Yes! Virginia: There Is A Santa Claus

Yes, as I used to tell students when I was a high school English teacher, punctuation makes a difference…

Wordplay aside, I am gratified to report that, on Tuesday, Santa Claus–aka Virginia voters–brought Americans a welcome gift: Sanity, and a resounding repudiation of white nationalism and the politics of fear.

Ed Gillespie ran a campaign based squarely upon Steve Bannon’s promise that “Trumpism without Trump” would carry the day. It is no longer plausible–if it ever was– to characterize “Trumpism” as anything other than racial resentment, and the appeals to bigotry in Gillespie’s ugly and reprehensible political ads were anything but subtle.

Virginia voters also repudiated homophobia, replacing one of the most anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender members of Virginia’s legislature with a trans woman–and by a very healthy margin. Rejection of the politics of hate wasn’t limited to Virginia, either; in Minneapolis, a black trans woman was elected to the city council. Even in more conservative areas of the country, voters ignored efforts to stigmatize immigrants, non-Christians and African-Americans. A Liberian refugee is the new mayor of Helena, Montana. Hoboken, New Jersey has its first Sikh mayor.

Initial analyses of Virginia voting patterns brought confirmation of widening divides between urban and rural voters, and between college-educated and non-college-educated white voters. It also gave political observers a better understanding of which non-urban precincts should be categorized as “rural” for purposes of electoral prediction.  As the Guardian noted, despite a campaign that repeatedly stumbled, and a candidate who was earnest and moderate, but considerably less than charismatic,

Northam still won by overwhelming margins in suburban and exurban areas, taking 60% of the vote in both Prince William and Loudoun counties, rapidly growing suburbs and exurbs of Washington DC. When Gillespie ran for Senate in 2014 against the popular incumbent Mark Warner, he won Loudoun County and lost Prince William by less than 3%.

It wasn’t just in Virginia that suburban voters rejected Trumpism.  Democrats won victories with suburban votes in races across the country. From the  populous New York suburbs of Nassau County and Westchester County, to mayoral races in  cities like Charlotte, North Carolina; St Petersburg, Florida; and Manchester, New Hampshire, voters in the nation’s suburbs decisively favored Democrats. As the Guardian article concluded,

The midterms are a year away and a lot can happen between now and then. But the changing political demographics of the US, combined with Trump’s low approval ratings, mean that Democrats can feel confident they are on the right track at present. They may no longer be the party of coalminers in Appalachian hollows but, based on Tuesday’s result, they are now the party of an increasing number of suburban subdivisions.

It will be interesting to see whether and how this dynamic plays out in red states like Indiana. According to the last polling I saw, despite the fact that he won the state handily, Trump’s Indiana favorability has declined by 19 points since the election. That decline probably won’t matter much to contests in the truly rural parts of the state, but it will be interesting to see if the more affluent, educated and cosmopolitan suburbs follow the pattern that emerged on Tuesday.

Tuesday provided us with a gratifying reaffirmation of Americans’ basic goodness, but it’s not nearly time to stop agitating, protesting and resisting.


  1. Any Democrats or Independents in Carmel ready to vote for J. D. Ford, replace Susan Brooks, vote for Joe Donnelly?

  2. I’ve been observing the pundits comments about Tuesday’s election for 36 hours now. The simple truth is that the salient difference was a + 22 percentage point support for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate candidate in Virginia and + 25 in New Jersey by WOMEN. Similar impacts in other races may be reasonably inferred.

    Women will apparently lead us out of this wilderness.

  3. I believe this fits in with Trumpisms in today’s blog; it may be a stretch but so is the reality of his election a stretch of reality as well as our imagination.

    On “Morning Joe”, an interview with the RNC Chairwoman brought up the question of Trump’s far-fetched statement that he “would not approve the AT&T/Time Warner merger”. She replied that we must “translate what he says”; I’m sure all of us argue with that expectation of thinking voters but her following statement included a closed captioning misprint which we will agree with, regarding Trump’s Tweets and statements that we must “refer to rule of LIE”. And there you have it; an accidental truth which hearing people missed.

    “Tuesday provided us with a gratifying reaffirmation of Americans’ basic goodness, but it’s not nearly time to stop agitating, protesting and resisting.”

