Very Bad News for Maryland Republicans
If there was one lesson from last night, it’s that local Republicans cannot insulate themselves from this wave. It is a very strongly partisan era. No matter how much they tied themselves to the Trump mast or sailed away from his message they suffered.
In Maryland, Republicans went down big in Annapolis and Frederick. Republicans with strong local followings lost in Virginia. The areas in Virginia most like those that Maryland Republicans depend upon to win here – Loudoun and Prince William Counties – swung enormously against the Republicans.
Democrats win statewide in Virginia when they win these counties narrowly. Last night, they annihilated Republicans by 20 points. Neither Fairfax nor Prince William may have any more Republican delegates. Democrats also picked up seats in Loudoun.
This is terrible news for Maryland Republicans. Republican expectations of major gains in outer suburbs just got rolled back. Equally important, Larry Hogan now looks a lot more vulnerable than he did yesterday. It probably doesn’t help that he went down to Virginia to campaign for losing fear-mongering Trumpy candidate Ed Gillespie.
Organization is Important
Social media is not enough. Progressives talking to each other about how awful Republicans are doesn’t accomplish much. As much as I love blogs, action in the hard work of politics such as knocking on doors and other forms of meaningful voter contact to get out the message and the vote created the victory.
The effective deployment of huge numbers of Maryland volunteers played a critical role in getting out the vote in northern Virginia. Together with local volunteers, they helped create both impressive statewide victories and completely unexpected massive gains in the House of Delegates, which is utterly gerrymandered in favor of the Republicans.
Unquestionably, Trump fired up Democrats. There was a huge organic component of volunteers from resistance organizations that cannot be manufactured. But that surge needed to be channeled into effective organization. People need to go where they’re need, so kudos to people like Sens. Rich Madaleno and Roger Manno who spent yesterday in Frederick.
Yes, Trump and Federal Republicans are a Problem
There is no secret silent majority hidden from pollsters. Trump and the national Republicans are incredible millstones. As Todd Eberly explained, “Even if they don’t take the House, this was the stuff of nightmares for the GOP. A president at 36% and a Congress that can’t legislate is one helluva weight around the neck of the party.”
The Republicans face a legislative trap of their own making. They’ve promised their base wildly unrealistic, terrifically bad radical ideas that scare the public. Right now, they face a choice of disappointing their supporters or enacting them and angering the public – and possibly their own supporters when they discover what really happens.
Trump compounds these problems. His total unreliability and disloyalty toward legislative partners combined with his fecklessness and lack of knowledge about policy make him a terrible dealmaker. As it turns out, government by tweet doesn’t work.
Junk the Litmus Tests
Purity tests have become depressingly in vogue in the Democratic Party. Increasing numbers want to support only candidates they regard as meeting their litmus test and discarding others as heretics from the true faith.
Democrats spend too much time parsing candidates who are all progressive with the same goals. When elected, people like Ralph Northam and Tom Periello – both fine Democrats – face the same barriers to achievement. Don’t get mad at Democrats who compromise to push the agenda forward. It has worked very well for unquestionably progressive politicians like Chris Van Hollen and Jamie Raskin. Sure beats getting nothing done in order to remain untainted.
Ralph Northam was derided by many as too centrist. Whether or not he was a great campaigner, he was the right person in the right place. His moderation and reputation may have played a key role in reaching out to highly educated women who gave Democrats an important edge.
Medicaid expansion may come to Virginia as a result. Even if you regard single payer as the desired long-term solution, don’t knock providing health care to thousands more Virginians. That’s what the Democratic Party is all about. In short, stay focused on the goal, not comparatively small ideological differences. That’s how the Republicans got into this mess.
Authentic Diversity is Good for Democrats
Beyond major victories, the first two Latinas ever won election to the Virginia House. The very first transgender candidate ever won election to the state legislature, defeating a heinous politician who thrived on bigotry in the process. At the statewide level, an African American won election as Lieutenant Governor.
Authentic diversity occurs not because party leaders carefully balance tickets or pave the way for candidates from particular identity groups. It happens because candidates from various backgrounds jump into the political arena and do the same hard work of politics to build coalitions and support, as that is how nominations are won.
For example, Lt. Gov.-Elect Justin Fairfax ran four years ago and surprised by almost winning the nomination for Attorney General. Though he lost, he set himself up nicely to win the nomination and then the general election for Lt. Gov. this year. The two Latino winners sought office and ran hard in tough areas.
The key role for party leaders is not to downplay the chances of a candidate from Group X. In our partisan era, people seem very willing to vote for members of their party regardless of a different group. As Democrats have a diverse coalition, visible organic expression of it helps affirm the value of participation in it and fires up Democrats.
Postscript on Charlottesville
The citizens of Charlottesville sent a powerful message in the wake of the horrific events foisted on their community. In 2017, 31% more people voted than four years ago, as compared to 16% across the state. A stunning 85% voted for Northam and against Gillespie’s shameless stoking of racial tensions. A lopsided 64% did the same in surrounding Albermarle County.