Democrats finally pass a test – in a big way.
The dust has mostly settled on the 2017 election season and the damage, for the Republican Party, is nearly complete: Democrats took control of the governorships of both Virginia and New Jersey, and a victory in a Washington state Senate race handed the party control of the entire West Coast – creating what some folks in the media have called a “blue wall.”
- Ralph Northam’s win in the Virginia gubernatorial contest wasn’t exactly a surprise, but the margin was: before election day, most polls showed Northam with a slim lead well within the margin of error, but the final result was a blowout – the former lieutenant governor won by nine percentage points, ultimately collecting more votes than any previous candidate for governor in the state.
- The election was billed as a bellwether of sorts – both Republicans and Democrats around the country were closely observing the campaigns of both Northam and his GOP rival, Ed Gillespie, for clues on how to approach next year’s midterms.
- Gillespie, a former chair of the Republican National Committee, embraced some aspects of Trump’s agenda and campaign style, particularly on immigration and law enforcement, but mostly kept his distance, never inviting Trump to campaign. As The Washington Post reports, Gillespie just “could not escape Trump’s unpopularity, despite his best efforts to thread the needle.”
- The gubernatorial race was only the first surprise, though: Democrats also won elections for lieutenant governor – Justin Fairfax, just the second African American to win a statewide election in Virginia’s history – and attorney general, and picked up at least 14 seats in the House of Delegates, “the most sweeping shift in control of the legislature since the Watergate era,” writes Fenit Nirappil of the Post.
The results, a huge relief to a sputtering, bickering Democratic Party (and an ominous sign to a sputtering, bickering Republican Party), were also a clear victory for progressives: among the wave of Democrats swept into office, there was Danica Roem, the first transgender woman ever elected to office, who handily beat a Republican who’d held the seat since 1992 and once called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” Other progressive wins:
- Charlotte, NC elected Democrat Vi Lyles, “its first female African-American mayor.”
- Manchester, NH elected Joyce Craig, a Democrat and its first-ever female mayor – Craig beat four-term incumbent Ted Gatsas by just 1,500 votes.
- Seattle elected its first female mayor since 1926.
- Maine voters elected by a wide margin to expand Medicaid, a move that will likely bring health coverage to about 70,000 people, according to NPR.
- In Georgia, Democrats picked up two seats in the House and one in the Senate.
The bottom line: state and municipal governments nationwide just got a little bit more diverse, and many of these new office-holders ran on progressive platforms: social justice, police reform, $15 minimum wage.
The analysis is pretty consistent across all media, both left and right: Tuesday was great for Democrats and terrible for the GOP. At the National Review, Jim Geraghty writes that “the key lesson of the night goes far beyond Gillespie”:
Right now, the Republican party’s brand in Virginia is dirt. Throw in the failure to make New Jersey even remotely competitive, and tonight is about as bad as it can get for the GOP – a sense of déjà vu from the results across the country in 2006 and 2008.
Although some conservative outlets blame the Virginia loss on “shifting demographics,” most conservative bloggers come to the same conclusion as Geraghty:
- At The American Spectator, Melissa Mackenzie argues that the GOP’s “unwillingness to bend to achieve even one promise…makes them loathed. Not just disliked, but loathed, by their own voters.”
- At the Weekly Standard, David Byler thinks that “both the results of special elections and the pace of incumbent Republican retirements suggests that the national political environment is currently very favorable for Democrats.”
- At Breitbart, Steve Bannon saw Ed Gillespie’s loss as further evidence that the Republican establishment is withering, and “if you’re going to win, you’ve got to embrace the entire Trump agenda, and you’ve got to do it early, and you’ve got to be dedicated to it.”
- At The Federalist, Mollie Hemingway sees the new Democratic focus on statehouse races as a serious problem for the GOP: “Given the success this high-dollar, high-technology strategy yielded,” she writes, “expect to see many more resources applied in a state near you to achieve the same effect.”
- And at the big boy, Fox News, Lloyd Green argues that “running as President Trump’s Mini-Me is not a surefire winning strategy for GOP candidates.”
Elsewhere, the coverage is mostly unequivocal in drawing similar conclusions:
- At The Atlantic, David A. Graham argues that the 2017 elections were a referendum on Trump and Trumpism, and that Ed Gillespie “might have fared even worse had he embraced Trump the man.”
- At The New Yorker, John Cassidy says much the same when he observes that “Democratic leaders think that they have hit on a replicable winning strategy: to turn every election into a vote about Trump and what he stands for.”
- The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, Vox – all make the same case.
On Sunday morning a man with an assault rifle and a history of disturbed behavior entered a small Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and killed 26 people, wounding 20 others.
- From The New York Times: “For several minutes, he fired quickly, pausing only to reload, methodically shooting his terrified victims – including small children – in the head, execution-style.”
- On Monday, the Air Force admitted to having to having failed “to forward information about him to the national databases used for gun purchase background checks.” Had they done so, the man would not have been able to purchase the firearm used in the shooting.
Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Commerce Secretary was ensnared in controversy this week when multiple media outlets began releasing stories about the “Paradise Papers,” a massive stockpile of more than 7 million internal documents of a Bermuda-based law firm that was leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, who crowdsourced it to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
- Ross, according to multiple sources, “shares business interests with Vladimir Putin’s immediate family,” a detail he failed to disclose during the confirmation process.
- The interest in question is about 17.5 million shares in Navigator, a shipping firm whose second-largest client is SIBUR, the Russian petrochemical company owned by (among others) Gennady Timchenko, a member of Putin’s inner circle who is on the US sanctions list, and Kirill Shamalov, husband of Putin’s daughter.
Despite moves by President Trump to sabotage the Affordable Care ACT (ACA), enrollments surged at the start of the open enrollment period: “more than 200,000 Americans chose a plan on November 1st,” more than doubling last year’s numbers.
- More than 1 million people visited Healthcare.gov that first day as well, up about 33 percent from the year before.
The Department of Justice is holding up AT&T’s $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner as it pushes for “significant asset sales,” as a condition for approval. In particular, the DOJ is pushing AT&T to sell “Turner Broadcasting or its DirecTV satellite TV operation.”
- CNN, a network President Trump has repeatedly gone after as ‘fake news,’ appears to be the sticking point, although both the Justice Department and the White House have released statements denying that the president had anything to do with the hold-up.
- The deal, as Reuters reports, is opposed not just by President Trump but “by an array of consumer groups and smaller television networks,” as well as some Democrats, “on the grounds that it would give AT&T too much power over the content it would distribute to its wireless customers.”
header image: "lt. governor ralph northam..." virginia sea grant / flickr