    I translate the above statement from Sheila to that old TV series “Rawhide” theme music and hit song with Frankie Laine’s lead-in words, “Head ’em up, move ’em out”. We must stage our own “roundup” of voters to continue “agitating, protesting and resisting” if we are to take back this country from the neo-Nazis and White Supremists. Add to Tuesday night’s election victories the local action regarding Trump’s roundups of immigrants as reported in the Indianapolis Star. “Federal judge stops ICE detainers” “Hold requests without a warrant will be denied”

    We are making strides; baby-steps at times and often on local levels but they are adding up to resistance to the Trump takeover of this country; the Virginia victories, contrary to Trump’s debunking comments, are major strides ahead. The mid-terms are one year away but the primaries are only months away and are as vital as the November elections which will tell how strong – or how weak and delusioned – we are about Tuesday night.

  4. A lesson for republicans: when you “win” with ugly and dumb, you’d be wise not to raise ugly and dumb as your flag—it does not wear well.

  5. Thanks for another great piece Sheila.
    Well what we all saw on Tuesday bodes well for the Democratic Party from the bottom up it still needs to be matched by the same level of competency and zeal by the national party and, in particular, the Democratic National Committee which was sorely lacking during the 2016 general election. The Democrats at the national level abandoned whole swaths of the country, failing to back state by state efforts which contributed bit by bit to Trump’s electoral college victory. The Democratic Party in the state of Indiana is a wreck and please correct me if I’m missing something. While Indianapolis and Marion County got a Democratic mayor the rest of the state is as red as Santa Claus’ jolly suit. That redness is firmly entrenched and to carve into those areas in any meaningful way, or anywhere else that has a similar political makeup, they will have to have a very compelling message that will be meaningful to the audience that their aiming it at. They cannot end up as they did in 2012 and 2016 relying on willfully bad polling data or wishful thinking.

    The stakes in all of this are way, way too high to do things the way they have been done. Perhaps what happen on Tuesday is a great portent of the recalculation of what the Democratic Party stands for and has a message that can be articulated to all of those disaffected voters throughout the country that ended up voting for Trump because of their propaganda induced disdain for what goes on in Washington D. C. and their same feelings for the standard bearer of the ticket in the previous election. This is coming from the ground up and also has to be matched by what comes from the top down and that of a highly coordinated and sustained way.

    John Westburg ran for Congress in Texas in the mid- to late-1950s, and he asked me to come aboard as speech writer and public information officer. I did not stay long, and John’s campaign never established traction. But I learned something.

    Westburg directed me to hype his “liberal” position on almost everything. John was far from liberal, so his directive was mysterious enough to question, which I did. That is when I learned the lesson. Westburg informed me that it’s hard to get bribe money from big donors when you’re already on their side. “It’s a win-win thing,” he said. “I win by getting that money, and I win the second time because I convinced them into paying me to accept policy I’m going to push for anyhow. It’s how I clear my conscience.”

  7. Let’s keep the cork in the champagne for now. It is probably easy at the present to take votes away from the Republican party, but what happens when they wake up and run a real candidate? Could the Democrats still win? Long -term, Democrats need to identify candidates that embody the message that everyone has a voice in government. Is that ever going to happen again? On the other hand, I doubt that Rokita and Messer, are prepared to alter the message to Indiana voters; Indiana still wants read meat and white supremacy, IMO.

  8. Last evening Indiana Minority Leader Scott Pelath spoke to a group of us in rural northern Indiana. He said that he has learned that Democrats cannot continue to ignore the rural areas. He recognized this after studying the stats on the most recent elections.

    He has found that there are many Dems in rural areas, but we and our issues/needs are being ignored. He now recognizes that Dem candidates need to put in the time and effort to meet with and listen to these voters/potential voters if Dems really want to win elections.

    He is correct. We have been ignored and there are many many young people who align with the Dems, but just need to be encouraged to vote.

    I hope he and his colleagues will continue to work to get the rural votes because the Rs have never ignored the rural areas and election results prove this to be true.

  9. boit time we started bouncing back,thanks voters,keep the stream roller oiled,er,runnin…

  10. I note that turnout in Virginia was the highest for a gubernatorial race in 20 years. When more people vote, Democrats win. It’s just that simple. What is not so simple is keeping people’s interest level high enough that they come out every time. That means taking a stand, being for SOMETHING, and leaving no doubt about what you stand for and why.

    We shouldn’t have to get people excited enough to vote, but sadly, we do. Voting is a right, but it is also an obligation to democracy.

  11. Let’s congratulate ourselves – our agitation and truth-telling are paying off. The American people (especially women) are. among other things, rejecting racism and Weinstein/Trump immorality and the American people in general are rejecting this ignorant real estate promoter masquerading as president who hasn’t the faintest notion of what is involved in statecraft.

