November 13, 2017 Published in Editorials

The Doctor Is In Editorial

A large number of Virginians went to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 7, and produced an old-fashioned landslide victory for the Democratic Party. Voters swept in a new governor and lieutenant governor and re-elected the attorney general by generous margins.

More interestingly, the Republicans saw their majority in the House of Delegates evaporate. With three seats still undecided the Democrats are one seat away from producing a chamber that is evenly balanced having already gained 15 seats.  No one saw the magnitude of this change coming.

Voting was very heavy in Alexandria and other Democratic strongholds. Voting in contested seats was also brisk. Analysts have noted that Republicans in suburban districts were defeated wholesale.

While the reasons for this are not yet well defined, there is good evidence in exit polls that shows that voters were motivated by disapproval of Donald Trump’s presidency. This evidence is supported by results in suburban districts in Pennsylvania and by results in New Jersey. Suburban Republicans often tend to be moderates but in an increasingly populist right wing Party, Republican candidates are not attractive to an electorate that is relatively sophisticated. Trump’s divisive rhetoric and erratic behavior has people worried.

Other factors also contributed. Organizations have sprung up to support candidates who appeal to the growing groups in the American population such as minorities, women, and young voters. They stress grass roots support which should have a lasting imprint on future voting in a way that buying massive numbers of attack ads can never do.

The indictment of Paul Manafort and other Trump campaign related officials and guilty pleas by one played a role. Suddenly the idea of Russian interference in the Presidential election was not an academic issue even if there is much more to be done in proving the case. It was a mirror image of the former FBI Director’s decision to look again at Hillary Clinton’s emails a few weeks before last year’s election. That decision blunted Clinton’s surge. The indictments this year helped propel Northam’s.

What this means for the future is still unclear. Virginia has voted increasingly Democratic in the last several elections. Top state officers and the two U.S. Senators are Democrats. Clinton carried Virginia easily last year. Virginians, moreover, tend toward moderation. The Governor-elect, Dr. Ralph Northam, is a long-time moderate. If the Democrats forget this, then not all the voters that came out so strongly in the rain will come again.

The Republicans now are clearly on the defensive. Some, like the very right wing populist Corey Stewart, claim that candidate for Governor Ed Gillespie should have embraced President Trump and that his failure to do so cost him the election. The Republican candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general did embrace the President closely. They still lost convincingly.  Corey Stewart is not the answer to the Republican woes.

Good government for all in the next two years will put the Democrats in a strong position in 2018. If they can maintain their momentum then it is realistic to expect gains in the state Senate, more gains in the House of Delegates and some significant shifts in Virginia’s Congressional delegation.

One thing we do know. Alexandria’s voters are energized and engaged and that is a very good thing!

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