The stunning victory by Virginia Democrats in Tuesday’s off-year elections was a major and reassuring reaction against the ugly politics of President Trump.
Here are my five takeaways:
Bye, bye trash talk: Democrat Ralph Northam prevailed against Republican Ed Gillespie by a convincing 9 percentage points because he didn’t completely go overboard matching Gillespie’s rude, Trump-style, putdown political ads that stretched the truth more than paper-thin. Northam was not a saint on this score, but restraint certainly boosted him. Virginians are still too genteel for this nonsense.
Keeping the momentum: Virginia progressives, especially women, were mobilized from the beginning and kept it up. They showed their anger at Trump’s misogynist attitudes during the 2016 campaign and came in droves to the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21 just after Trump was inaugurated. With that as a base, they got to work convincing more Democrats to compete in races that had been considered throwaways for the GOP.
Immigrants strike back: Among the Democratic women jumping into the game was Elizabeth Guzman, who immigrated from Peru in the 1990s and became a U.S. citizen. She settled in Prince William County, home of an immigrant-bashing campaign led by Supervisor and Senate candidate Corey A. Stewart. Guzman ran and beat veteran Republican L. Scott Lingamfelter for the 31st District House seat. Her motivation? Guzman said she was tired of being constantly profiled.
Irony of ironies: In a twist that would have been unthinkable not long ago, Danica Roem, a transgender woman, bumped off Republican Robert G. Marshall as delegate from Prince William. For years, Marshall has made a career of battling abortion, birth control and gays. One of his latest schemes was to try to restrict bathroom access for transgender people.
What’s next? The big issue now for state Democrats is how long they can sustain their engagement. An even bigger election looms next year, and Dems are lining up against hard-line Republicans such as Rep. Dave Brat. Republicans are already smarting and scheming for new strategies after Trumpism flopped so badly in Virginia.