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Identity Politics Won Virginia

Economic issues mattered but identity mattered more.

Tuesday night, white men in Virginia voted overwhelmingly (63%) for Ed Gillespie (after he ran an incredibly racist campaign. White women voted for him by a slim (51%) but convincing margin as well despite Gillespie embracing Trumpism, the wholesale rolling back of women's reproductive rights. Even after a full year of Donald Trump's historically disastrous presidency, white Virginians still rushed to embrace the hate.

Yet Ed Gillespie was utterly crushed by his "boring" Democratic opponent Ralph Northam by a staggering 9 points, the largest margin of victory by a Democrat in over 25 years. The common wisdom seems to be congealing around a reverse coattails effect in which the massive amount of down ticket Democratic candidates drew out an already highly energized base and turned an anti-Trump wave into a pro-Democrat tsunami that left the country reeling in shock.

What is notable about these down ticket races is what they say about the future of the Democratic Party and its base. Among the winners were:

  • Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman, the first two Latina Delegates in Virginia's history.
  • Danica Roem, the first openly transgender woman Delegate in American history (with the added bonus of unseating notorious anti-LGBT bigot Robert G. Marshall). 
  •  Justin Fairfax, only the second black Lt. Governor in Virginia's history.
  • Dawn Adams, the first openly lesbian Delegate in Virginia's history.
  • Kathy Tran, the first Asian-American Delegate in Virginia's history.

All told, Republicans lost 15 seats and 11 of those were to women with the very real possibility of losing control of the House of Delegates despite the extreme gerrymandering Republicans have had in place for years. 

That's not to say these candidates won because they were women or Latino or trans or black or Asian or gay but it sure as hell didn't hurt as some pundits have been insisting since Election Day 2016. Tuesday night was a direct refutation of both the hardcore racism of Trump's supporters and the softer bigotry of those insisting the Democrats abandon "identity politics" to focus on the needs of white voters to the exclusion of everyone else. In other words, diversity appeals to Democratic voters because Democratic voters are diverse. 

That's not going to sit well with those in the media who have been fetishizing the "white working class" as the "new" power center of all American politics but that's too damn bad. The sad reality is that white people in Virginia voted for racism again and that's a dynamic that seems to be here to stay. There is no "economic anxiety" motivating Republican voters, just white supremacy with a growing penchant for white nationalism.

But the much happier reality is that when the incredibly diverse Democratic base ignores the propaganda about how evil and wicked the Democratic Party is and turns out the vote, we don't just win, we win big.

In the coming days, there's going to be a concerted effort to bury that story because it represents an existential threat to the status quo. A Democratic base of people of color, women, LGBT, religious minorities as well as whites not interested in white supremacy simply will not vote for a Republican agenda and they will not only focus on economic inequality. That is the kind of movement that will effect lasting change for the betterment of all, not just those already privileged with the "right" color skin, gender and sexual identity.

There are 364 days left to the 2018 elections.

- This article kills fascists

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