|Virginia's new governor Ralph Northam, a nine point win|
The timing was impossible to ignore. Exactly a year after Trump took office, the US electorate awoke. “A coalition of the decent stood up,” said Republican strategist Steve Schmidt in a TV interview. Others revived a similar reference from a comic book: The Justice League.
But those are the simplistic explanation for the runaway Democratic victories in New Jersey and Virginia, including some delegate results in the Virginia House that the most optimistic did not expect. Shards of the victory were also felt in North Carolina, Maine, New Hampshire, Georgia, Washington State and elsewhere where minorities, one-time refugees and women were wining school districts, mayoral and local elections.
The national nightmare is not over just because the president has to tweet dismay from Asia.
Actually, as angry as the majority was after Trump’s electoral college victory in 2016, many were willing to give him a chance. For a while. The real fury began to emerge as more evidence mounted of corruption, collusion, lies unanswered, hollowed out agencies and trivial declarations. At first, many hoped the tweet storms, the personal insults, the dark knight rhetoric (“I alone can fix it”), the rambling policies were simply a candidate run amuck rather than the stability that would emerge after declaring himself just behind Lincoln in presidential stature.
Ten months in office confirmed the worst. Unless the president goes through a remarkable un-Trumpian conversion, or interventions by his aides more successful than they were on his Asia teleprompter tour, the public knows that what it sees now is what it will get for three more years – if he lasts that long.
The curiosity is that hopeful 30%-- the folks he could shoot on Fifth Avenue and still back him.
They don’t seem to live in the same objective world of facts as the once-sleepy majority of Americans. In an age where women no longer will be dismissed as sexual toys to be fondled by the working man, it is the white women (at least half of them) standing by this shrinking pool of white men who cling to the Donald and blame others, like Congress, for blocking all the good things he has promised.
They forget how Congress started drowning in the polls – it was when the Republicans refused to work with a Democratic president who is looking more moderate every day. Last November, gleeful Republicans swore that since they had the White House, too, it was full speed ahead. Cue the drowning music.
Turns out ideas still matter to the public, and theirs are wrapped in bizarre and still unproven idealism about trickle down and protect the rich. We will be saved by the tax bill, Paul Ryan pledges, even though his economic view does more damage to the Virginia voters who rose up to destroy his party in an off-year. The kind of commandments they keep pushing wouldn’t work if they got the pie in the sky economy that 20 Koch Bros in a row could never deliver.
They apparently don’t remember what Trump promised. Or like him they blame the failures on immigrants he fumes about, the foreign trade partners he now works with, the hires who keep fumbling and the offshore money he can’t bring back because his campaign coffers rely on it.
He would hire great people and wipe away the bureaucratic regulations interfering with good business. Remember? Instead time and again he wiped away rules few objected to because they kept rivers from being polluted and chemical spills from being controlled. Maybe destroying the earth is how he wanted to help businesses succeed.
Even one of his first acts was lifting an Obama effort to limit the availability of guns to the mentally ill, yet Trump had the audacity to blame the Texas shooting on mental illness, not the easy access for arms to a proven domestic abuser.
Repeal and replace Obamacare was sweeping ahead without any replacement or any intelligent reason for repeal. What is still sitting out there and scaring Americans is not the regular order that bipartisan senators are working on but a GOP plan that would return the US to the days of unfettered premium heights and lousy health plans. Now the people on Medicaid are being threatened with work and community service requirements even in areas where there are not jobs or services available. It’s the “go ahead and die, lazy bones” rule.
In foreign affairs even at his best he is clearly being handled (a horrible thing to say about anyone elected to president, something that was whispered about Nixon’s final days). The scientists still left in the administration see no alternative to human activity contributing to climate change, and the best the White House can do is drop its harsher rhetoric while riding its dinosaurs.
The mold has been cast. But hatred for Trump has become too commonplace and too ineffective. In fairness there was an effort by many liberals to give him a chance until fool me once, fool me twice, turned into how many years can we play the fool. But the disaster of his methods at least opened a more positive door for the nation’s future.
|Danica Roem (center) embraced by supporters election night|
The lesson of Virginia moves far past Hillary’s method in 2016 to point out how ridiculous Trump sounded. The delegates who may actually take over an amazingly unbalanced Virginia House – 66-34 strongly gerrymandered for the Republicans, even more than that 63-36 Wisconsin Assembly -- emphasized local issues such as jobs, health care, even gun control. The first openly transgender candidate, Danica Roem, rode the bathroom bill right-winger out of town by 9 percentage points emphasizing infrastructure and traffic issues!
The lesson seems to be even deeper than running away from Trump but running on something people can grasp -- making their lives better on a local realistic front. Now the Democrats have to stifle their internal distractions about who is progressive enough.
Some Democrats say this election shows the public is turning more radically left, pointing to the minorities that succeeded as almost an “in your face” vote to the right-wing. Others are looking deeper. People did not elect candidates because their color or religion suggested an openness. Their ideas did. They seemed closer to the problems of the people and committed to grassroots door to door involvement. Latino, black or white, they took a “get it done” tone, ignored divisiveness and spelled out the importance of listening.
It will be interesting to see if Wisconsin learns these lesson. The Democrats here have not been as politically motivated and organized as folks in Virginia, even though the similarities between the states are striking – rural vs. urban, horrible gerrymandering, entrenched GOP machine.
There are efficient groups hereabouts to attract candidates and hit the streets, but not as many or as determined as it seems looking back at Virginia. There it was a commonality of purpose that brought together diverse Democratic factions while I still sense in Wisconsin some tugs of war among groups like Citizen Action, Indivisible, OFA, Emerge Wisconsin, Working Families Party and the Democratic state party under Martha Laning, which may at least have the most money on hand to work with.
Even in Virginia, the Trump side seemed pretty hardened in more rural communities and the victories seemed built on suburbia. True in this state as well. But even the rural communities in Wisconsin, whose numbers wouldn’t balance a furious outpouring from urban centers, will respond to policies and their own people that strike their needs not just seek to inflame and manufacture social values.
Many progressive Catholics, for instance, tell me how disgusted they are that the abortion positions are described in the media as pro-choice vs. pro-life. They believe choice and life are compatible and their commonality in many ideas is butting against a simplistic journalistic cliché. It has now translated to the streets, sort of a purity test of who is a real Democrat. That is so foolish.
People running for state or US legislature are beginning to get that, inviting people in on shared community values rather than trying to demonize on single issue statements. Trump surely succeeded by sowing dissension on religion, place of birth, guns in the household, 19th century attitudes, waving the flag. The Nov. 7 winning candidates looked past that, and so did the voters.
It’s too early to pronounce dissension politics dead. But Wisconsin could help drag such politics further toward the coffin.