Thursday, November 9, 2017

Election Defeats Intimate an End to Trump and the GOP

Voters from Florida to Washington state have rejected Trump's vision by embracing diversity over division. One year after a minority of voters elected Trump, Republicans have been handed a string of electoral defeats. In what is being called a blue wave, women, minority and LGBT candidates secured historic wins.

The elections that took place on November 7, 2017 were a referendum on the performance of both the commander and chief and the GOP.  Americans used the opportunity to reject Trump's vision for the country. In a stunning rebuke, Democrats won decisive victories on a range of social and cultural issues.

It is not just the margins of these defeats that are noteworthy it is the fact that they occurred on so many levels and in regions won by Trump in 2016. Democrats defeated candidates by confronting racism and those who oppose sanctuary cities, same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. This strikes at the heart of Trumpism.  All candidates that were actively supported by Orange POTUS lost (Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama and Ed Gillespie in Virginia).

"I had an expectation that it would be tight, I did not expect it to break as dramatically as it did," said Rep. Ryan Costello, a Republican who represents Philadelphia’s Chester County. "It is largely driven by mainstream Republicans and independents being displeased by the tone and style of the administration, coupled with a historic off-year intensity by Democratic voters who wanted to make a statement. This is their first opportunity to do that."

This suggests that the tides may be turning as the allure of the Teflon Don appears to be wearing thin. The Trump administration and the GOP are a horror-show for environmental protection and climate action, but after less than one year in office, there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. A growing number of Americans seem to be realizing that Trump and the Republican party are a disaster for the American people and the nation's venerable democracy.

The Democrats did more than just win the Governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, they also won down-ballot races almost everywhere they ran. This includes mayoral races, state legislators, and ballot measures. It is important to note that these are not the only wins for Democrats in 2017.

On September 13, 2017, CNN Editor-at-large Chris Cillizza, announced the scorecard with the headline, "Democrats have won 6 GOP-held seats in 2017. Republicans have won 0 Democratic seats". He reports that on September 12 Republicans lost two legislative seats one in Oklahoma, and another in New Hampshire, he also points out that these are seats that Trump won in the 2016 election. He further states that Democrats have over-performed the 2016 presidential election results in 26 out of 35 races at both the state legislative and congressional levels.

In New Hampshire Democrat Charlie St. Clair beat out Republican Robert Fisher who, like Trump had expressed a number of misogynistic views. This was a radical flip as Trump won by 17 points in November 2016. St. Clair won the special election by 12 points even though Republicans had a 12-point registration advantage. In Oklahoma, Democrat Jacob Rosecrants scored a 20-point victory after Republican Scott Martin defeated Rosecrants by 20 points last fall. In the 2016 general election, Trump carried the district by 11 points.

Virginia

On November 7 in Virginia, Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie lost to Democrat Ralph Northam despite trying to maintain a safe distance from Trump. However, Gillespie did resort to Trump's tactics and this may be one of the reasons he lost.

"Virginia sent a strong message that Trump-style division -- pitting people against people -- that is not the Virginia way. That is not the American way," Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said at Northam's victory party.

Trump claimed that Gillespie lost because he "didn't embrace me". It is far more likely that the Democrat won because Trump is president.

In Virginia's 13th district, virulently anti-gay Republican incumbent Bob Marshall, an advocate of limiting the rights of the LGBT community, lost to Democrat Danica Roem who has become the second openly transgender state lawmaker to be elected in the US. Defeating Marshall was no small feat, he had been elected 13 times over 26 years, now the self-proclaimed chief homophobe has been fired by voters.

Democrat Kathy Tran won making her Virginia’s first Asian-American woman lawmaker and Chris Hurst is another Democrat who won on a platform focused on fighting gun violence. A Democrat also defeated the GOP candidate for the position of lieutenant governor and another Dem won in the race for attorney general.

A total of 14 seats flipped blue in the Virginia House of Delegates making it the biggest Democratic gain since 1899. What makes the victory in Virginia even more astounding is the fact that they did so despite longstanding Republican gerrymandering.

As reported by CNN, outgoing Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe cast the election results as Virginia's rejection of discrimination.

New Jersey and elsewhere

On November 7 in New Jersey, Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat defeated Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a Republican. In another noteworthy down-ballot race in New Jersey, Confederate flag-wearing Republican official John Carman was defeated by Democrat Ashley Bennet. In January Carmen mocked the Women's March with a sexist meme that inspired Bennet to run for office. Ravinder Bhalla is the first Sikh mayor to be elected in New Jersey. He won despite some Trump-style slurs against him including a flyer which read: "Don't let TERRORISM take over our town."  

The first openly transgender person of color was elected to public office in Minnesota. Andrea Jenkins won the Minneapolis Ward 8 Council Member race with more than 70 percent of the votes. Melvin Carter III was elected St. Paul's first mayor of color.

Jenny Durkan won the mayoral race in Seattle making her the first lesbian mayor elected in that city. President Barack Obama appointed her US Attorney making her the nation's first openly gay person to occupy that post. Zachary DeWolf became Seattle's first openly gay school board member.

Democrats also won mayoral races in Utah, North Carolina, and Florida. Michelle Kaufusi is the first women to be elected mayor of Provo, Utah the third largest city in that state. Vi Lyles became the first African American woman to be elected mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman won a second term by making this a referendum about Trump.

Democrats also had unprecedented local victories in several suburban Philadelphia counties, taking local offices that have long been controlled by the GOP. In Maine, voters approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

One of the most surprising rebukes to Trump came when the town of Helena, Montana elected a Liberian refugee as the state’s first black mayor. Montana is Trump country, citizens of the state overwhelmingly supported him in 2016 (Trump beat Hilary by 21 points in Montana). Lewis and Clarke county, which includes the town of Helena was also a Trump stronghold. What makes the victory so exceptional is that Collins, who has spoken against Trump's travel bans, unseated a 16-year incumbent.

Hope for a future without Trump and the GOP

Together these wins give Democrats a huge psychological boost that could help their fundraising and candidate recruitment. It may also cause even more Republicans to retire (several have already done so). There are a large number of Republican open seats so this bodes well for Democrat's in 2018.

As explained by Cillizza, "[We] know from the history of congressional wave elections that there do tend to be canaries in the coal mines -- a race or a set of races that reveal that something is happening out in the country that we need to pay attention to". As President Obama tweeted, "this is what happens when people vote".

Trump's misogyny was on display before he became president and his racism became apparent to the American public in the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy. Trump's racism and hostility towards the LGBT community appeals to the darkest aspect of human nature. As evidenced by recent electoral outcomes the majority of voters do not share Trump's divisive narrative. Americans voted for visible minorities, women, and members of the LGBT community. These electoral victories are a stark refutation of everything Trump stands for.

The fact that Democrats are poised to take the Virginia House of Delegates speaks volumes. This may very well suggest a shift in the national mood that will resonate through to the 2018 midterms. By any objective measure, Republican control of Congress is now in jeopardy and responsible people could not be more pleased.

US voting patterns may be trending more favorably towards Democrats. However, as Trump pointed out in a tweet, "Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!"

Will Trump's prognostications pan out, or like his other predictions, will they amount to little more than hot air. We will see if the economy keeps growing once Republicans fail to gift corporate America with tax reform legislation. We will also see if the economy continues to be the paramount issue or if, as suggested by the polls, the disaster that is the Trump administration has altered voters priorities.

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