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Will Trump spark a kindness backlash?

E.J. Dionne Jr. on

WASHINGTON -- If you are appalled by the chaos, division and meanness of the Trump presidency, if you are tired of the lies he and his apparatchiks tell, take heart. Most of your fellow Americans feel the same way.

There is a condescending habit in the nation's capital of seeing voters as detached and indifferent to the day-to-day workings of government.

The folks who promise to drain the swamp are guilty of a particularly pernicious form of this elitism. President Trump's defenders regularly claim that his base is so blindly loyal that nothing he says or does will ever drive its members away.

But news from across the country should shatter these illusions. A large majority of voters, including many erstwhile Trump supporters, are rebelling. The evidence is overwhelming that Trump's foes are as determined and motivated as any opposition in recent memory.

This message was already delivered in elections in November and December. The latest tidings are from Wisconsin, which led the way toward the style of politics that Trump exploited to get to the White House, even though he fared poorly there in the 2016 primaries.

In the rural 10th Senate District in the state's western reaches, Democrat Patty Schachtner defeated Republican Assemblyman Adam Jarchow by an impressive 9 percentage points in a special election on Tuesday. Consider that Trump carried the district by 17 points in the presidential election (up from a 6-point margin for Mitt Romney in 2012) and that the seat had been Republican for 17 years.

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It was, as my Washington Post colleague Dave Weigel noted, the Democrats' 34th legislative pickup from the Republicans since Trump's election. Republicans have flipped just four.

And lest anyone dismiss the importance of what happened, Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who rode to power on the 2010 conservative wave, warned that Schachtner's victory was "a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin."

It might usefully rouse Republicans in Washington, too.

Wisconsin matters, and not simply because it was, along with Michigan and Pennsylvania, one of the closely run states that gave Trump his Electoral College victory. It is also the place where American progressivism took root at the turn of the last century, but where conservatives have staged a dramatic realignment of popular sentiments over a short period.

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