OK, so I can’t shut up about the election, one of the most interesting in many years, given all the sub-plots, but I will take a minute to caution that we should not overestimate its value.
The NYTimes is reporting that even with the Democrats’ victories, the group of white voters who are so solid for Trump–mostly middle income or lower, and less educated–was hardly penetrated. That was once a dependable Democratic group of voters, now replaced by minorities (racial, sexual, economic, etc.), women (not white married women, though), legal immigrants and first-generation Americans, young people and the poor. That’s a lot of people and in an election like this one, where emotion is running high, it’s enough to win. But will it be enough in 2018 when many of those voters believe the war has been won?
It has not. Democrats, at this moment, are still a minority in the House and the Virginia Senate, same as they have been for 18 years, pending recounts. Even if they tie or gain a lead in the House, they need to work with Republicans to form legislation. “There is potential to create coalitions,” Democrat David Toscano, House Minority Leader was quoted in the Washington Post.
Voter turnout (48 percent) was the highest since 1993 (61 percent) when Republican George Allen won. For several reasons, the electorate was smaller 24 years ago. Turnout will need to continue to grow and Dems will need to make inroads–as they did Tuesday–in areas that are solidly Republican, like Southwest Virginia, where Republicans hold majorities, but where their elected officials have done absolutely nothing to benefit the region.
This will need to be accomplished–for the moment–with severe gerrymandering in place, though I don’t know that gerrymandering is nearly the factor in far Southwest that it is in the Roanoke Valley, in Blacksburg and up the Shenandoah Valley. Southwest is solidly conservative with small pockets (mostly college towns) of liberalism and moderation. Coal mining is a primary employer and miners fear its loss, which is coming, regardless of what Republicans say. Dems would re-educate and re-train miners. Republicans do not offer that alternative.
Medicaid was a factor Tuesday. “All the folks who fought me on Medicaid expansion, they got blown out,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe noted. I believe Republicans are far too willing to believe their own propaganda about ACA, which is far more popular among Americans than they will admit.
Democrats fielded good candidates and the party supported them. That happened notably when Tom Perriello was elected by a slim majority to the House a few years ago with a lot of support from the national party. The party abandoned him when he ran as an incumbent and lost the seat. Dems are facing millions–maybe billions–of dollars in funding from a tiny majority of billionaires willing to spend whatever it takes to get their way. That means extraordinary effort with every election–like we just saw.