Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Winning Where It Really Matters

It is very good news that Ralph Northam won the Virginia governor’s race, showing that “Trumpism without Trump” — championing his issues without embracing the man — doesn’t sell.  But even more important in the long run is that the Democrats made huge gains in the Virginia House of Delegates, their version of the state legislature.

Unofficial returns showed Democrats unseating at least 11 Republicans and flipping three seats that had been occupied by GOP incumbents who didn’t seek reelection. Four other races were so close that they qualify for a recount, and results will determine control of the chamber. The results marked the most sweeping shift in control of the legislature since the Watergate era.

Republicans, who have controlled the chamber since 2000, went into Tuesday holding 66 of 100 seats.

Several winners made history in a year in which a record number of women ran and Democrats fielded the most candidates in recent memory.

One Democrat became Virginia’s first openly transgender person to win elective office, unseating an opponent of LGBT rights. The election signaled a major shift in the gender of a body long dominated by men: Of the 14 seats Democrats flipped, all were held by men and 10 were won by women. And two of those women, both from Prince William County, became the first Latinas elected to the General Assembly.

“This is an unbelievable night,” said House Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville) in an interview an hour after polls closed. “There were districts we didn’t think we had much of a shot in.”

The final results may not be known for a while since a number of the races are still too close to call and will need recounts, but even if the Republicans hang on, this is a major shift at the state level.

That is where it really matters.  State legislatures are where voting district lines are drawn and where gerrymandering takes place, creating GOP strongholds when there are a majority of Democrats in the region.  Medicare expansion, school funding, and infrastructure spending is determined by the state, doling out federal dollars as they see fit.  Gun laws, restrictions on reproductive rights, and even rules on who can pee in certain places all come out of the state capitol.  (It’s especially glorious that the Republican who proposed Virginia’s anti-transgender bathroom bill was defeated by Danica Roem, the state’s — and the nation’s — first openly transgender candidate.  Karma, ya done good.)

So while it is important who wins the presidency and who’s running the House and Senate in Washington, it’s at the state and local elections where the real work — and influence — gets done.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Flake Out

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) joins a small group of Republicans who are saying that Trump has gone too far and that they are now going to speak out.  He, along with his fellow Arizonan John McCain and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) have taken to the airwaves and the social networks to express their outrage, disappointment, and they’re not going to take it anymore.

That’s all well and good, but chances are that if this was October 24, 2016, it might make a difference.  Instead, all three of them voted for Trump, supported his agenda, voted to put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, voted against everything Obama, and shrugged off Trump’s Russia connection.  But now they’ve had enough?  Where have they been?

Not only that, Flake and Corker are dropping out of their re-election races in 2018, and McCain has a terminal illness.  They may now feel liberated to speak up, but now it doesn’t matter because they won’t be around to pick up the pieces; we’re the ones who have to live with the horror.  Thanks a lot.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Can The Democrats Take Back The Senate?

Via TPM:

Here’s the key concluding line from Charlie Cook’s article on the Corker meltdown: “Last week’s news reduced the odds of the GOP retaining its majority from a good bet to even money.”

So Cook, one of the best known election predictors, says it’s 50/50 who controls the Senate after the 2018 midterm.

A lot of good things would have to fall into place for it to happen, including the Trumpistas primarying moderate Republicans like Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada out of the race and replacing them with bug-eyed neo-Nazis, which would open the race for a well-engineered Democrat to swoop in and pick up disenchanted Republicans and energized Democrats.  As it is, the Democrats are defending an inordinate number of seats already.

However, stranger things have happened.  As Josh Marshall notes, in 2012 Claire McCaskill was not supposed to win re-election in Missouri until her opponent, Todd Akin, spoke up on “legitimate rape,” and Joe Donnelly of Indiana won a squeaker because his Republican shoe-in, Richard Mourdock, hadn’t fallen into the same trap.  But the Democrats have to do their part: they have to come up with strong candidates who can convince the voters on their own merits and visions rather than wait for their opponent to turn into Wile E. Coyote.