“Oh, Alabama, the devil fools with the best-laid plan.”
— Neil Young
Alabama has come full circle. After waging a bloody battle over civil rights throughout the 1960s, George Wallace’s home became a target of contempt for the outside world. But with Democrat Doug Jones’s shocking Senate victory in the bright-red state this week, Neil Young’s words of warning seem more relevant to President Trump’s failed plan to remake the Republican Party in his own reactionary image.
GOP leaders have acquiesced to Trump’s dreadful designs for too long to escape harsh judgment at the polls. One year after gaining control of Washington, Republicans are being routed by Democrats in the generic ballot test: “Which party would you support in a congressional election?” Perhaps that is because few party members objected to Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, or his feigned ignorance of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, or his characterization of Mexican immigrants as rapists, or his discrimination against an Indiana-born judge because his parents were born in Mexico, or his attack on a Muslim Gold Star family, or his use of moral equivalence to embrace white supremacists in Charlottesville, or his promotion of British neo-Nazi videos. Republicans across the United States will now pay a heavy price for two years of moral indifference.
The Virginia governor’s race last month was decided, in large part, by women who stood patiently in the rain to vote against the candidate endorsed by Trump. This week’s Alabama result was secured by black voters who rushed to the polls in numbers equal to those of Barack Obama’s historic 2008 victory.
We are learning that the laws of physics apparently apply to politics in the Age of Trump. Newton’s third law that every action has an equal and opposite reaction explains much about the Democratic Party’s resurgence. Physics professors teach that force always comes in pairs, and true to form, the harder Trump and his Republican allies push back against gains made in recent years by women and minorities, the harder these same Americans push against Trump and his Republican enablers. The political reaction likely to result from this Newtonian cycle is a complete collapse of the Grand Old Party.
Trumpism is proving to be an amazing elixir for Democratic candidates. Until this week, Democrats hadn’t elected a senator in Alabama since 1992. In Virginia, Democratic Gov.-elect Ralph Northam outperformed Hillary Clinton across the state, while Democratic legislative candidates racked in one upset victory after another. That same day in Delaware County, Pa., Democrats outpolled Republicans for the first time ever. Democratic candidates have flipped 14 state legislature seats since Trump’s 2016 win, while Republicans have switched none. Even in districts where GOP candidates survive, margins of victory are dropping precipitously. The number of voters who now identify themselves as Republicans has fallen five points — from 42 to 37 percent — in the past year.
During the Obama presidency, Democrats lost 1,042 legislative seats nationally. They were routed in one governor’s race after another. The tea party helped Republicans take over the House in 2010; the GOP regained the Senate in 2014. And Democrats did the unthinkable two years later and lost the White House to Trump.
But now, Trump — that one-time Democratic real estate developer — is returning the favor to his old political party. The toxic political formula he used to win the White House is not transferable to would-be demagogues in waiting. That is good news for the United States, but grim news for GOP leaders who foolishly tied their future to a reality-show star whose political rise was fueled by racism.
How ironic that it was in George Wallace’s Alabama that the political fever called Trumpism would finally break. The devil fools with the best-laid plans.
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