Gov.-elect Ralph Northam links arms with current Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov.-elect Justin Fairfax, Attorney General-elect Mark Herring, and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) at an election night rally November 7, 2017 in Fairfax, Virginia. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
“They tried to take our healthcare, ban our neighbors, peddle bigotry, and steal for the one percent. Yesterday was the result. Just wait until 2018.”
By Jake Johnson / 11.08.2017
Progressives had an opportunity to deliver a “massive repudiation of Donald Trump“—and of Trumpism more broadly—Tuesday night with gubernatorial and state legislature races taking place across the country Tuesday night, and they delivered in a big way.
While it was the high-profile victory of Democrat Ralph Northam over the “unabashedly nativist” Trumpian candidate Ed Gillespie in the race for Virginia’s governorship—along with Democrat Phil Murphy’s win in New Jersey’s gubernatorial contest—that garnered the most media hype, it was the less prominent victories of progressives further down the ballot in Virginia and elsewhere that prompted analysts to characterize Tuesday night as an electoral “tsunami” that could have enormous implications for 2018 and beyond.
Some of the highlights of the night included:
- Justin Fairfax, a 38-year-old former federal prosecutor, becoming the second ever African American to be elected lieutenant governor in Virginia, defeating a Republican opponent who openly embraced President Donald Trump;
- Democrat Danica Roem ousting her right-wing anti-LGBTQ counterpart from Virginia’s House of Delegates, making her the state’s first openly transgender person to hold elective office;
- Lee Carter, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, winning in Northern Virginia’s 50th District over his GOP opponent, despite losing the backing of the state Democratic Party; and
- All seven Our Revolution-backed alderman candidates emerging victorious in Somerville, Massachusetts.
These victories—along with others in Washington, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere—provide concrete evidence that “running grassroots-fueled campaigns that embrace our nation’s diversity and inclusive, populist ideas are the way to win in 2018,” Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, said in a statement after the results came in.
“It’s clear that Republicans are out of ideas and facing a growing wave of resistance going into 2018,” Sheyman concluded. “The Democratic base has been fired up by Trump’s and Republicans’ attacks on healthcare and so many American communities, and Democrats have a chance to win back the House and races up and down the ballot in 2018.”
Tuesday night’s “wave” of victories comes at an important moment for both the Democratic Party and grassroots progressives, who have for months been tirelessly organizing and canvassing in an effort to boost voter turnout and build a base of support that can carry over to the 2018 congressional elections.
Maria Urbina, political director of Indivisible, a progressive organization that has built over 180 active groups in Virginia, said that Tuesday’s wins “make one thing clear: A newly awakened grassroots movement is rising up to reject Trump’s politics of hate and reclaim political power.”
But as the Working Families Party (WFP) concluded on Twitter late Tuesday, it was not just Trump’s “politics of hate” voters rejected—it was the Republican agenda more broadly.
Exit polls indicated that healthcare was far and away the most important issue for Virginia voters, and the decisive Democratic victory signifies a massive rebuke of the GOP’s efforts to throw tens of millions of Americans off their health insurance.
“They tried to take our healthcare, ban our neighbors, peddle bigotry, and steal for the one percent,” WFP noted. “Yesterday was the result. Just wait until 2018.”
While many were quick to note that it is “premature to call the election a death knell for Trumpism,” MoveOn.org Washington director Ben Wikler expressed the hope that Tuesday’s gains—coming a year after Trump’s presidential win—will inspire others to run for office, adding to the size of a growing progressive wave.
“Hey everyone: if you’re thinking about making a long-shot run to challenge a Republican for office, let tonight be the kick in the pants you need,” Wikler wrote. “Go for it.”
Lee Fang, journalist at The Intercept, urged progressives who do decide to run for office set their sights high.
“If the left tidal wave continues into 2018, which it probably will, it will be an extreme lost opportunity if there are no big transformative ballot initiatives on health care, taxes, labor, climate, criminal justice reform, and campaign finance,” Fang wrote. “Progressives should aim big.”