump­ism lost big last night.”

He said the re­sults also showed there is no tension be­tween white vot­ers and the rain­bow coali­tion Democrats have counted on and that pow­ered Mr. Obama but failed Hil­lary Clin­ton last year.

“The new paradigm, on dis­play in ev­ery key race, is that bot­tom-up mo­bi­liza­tion ef­forts that turn out base vot­ers, com­bined with per­sua­sion strate­gies that hit a broader uni­verse of vot­ers, is the key,” he said. “It’s not ei­ther/or; it’s both/and.”

Gun con­trol ac­tivists said they were em­bold­ened by elec­toral gains and pointed in par­tic­u­lar to the elec­tion of Chris Hurst to a House seat in Vir­ginia. Mr. Hurst was a news an­chor at a Roanoke tele­vi­sion sta­tion in 2015 when his girl­friend, reporter Ali­son Parker, was shot and killed live on air by a dis­grun­tled for­mer reporter from the sta­tion.

“Ev­ery sin­gle idea that could pos­si­bly ad­dress and re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple who are dy­ing from homi­cide, sui­cide and ac­ci­den­tal firearm deaths, I think now, is fi­nally on the table,” Mr. Hurst told CNN.

Left-wing ac­tivists said they see mo­men­tum for es­tab­lish­ing gov­ern­ment-run health care, rais­ing the min­i­mum wage and other long-held aims of pro­gres­sives.

The League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers said vot­ers sent a mes­sage that they wanted politi­cians to tackle cli­mate change; the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions said Mus­lim vot­ers de­served credit for help­ing boost Mr. Northam and pointed to Mus­lim can­di­dates who won lo­cal races across the coun­try; and the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee said fe­male can­di­dates were par­tic­u­lar win­ners.

Democrats said their unity in races such as Vir­ginia, where a di­vi­sive pri­mary was quickly patched, is a model for their party as they move for­ward.

“We run on jobs, ed­u­ca­tion and health care. We don’t fight with each other. And we re­ject di­vi­sion,” Mr. Kaine said.

Mr. Schumer and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, said the re­sults were good enough that it has them con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of re­tak­ing con­trol of both cham­bers of Congress in next year’s midterm elec­tions.

“The door is cer­tainly open for us,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

Mr. Schumer said he was re­minded of 2005, when Democrats won gov­er­nor’s races in New Jer­sey and Vir­ginia, which he said pre­saged the 2006 midterm elec­tions that cost Repub­li­cans con­trol of both houses of Congress.

“The re­sults last night smell ex­actly the same way. Our Repub­li­can friends bet­ter look out,” he said.

Sally Per­sons con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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