On Tuesday November 7, Virginia voter hit the polls to elect a new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and delegates for the General Assembly. Polls going into election day were fairly tight, with gubernatorial candidates Ed Gillespie (R) and Ralph Northam (D) neck and neck.
Virginia holds its gubernatorial election in a national off-year, and the results are often seen as a temperature gauge on approval of the White House.
With the unexpected rise of Donald Trump in 2016, this election was once again in the national spotlight. How would the race turn out? Would Gillespie turn the Governor’s mansion back to the Republican Party? Would Northam make it through?
Turns out, Northam won it, by a large margin.
That’s far wider than the margin by which Ken Cuccinelli lost to Terry McAuliffe in 2013. But to make matters worse, the Democrats swept a huge number of seats in the House of Delegates as well.
Whereas the House was supermajority Republican going into the election, the next session will have a 50/50 split between Republicans and Democrats. And that number may even change as some races will likely be recounted.
It’s a shocking loss for the state party, and for the Republican Party at large.
The Senate is currently split between 21 Republican Senators and 19 Democrat Senators, so every vote is crucial. However, with the next Lieutenant Governor also being a Democrat, any tie in the Senate is effectively guaranteed to be broken by a vote to the Left.
Seeing the results pour in last night was simply devastating for Virginia conservatives. We all knew that the governor’s race would be tight, but no one expected the House of Delegates to be in play as much as it was.
Questions loom following the loss. How did this happen? What was done wrong? What’s next?
All need to be thoroughly considered and ruminated upon, as it will take the Republican Party of Virginia at least another cycle or two to recover lost ground.
There is something that may be a difficult truth for some in the party, but it will be something all too familiar to voters. I bet that many of you will feel this way, even if you are not a Virginia resident.
The Republican Party lost because of the Republican Party. It’s that simple.
Everyone’s eyes has been on Congress and the White House since the sweep in 2016. The promises to repeal Obamacare, lower taxes and spending, and protect the Second Amendment were reasons that drove voters to mark their ballots the way they did.
However, here we stand a year after that election, and what has been done? What has the Republican Party done during their time having the House, Senate, and White House?
Literally nothing substantive. Obamacare is still here. Tax reform is basically dead. The Swamp remains.
Conservative voters have been demoralized by the Republican Party’s failures at the national level, and that demoralization transferred onto the State Party in this election. After all, if the national party is not getting results, why should it be any different with the state GOP?
At least, that tends to be the mentality, even though a state party may be different in strategy and principled dedication than the national one.
Additionally, compounding the issue, is the fact that the Democrats are simply enraged, absolutely rabid over Donald Trump. Anything or anyone remotely related to Donald Trump simply must be stopped. It didn’t matter who it was as long as they were a Democrat, and they oppose Trump.
Back in June, I anticipated a difficult election after seeing the primary results. In an editorial titled “Virginia Primary Results Show Unprecedented Leftist Rage; Prepare Yourselves, They’re Coming,” I wrote about what was building up.
I knew it would be a difficult race, but I did not expect such a bloodbath. The Democrats had the rage and fervor to strike back, and they did. Trump’s victory, though historic in its underdog nature, may come at a great cost for freedom in the long term due to Left-wing backlash. A Pyrrhic victory, as it’s called.
With that in mind, even with the Trump momentum (at least, what remains of it), the Republican Party has simply been impotent since day one. Nothing of substance has been done. Trump has enacted some regulatory reform, and some VA accountability bills have been signed, but aside from that what do Republicans have to show for their election last year?
Nothing. There was simply nothing to really excite the conservative base. Even in fairly conservative areas of Chesterfield and Virginia Beach, Gillespie lost, and Republican-leaning districts were turned for the Democrats.
Former attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli summed things up very well in a response post on his Facebook page:
The lesson? If Washington Republicans don’t deliver on their promises, Republicans up and down the ballot are in big trouble because only one side will be motivated when it comes time to vote, and it won’t be Republican voters.
And just to be clear, that doesn’t mean passing something with the leadership declaring “we just repealed OC!” wink, wink, nudge, nudge, it means really doing it. It means passing tax cuts, not reshuffling the deck on taxes. It means openly changing their direction on immigration from the decades-long open borders policies.
Window dressing won’t cut it. This election result should scare Republicans on Capitol Hill – especially leadership – to do what they’ve been promising for so many years… or their voters will stay home while the other side’s will be motivated to show up. THAT is a recipe for disaster that we saw play out in Virginia tonight.
The Republican Party ran another establishment candidate this year. I voted for him in spite of being a libertarian philosophically because I did not want to see more Democrat control of Virginia. I did not leave New York only to see a good state become just like the place I left.
A great deal of ground will have to be regained in the next few years. The fight for liberty will be more difficult here in the Commonwealth. In that fight, if the Republican party hopes to be a vehicle for responsible governance, and promoting an agenda of liberty, it will need to adapt, employing new strategies to convince the electorate that liberty is the answer, not Statism.
It will require a recognition of the fact that counting on Trump-esque victories is not a viable long-term strategy. His win was an anomaly, not a new standard. But there is fiery backlash against him, and anything associated with him. The devastating loss in Virginia is clear and undeniable evidence of that.
The Republican Party going forward may very well have Donald Trump as a part of it, but in order to prevent a Democrat takeover such as was seen in Virginia this year, the party has to change their strategy.
If this election did not convince you of that, nothing will.