    Commentators are telling us that we won because voters irrespective of party don’t like Trump.
    That may be superficially accurate, but I think it is more than that. I think some of the vote can be ascribed to the positive rather than negative perception. I see in Tuesday’s vote at long last a reaffirmation of American values, which voters rightly perceive are going down the drain and never to return under the tutelage of the clueless monster sitting in the Oval Office. Under such view, Trump is a mere symbol, though a dangerous one since he has been captured by Bannon’s admittedly Leninist view of “destruction of the administrative state,” aka our democracy, or what is left of it.

    Values were not a matter for discussion in Machiavelli’s advice to The Prince, and apparently have no place in Trump’s otherworld of self- praise and adulation, but you and I don’t live in that world. Our values are entrenched in our democratic institutions and they are neither up for sale nor for fascist grab. But away from the philosophical > We have work to do. Tuesday was only Round One.

  12. Tuesday was Christmas in November! Thanksgiving turkey will be tasty! For the first time in the interminably depressing past 12 monhs, I went to bed with the uplifting hope that sanity might be returning to our country.

    In spite of the constant and unsubtle screed of Trump/Banon hate, divisiveness and destruction, the people repudiated T/B with a resounding single word: “NO!”

    Virginia, New Jersey, Washington state (and other significant wins) have shown the path the country wants to follow. Now is the time for our Congress and Government to crawl out of their cozy featherbeds and tell their lobbyist bed partners their love affair is over.

    The Democrat party has remembered how to campaign, if only they will recognize it CAN be done. Slow and steady wins the day – get out there and cultivate the grass roots. Become the good party you once were long ago – the one that truly worked for the people. Show us you CAN do it!

    Will they actually have the integrity and moral fortitude to represent us, forsaking all others? I have a glimmer of hope – just a glimmer.

  13. To everyone who has posted today a warning not to let complacency set in, we have seen a sliver of hope that the ideological corruption of Trump/Bannonism can be defeated. Sheila, I urge you to write a post telling all not to gloat, not to be demeaning, and not to say “I told you so”, but rather work to build a political platform that is inclusive, honest, open, based on the national interest, and worthy of all people’s trust. Otherwise, we will remain as much a part of the swamp as the current administration.

  14. As much as the author abhors sports analogies, I’m sharing one that I hope Dems heed, and especially the emphasis it places on strong leadership.

    Most really good coaches will give the team an hour or two, maybe an evening at most, to celebrate a victory. And then he or she will quickly focus 100% of the team’s attention on preparation for the next contest.


  15. All,

    Good, solid commentary with just the right amount of caution. What cannot be ignored is the power of the Trump phenomenon. Since this faux president has found ways to insult and denigrate everyone except Vladimir Putin, he pushed thinking people away from him AND Republicans most effectively. That leaves the 40%, or so, true believers that are still convinced that all that ugly coming from the White House is who they are too.

    The people who identify with Trumpism/Bannonism, will most likely never change no matter what happens. Their identity is connected to the framing of their political beliefs which their propaganda ministers on the far right have branded into their cerebral cortices.

    So, to make the results of this past election take root, the framing of the message must do the same with the other 60% and also for those 30% who aren’t registered and the 45+% who stay home even though they are registered. My point is substantiated by the very diversity of the winning candidates across the nation, especially in Virginia. It shows you what happens when there is a high voter turnout across the voter spectrum: The people get represented by who they are and what their demographic looks like.

    George Lakoff’s book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant” explains framing and changing the narrative to defeat Republicanism almost everywhere. It explains why we thinkers are so confounded by those good people who keep voting against their own best interests – as in rural Indiana.

  16. I would like to see the demographics, more specifically, the breakdown by age groups. I cannot imagine that white suburbia embraces the traditional Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton.

    Both political parties have shifted further to the right. The Democratic Party is where the old GOP used to be which doesn’t equate to policy victories. Time will tell on that front. My concern is the #DNC will consider their current failed platform as now attractive, opting for status quo policies which enrich the Wall Street Donor Class.

    If workers abandon the Democratic Party, look for the rise of Democratic Socialists (DSA) to fill the void of the left. They won a race on Tuesday, so I suspect the younger voters made it to the polls.

  17. Nancy; was any indication given as to why Democrats are just learning there are rural areas where Democrats live? Or is it like the 88th District in Marion County which straddles the county line and has had only one candidate, Brian Bosma, who is now sitting his 31st year in the Indiana House? Last year he was challenged by Dana Black, please check her out, she will run again in 2018. Gave Bosma a run for his money (no pun intended) which he didn’t seem to be aware of till the last 5-6 weeks prior to the election when he noticed he needed to campaign due to the attention and support Dana was gathering. Many of the people in that District have never in their lifetime had a candidate other than Bosma to vote for…or not vote. How many other Districts have that same history in this Republican state?

