Election night 2017 was a great one for Democrats. Winning two major gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, sweeping down-ballot races and electing the first openly transgender state legislator, some believe the Democratic Party has finally made it out of the darkness. Andrew Prokop suggests in Vox the latest Democratic victories are a good omen for what's to come in 2018.
It was always clear that 2018 would be an uphill battle for Republicans. The historical trend is unmistakable that once a president is elected, his party almost always has trouble winning off-year elections. Presidents with poor approval ratings, like Donald Trump’s, also tend to see their parties struggle. Still, the scope of the Republican wipeout in Virginia should strike even more fear into the hearts of GOP incumbents.
Prokop also suggests that the Democratic "brand" isn't nearly in as much trouble as people have been led to believe. Ultimately the base turned out for "establishment" nominees, and many undecided voters ultimately chose to vote against Trump.
On Tuesday, though, the Democratic brand appeared to be doing just fine. The “establishment” top-of-the-ticket nominees who were said not to be exciting base voters — like former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy in New Jersey, and the much-maligned Ralph Northam in Virginia — won their respective races.
But Joel B. Pollak of Breitbart doesn't find the election results nearly as damning as many political pundits believe. As Pollack notes, both Virginia and New Jersey "voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016" and not everyone believes the 2017 election is the "repudiation of Trump" some have suggested.
Pundits are calling Tuesday’s results a repudiation of Trump. That is more than a stretch: it is flatly contradicted by some of the data. Republican Jill Vogel, running for Lieutenant Governor in Virginia, hitched herself to Trump and out-performed the GOP establishment candidate at the top of the ticket, Ed Gillespie, by tens of thousands of votes.
It would be more accurate to point out that, once again, the Republican establishment came up short.
Pollack views the losses as a warning to "establishment" Republicans, not voters rejecting "hateful" campaigns. The Democratic Party is still deeply unpopular, with 54 percent of Americans having unfavorable views of the party according to a CNN poll. Furthermore, while Democrats have argued Gillespie's loss is due in part to running a "racist" campaign, Trump's defenders argue the more Democrats use identity politics, the more likely they are to lose.
Democrats, exuberant from their first important win in the past year, are selling their hot takes all over social media. Their favorite theme seems to be that voters rejected “hate.” The only real hate on display was in the Latino Victory Fund ad that portrayed Gillespie supporters as racists. It neatly captured Democrats’ contempt for the other half of America. The more they stick to that message, the easier they will make it for Republicans to retain power in 2018.