Democratic sweeps bode ill for Trump, GOP in 2018

The Resistance has rallied. It is real. And after it swept Virginia and New Jersey, it is ready to take on the 2018 election cycle. 

With this week's decisive Democratic wins in the Virginia and New Jersey governor’s races, as well as others across the country, Democrats — indeed Americans — can take solace and be energized in the fact that Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon tells Russia to stand down Billionaire GOP donor maxed out to Manchin following his Build Back Better opposition MORE’s agenda has been resoundingly rejected in an important swing state like Virginia and in New Jersey, a state that was once governed by one of Trump’s earliest and closest allies and supporters, Chris Christie.

Democrats also saw major victories in down-ballot races, giving the party a boost at a time when it has seen its down-ballot victories reduced almost to rubble during the past decade.  These victories were made all the sweeter with the nectar of poetic justice on social issues that the GOP has grabbed on to, to rally its conservative base. 

ADVERTISEMENT

For example, we saw the first transgender woman defeat the author of the anti-LGBT bathroom bill in Virginia. In the lieutenant governor’s race, Justin Fairfax beat out Jill Holtzman Vogel, who had sponsored a 2012 bill that would have required women to undergo an invasive vaginal ultrasound procedure to get an abortion.

Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring beat his Republican challenger, who tried to use Herring’s refusal to defend Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban in court as a cultural wedge issue against him.  

And in the governor’s race, we saw a nasty turn toward the end as Republican Ed Gillespie, once known as a moderate, establishment, common-sense Republican, threw all his convictions out the window, decided to embrace the darkest, most insidious, fear-mongering Trumpian tactics in a desperate last-ditch effort to mobilize Trump voters to his side. 

Gillespie ran ads that depicted immigrants as violent criminals, accusing Democrat Ralph Northam of being soft on MS-13 gang members and accusing Northam of putting child pornographers back on the street. He also attacked Northam for supporting "sanctuary cities" — of which there are none in Virginia — and for wanting to get rid of Confederate statues. 

None of it worked. But we shouldn’t be too surprised either. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump’s approval rating nationally continues to be at record lows in the modern political era of polling. The last polls were even more devastating, as they drew a picture of a national electorate whose majority believes that Trump did something illegal on the Russia issue and two-thirds approve of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation.

In Virginia, Trump was underwater as well, with only a 43 percent approval and a 55 percent disapproval rating among those who voted, according to the exit polls.

In some of the latest national polls, there are even huge red flags for Trump and his team: He is losing a substantial chunk of white, noneducated working-class men who were the backbone of his support one year ago. A majority do not believe the country is better off by having elected Trump as president. 

These numbers, and these Democratic victories, do not bode well for Trump’s agenda, for any major legislative wins, and they certainly should cause a shiver down many Republican spines, as they could very well be a preview of a wave election in 2018, if Trump continues to lose support and as worried Republican incumbents continue to retire, instead of hanging the Trump political albatross around their necks. 

This also spells bad news for Trump, as he is on the verge of wanting to pass his tax-reform package in Congress. But with the Democratic wins in Virginia and New Jersey, and a historic Democratic flip in the Virginia House of Delegates, Trump’s powers of persuasion and his attempts to use fear and coercion to get his way will be substantially limited moving forward.

ADVERTISEMENT

Republicans will think twice about embracing Trump and will use this opportunity to look inward and do what they need to do for political survival, which, in many instances, will be to distance themselves from Trump — as Gillespie tried to do, from a perception standpoint, although he then drank the Trump Kool-Aid when it came to policies and perception. 

He failed. And so will other Republicans who try to be too cute by half, embracing Trump’s agenda and playing footsie with this disastrous, dangerously divisive president but then trying to distance themselves from him when it is convenient.

Voters have had it with a president who demonstrates just how unfit, wholly unprepared, unqualified and uninterested he is in becoming a real, substantive leader who can unite the country.  

Let’s be very clear: This landslide in Virginia by the Democrats is not due to “changing demographics” — the demographics had already changed, and Hillary won those changing demographics in this state by 5 points a year ago. As Dr. Larry Sabato tweeted tonight, this is due simply to a pure, intense rejection of Trump that manifested itself in important suburban districts across the state.

But we also must give credit where credit is due. The Democratic ground game was organized, energized and mobilized. Democrats knocked on 1 million more doors this cycle than Terry McAuliffe did in 2012 when he won the state.

And Democrats will be looking to replicate this model in 2018.

So, Republicans had better take a long, hard look in the mirror and decide who they will side with: their well-loathed, divisive, fear-mongering, unfit president, or the American people who are looking for true leaders committed to finding real solutions that unite the country and help all Americans live their best lives, be their best selves and live up to their God-given potential.

In the meantime, the Resistance will be celebrating, and then it will be getting down to business. 

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.