A Massive Democratic Victory, Panic at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Future of the Resistance
The national media has habitually and vastly understated the weight of the Democratic victories on Tuesday night. That Democrats have flipped the House despite a gerrymandered map rigged for Republicans and that they now look to have picked up almost 40 seats would be a big story in and of itself, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.
Tuesday night, Democrats flipped seven governorships - possibly 9, depending on how Florida and Georgia turn out - and 7 state legislative chambers for a net gain of 250 legislative seats, which brings the total Democratic net gain during Trump’s rein over 330 legislative seats. Barack Obama was panned for Democrats losing 1000 legislative seats during his full eight years in office, and in less a quarter of that time since the beginning of the ill-fated Trump presidency, Democrats have already gained back a third of those seats. GOP’s losses during Trump are well outpacing Democratic losses during Obama’s presidency.
Among the gubernatorial switches were the return to the blue fold of some critical states that had been governed by Republican governors: Wisconsin and Michigan. Pennsylvania, a state that just two years ago voted for Trump, re-elected its Democratic governor by a 17-point margin. Michigan elected Democrat Gretchen Whitmer by 9 points, and Scott Walker finally went down in Wisconsin.
In my home state of California, not only were Republicans once again delegated to third party status, the one ballot issue they thought they could win - a repeal of the state’s investment in infrastructure funded by a new gas tax - went down in flames by double digits, as California voters stomped over Trump-twin John Cox to elect Gavin Newsom governor with a near-20-point margin.
But the best news of the night came early, and it came from Florida. Yes, Florida. Floridians passed a ballot measure restoring voting rights for people who, after being convicted of a crime, have served their sentence and paid their debt to society, giving voting rights to nearly 1 million additional Floridians, beginning with the next election.
Much of the best news of the night, in fact, came from states where progressive ballot initiatives gained major support. Deep red states like Idaho, Utah and Nebraska voted to adopt Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, and Arkansas and Missouri voted to increase their minimum wage. An anti-abortion initiative barely eeked by in West Ducking Virginia.
Speaking of eeking by, Beto O’Rourke brought Democrats within 3 points of a Senate seat in Texas - Texas! A black woman may yet be elected governor in Georgia.
All of this is causing pure panic in the White House. Donald Trump’s rambling, incoherent, sadistic press conference on Wednesday - along with the firing of Jeff Sessions (whom I truly have a hard time feeling sorry for) - was just the beginning. Rest assured that Trump is not merely freaking out because the Democratic House will come at him with subpoena power and they might actually get to the bottom of the Russia investigation or of his tax returns.
The entire West Wing is in red alert because Trump’s closest allies who know how Trump’s toxic brand of politics rose to the top are petrified. They know they rose to the top by taking over governorships and state legislatures, controlling the voting process, appealing to fears about diversity, and gerrymandering to make sure politicians who were extreme had no way to be held accountable to the voters. On Tuesday night, they saw much of that network - and notion - crumble in real time. They know that when Obama is not just one person to target but hundreds of mini-Obamas are getting elected everywhere, their fearmongering doesn’t have much time left. They know when Democrats start controlling major parts of redrawing districts, the tables are turned. They know that when people’s civil rights are restored and they can no longer keep people from voting, their strategy is failing.
The sirens didn’t go off in the Oval Office because Nancy Pelosi is going to be Speaker. The sirens went off because in one single election, Democrats have dealt a blow to the very core upon which Republican power stands.
Democrats won big on Tuesday night. A big part of that big victory was making the field of candidates Democrats ran look and feel as diverse as the Democratic party itself. Up and down the ballot, Democrats fielded and won victories for women, people of color, veterans, and LGBT people. From Colorado’s electing the nation’s first openly gay governor to seating the nation’s first gay native American member of Congress to a mom whose son died in gun violence now elected to the House to Massachusetts’ first black Congresswoman to the election of the first two Muslim women to Congress, the Obama coalition didn’t just roar back to life at the ballot box, it has arrived at the halls of power.
Another way Democrats won last night was by not demanding ideological compliance with the country’s Left intelligencia. Candidates ran their own races in their own states and their own districts. Some supported Medicare for All, some did not, but they universally panned their Republican opponents for refusing to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Some states raised their minimum wage to only $12, not the artificial landmark $15. Some candidates drew a bipartisan tone and promised to work with the Administration where they can, others were more combative.
But they all won a big victory. Even the ones who did not win their races often made Republican strongholds competitive, forcing the GOP to concentrate on holding home turf while Democrats picked off more “swing” areas. They all matter. They are all part of this story of the Democratic comeback.
And that is where the future of the resistance is. The future of the resistance - and of the Democratic party and the progressive movement - is female, it is LGBT, it is people of color, it is Muslims and Jews and Christians and Hindus and Buddhists, it is non-ideological. It is a coalition diverse in its construction, its voices, its faiths, and yes, in its ideology. It revolves around the best idea behind an activist government: making government work for people with urgency.
We did good. Now is the time to do better, and never stop.
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