Tag Archives: Ralph Northam

Five Quick Takeaways from Last Night

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.


Lessons from the Virginia Primaries

On the Democratic side, we saw a hotly contested gubernatorial primary between Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello. Both ran as strong progressives with Northam beating Perriello by the more comfortable than expected margin of 56-44.

Perriello did best in his old southside congressional district and in normally Republican low turnout counties in the western part of the State. Northam carried urban Democratic strongholds like Alexandria and Arlington and did even better in places like Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

While billed as the Sanders insurgency versus the establishment, this geography doesn’t support that voters especially saw it that way, since Northam carried urban progressive strongholds. I suspect that was inside baseball to most voters who took their cues off of snapshots of the candidates. Something for people still fighting the Bernie v. Hillary wars to remember.

We did learn that there is no such thing as criticizing Donald Trump too much in a Democratic primary. Both candidates were strident in their critiques. Northam managed to get a lot of earned media for calling Trump “a narcissistic maniac.”

Both candidates ran good campaigns and either would have been a fine general election candidate. Kudos to Tom Perriello for conceding quickly once the results became clear and for unequivocally endorsing Ralph Northam. Another good lesson for Democrats everywhere.

The Republicans had a much more problematic night that almost ended in total disaster. Former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie, who nearly upset U.S. Mark Warner in 2014, ran a campaign in which he advocated standard Republican calls for massive tax cuts and did his best to avoid controversy or commentary on Trump.

In contrast, Prince William Board of Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart, known in the past for his staunch anti-immigrant efforts and being fired as Trump’s state campaign chair, ran an incendiary campaign in which ran as Trumpier than Trump, embracing Confederate monuments and getting lots of free media.

Despite huge financial advantages and near universal establishment support, Gillespie eked out a victory over Stewart of 43.7 to 42.5. Trump remains popular among the diehards who tend to vote in low turnout Republican primaries.

This does not bode well for people who would like to see the party steered away from extreme right-wing populist Trump-style politics. Probably very bad for Republicans but even worse for Americans who need two responsible, viable parties.

Though Republicans just avoided the nightmare scenario of Stewart as their nominee, Gillespie’s narrow win when a blowout was anticipated takes the wind out of their sails, which doesn’t help as he was already trailing either Northam or Perriello in the polls. It doesn’t demonstrate strong support for the nominee and, contrary to his near upset of Warner, weakens confidence that he knows how to run a good campaign in tough terrain.