  18. I agree with the sentiment, in football parlance, that we got a first down. Progress but hardly the game.

    Meanwhile, the country is still being sold for parts in DC.

  19. “Democrats won victories with suburban votes in races across the country. From the populous New York suburbs of Nassau County and Westchester County,…..”

    I’m a resident of Nassau County and I am thrilled that we have a new Democratic County Executive. But the big news is the election of our Town Supervisor. Nassau County is made up of many towns. I live in the Town of Hempstead. We elected a Democrat for Town Supervisor. As far as I can remember it has always been run by Republicans. So I looked it up and found out I was right:

    “With her win tonight on Long Island, Laura Gillen becomes the Town of Hempstead’s first Democratic Town Supervisor since the position was created in 1862.”

    So, this gives me hope that things can change!

  20. So here I am … 90 years old … and doing my best to ignore the rantings and ravings of Fake President Donald Trump. And along comes David Stocum, former Dean of the School of Science at IUPUI (and former parachutist), and encourages everybody not to be complacent. I object (complacently, of course).

  21. Todd, thanks for bringing up the DNC – a near complete wreck. Democrats may gain some traction by running against Trump. However, the Champagne should be kept on ice.

    Democrats must also IMHO have a message of why should vote for us. Three issues, I can quickly come up with 1.) Enhanced Medicare for All, 2.) given the the expose of the Paradise Papers on the financial scams the Billionaires and Multinational engage in world wide – institute laws to prevent this international money laundering to avoid taxes. (The Eric Holder attitude of Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Jail, should be shredded.), 3.) Avoid the politics of Triangulation and Compartmentalization of Americans.

  22. ML:”Democrats must also IMHO have a message of why should vote for us. Three issues, I can quickly come up with 1.) Enhanced Medicare for All, 2.) given the the expose of the Paradise Papers on the financial scams the Billionaires and Multinational engage in world wide – institute laws to prevent this international money laundering to avoid taxes. (The Eric Holder attitude of Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Jail, should be shredded.), 3.) Avoid the politics of Triangulation and Compartmentalization of Americans.”

    Why keep messaging when you have no intent on initiating or acting upon any of those messages? If the last 40 years have been unkind to the lower and middle class citizens, and the gains have gone exorbitantly toward the very upper class’, where have the Democrats been for the previous 40+ years? They will not do any of the above. Beyond the rhetoric,canards and platitudes the Democratic Party has given the plebes for the last 40 years,the party is in the pocket of the donor class and the donor class does not want anything but Insurance Industry approved/applied healthcare for the plebes. The same approach applies to the financial industry’s chicanery–the Obama administration didn’t convict any members of the banking industry because they are the Masters of the Universe and, of course,too big to fail–nevermind Wall St was Obama’s biggest backer$. The current DNC and of course,the current Democratic milieu resonates with triangulation and (as this forum has proven) enjoys the compartmentalization of Americans. Hell,Donna Brazile has now been accused of being under the influence of Russians by DNC approved pundits. It sucks when the two major political parties and their followers both have gone beyond the limits of reality. Both political organizations deserve to be busted into millions of pieces and cast asunder.

    Frankly,I see more losses by the Democrats in the subsequent years ahead.

  23. Here’s an example with what IS wrong with the party. Lee Carter won anyhow. It’s important to have an operational definition of “unity” from the liberal Democrat perspective; this is it. This also shows that the conventional wisdom is severely, and tendentiously, oversimplified, as in the articles from Pravda and Izvestia.

    From The Richmond Times:

    After pledging an aggressive race against GOP Del. Jackson Miller, state Democratic Party abandons populist challenger

    The Democratic Party establishment is aligned with Dominion Energy, a regulated monopoly, and supportive of Dominion’s desire to build the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline across Virginia. Like their GOP counterparts, the Democrats are recipients of the cash Virginia’s top corporate political contributor pumps into the system, and the Democratic Party of Virginia received $125,000 in 2016, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

    Much More at the link..

  24. JoAnn,

    He mentioned that the Ds have always focused on cities and more populous areas and, like everyone else, thought that there just weren’t any Ds in rural areas.

    He is finding out differently and believes that if Ds have any hope of winning elections they really need to pay attention to switching some of the rural Rs to voting D and to also focus efforts on the younger generations out here and encourage them to vote.

    He recognizes that listening to the challenges and issues of rural voters is important and they can no longer be ignored. It is all about listening to all potential voters and letting them know that he (or other candidates) are interesting in serving our interests too, which most of the time align with the D voters in cities.

  25. We have one reputable party left. It’s not the Grand Old. It may not be much but it’s all that we have that still works.

    Sitting on the sidelines waiting for perfection will doom the country we were fortunate enough to be born part of.

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