An anti-Trump wave boosts Democrats

The Week (US) - - 4 News -

What hap­pened

Demo­crat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won a bit­terly fought race for Vir­ginia gover­nor this week, cap­ping off a wave of vic­to­ries for the Demo­cratic Party as vot­ers de­liv­ered a sting­ing re­buke of Pres­i­dent Trump on the first an­niver­sary of his elec­tion. Northam de­feated his op­po­nent, for­mer Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ed Gille­spie, by 9 points, amid the high­est turnout for any gu­ber­na­to­rial race in 20 years. While Gille­spie re­fused to cam­paign di­rectly with Trump, the Repub­li­can can­di­date adopted many of the pres­i­dent’s po­si­tions on cul­tural is­sues, de­fend­ing Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments and link­ing Northam to the MS-13 Cen­tral Amer­i­can gang. Trump had recorded a robo­call and tweeted in sup­port of Gille­spie, but dis­avowed him after his de­feat—say­ing that the Repub­li­can “did not em­brace me or what I stand for.”

The Demo­cratic sweep ex­tended both down the bal­lot and in races across the coun­try. Democrats were on the verge of re­gain­ing con­trol of Vir­ginia’s House of Del­e­gates pend­ing a re­count, with trans­gen­der ac­tivist Dan­ica Roem un­seat­ing state law­maker Robert G. Mar­shall, who de­scribed him­self as the state’s “chief ho­mo­phobe.” In New Jersey, Repub­li­can Chris Christie’s lieu­tenant gover­nor suf­fered a land­slide gu­ber­na­to­rial de­feat to for­mer banker Phil Mur­phy, while in Maine, a Demo­cratic-sup­ported ini­tia­tive to ex­pand Med­i­caid passed by a nearly 20-point mar­gin. Democrats also took con­trol of the Wash­ing­ton state se­nate. “This is a tidal wave,” said polling ex­pert David Wasser­man. “Democrats are the cur­rent fa­vorite for con­trol of the House in 2018.”

What the edi­to­ri­als said

The Vir­ginia gu­ber­na­to­rial re­sult was a de­ci­sive re­jec­tion of Trump’s “white na­tion­al­ism” and “hate­ful pol­i­tics,” said The New York Times. Gille­spie started off the cam­paign as main­stream Repub­li­can, but when he lagged in the polls he “chose to dog-whis­tle him­self breath­less in pur­suit of the state’s pro-Trump white vot­ers.” He ran in­flam­ma­tory ads fea­tur­ing “men­ac­ing tat­tooed” MS-13 gang mem­bers, ac­cus­ing Northam of be­ing “weak” on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion; Gille­spie even tried to por­tray his op­po­nent as a de­fender of child sex abusers. Trump claims the for­mer lob­by­ist didn’t “em­brace” him or what he stands for. “Gille­spie did, and he lost.” Pro-Northam groups did their fair share of drag­ging this elec­tion into the gut­ter, said the Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch. A lib­eral Latino group paid for a highly di­vi­sive cam­paign ad de­pict­ing a racist Gille­spie sup­porter in a pickup truck chas­ing mi­nor­ity chil­dren. This was a toxic, “dispir­it­ing” elec­tion, said The Vir­gini­anPilot, fu­eled by po­lit­i­cal trib­al­ism on both sides. Un­for­tu­nately, in the Trump era, it’s prob­a­bly “in­dica­tive of what vot­ers else­where can ex­pect in the com­ing years.”

What the colum­nists said

So much for the Democrats be­ing in “dis­ar­ray,” said Eric Levitz in NYMag.com. Team Blue didn’t just win big in Vir­ginia; Demo­cratic can­di­dates also picked up un­ex­pected leg­isla­tive seats and may­oral­ties in Ge­or­gia, North Carolina, and other states. Wide­spread Trump re­vul­sion is help­ing Democrats over­come their his­toric “Achilles’ heel”: “turn­ing out non­white vot­ers in a non­pres­i­den­tial year.”

“Repub­li­cans had bet­ter brace them­selves,” said John Pod­horetz in Com­men­taryMagazine.com. Un­til now, it seemed like Trump “pos­sessed mys­ti­cal pow­ers” en­abling Repub­li­cans to avoid the elec­toral con­se­quences of his his­tor­i­cally dis­mal ap­proval rat­ings, cur­rently at 37 per­cent. Now, “po­lit­i­cal grav­ity has re­asserted it­self.” Trump is mo­bi­liz­ing Demo­cratic vot­ers in huge num­bers, in­creas­ing the chances that their party will re­gain con­trol of the House in 2018. Repub­li­cans need to adapt—and fast, said Kevin Wil­liamson in Na­tion­alRe­view.com. Hitch­ing their wagon to Trump­ism clearly isn’t worth the “degra­da­tion,” and the only way to avoid be­ing dragged down by this re­lent­lessly “ob­nox­ious” pres­i­dent is to dis­tance them­selves from him.

Trump him­self should be very wor­ried, said Matthew Ygle­sias in Vox.com. Polls find Repub­li­cans down 10 points in a generic House con­test, and while the pres­i­dent of­ten treats con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans with dis­dain, their fates are in­ter­twined. In 2019, “even a thin Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity would open the flood­gates of over­sight that Repub­li­cans have kept shut, with hear­ings ex­tend­ing well be­yond the Rus­sia mat­ter to the Trump fam­ily’s sys­tem­atic con­flicts of in­ter­est.” If this wave keeps build­ing, the pres­i­dent could find him­self “in big trou­ble.”

Northam cel­e­brat­ing with fam­ily

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