A year after the shocking 2016 presidential election, the United States saw a Democratic sweep in the 2017 elections across the nation. Politicians and political analysts are calling the results of this election “a message” to the White House and President Trump, but it’s more complex than that.
This “message” is multifaceted. It goes beyond not giving into Pres. Trump’s fear tactics and policies filled with hatred and intolerance. This was an election of firsts and it shows where the majority of us are, mentally and politically, when it comes to minority issues and policies in this country
Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio easily won a second term, which is the first time a Democratic mayor has done so in the state in 32 years. Marty Walsh was re-elected in Boston after running on a platform to expand affordable housing in the city and Democrat Phil Murphy beat out his Republican candidate to succeed Chris Christie as New Jersey governor.
Vi Lyles was elected Charlotte, North Carolina’s first female African-American mayor and Andrea Jenkins made history as the first openly transgender Black woman to be elected to public office.
Finally, the state every news outlet is talking about. Virginia had record firsts and major Democratic wins throughout. Ralph Northam beat Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s gubernatorial race without much of a struggle. Reuter’s reports Northam led by a 53 to 45 percent margin.
The two navigated this campaign with a series of attack ads and the soft-spoken Northam came out on top. Gillespie ran his campaign with Trump-like tactics. Attacking Northam on issues like immigration and the removal of Confederate statues. Pres. Trump endorsed Gillespie, but after Gillespie’s loss Pres. Trump tweeted “he did not embrace me or what I stand for.”
Perhaps even more exciting is the election of Danica Roem to the Virginia House of Delegates. She is the first openly transgender person to be elected a state representative, defeating Bob Marshall, Virginia’s self proclaimed “chief homophobe.”
While myself and the majority of Americans see this election as an overall success, this “message” sent to Trump can’t be fully counted as a victory.
Nate Cohn of the New York Times warns Americans from letting the wins this year get to our heads. He says the elections were “held on neutral or even Democratic-leaning terrain” which was the major difference between this election and last year’s presidential election.
Cohn writes Northam didn’t come close to matching numbers with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, former Pres. Obama or Senator Tim Kaine in rural areas of Virginia. Democrats are going to have to work even harder in 2018 to have the same success and reach the 24 seats needed to flip the House.
Young people have been inspired to vote and become more politically active since last year’s election. The Washington Post exit poll results show people age 18-29 made up 14 percent of the vote in Virginia’s election, although this generation is supposed to be big enough to out-vote baby boomers.
Campaigners constantly congregated VCU’s campus in the weeks and months prior to the election urging students to register to vote. Also, the university encouraged professors to be lenient with class attendance on Election Day. This election is proof young voters are key. This age group needs to keep the same momentum going. It’s easy to consider this election a success, but don’t overestimate how much of a victory it is.
John Sides of the Washington Post writes we shouldn’t expect this to be a sign there’s a turn away from “Trumpism.” Sides argues the trend of voter identification and racial issues predates the Trump Era which means the Republican Party’s stance on immigration and other racial issues have been fundamental in their platforms and it will continue.
Although the Democratic Party was successful this year, our role as citizens to fight for what we want our government to do is nowhere near finished. The political participation many of us were inspired to take up after Pres. Trump was elected cannot go away. Continuing to vote, calling your representatives and participating in political rallies or protests is vital.
Remember how you felt when Trump was confirmed president. Think about how you feel every time he makes a decision you disagree with. Use it as fuel to stay politically active.
Katie is a junior pursuing a major in journalism and a minor in political science. She enjoys writing about current events, especially regarding anything that’s happening in Richmond. She hopes to someday write for a major publication in a big city. When she’s not writing you can find her at a local Richmond show or trying out a new recipe she found on Facebook.