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Tuesday's election sent a righteous message

Eugene Robinson on

WASHINGTON -- What happened at the polls Tuesday was a good old-fashioned butt-kicking that exposed the cynical fraud called Trumpism. Hallelujah, people, and let's do it again next year.

Perhaps Republicans forgot that Hillary Clinton -- rightly or wrongly, a candidate distrusted by much of the nation -- won nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. Or that bigger crowds came to Washington to protest Trump's inauguration than to celebrate it. Or that voting trends in special elections since Trump took office were against the GOP.

Maybe all of that slipped Democrats' minds as well. Many expected Ralph Northam to squeeze out a victory over Ed Gillespie in the Virginia governor's race, but I don't know anyone who predicted Northam would win by 9 points, the biggest margin in that contest in more than three decades. And no one imagined that Democrats would nearly erase the GOP's 32-seat advantage in the Virginia House of Delegates, with recounts pending that could still put Republicans in the minority.

I hope the message to the Republican Party is clear: If you embrace Trump's angry, nativist, white-nationalist politics of division, you will pay a price.

Democrats did well from coast to coast in Tuesday's voting, winning the New Jersey governorship and control of the Washington state senate, among other triumphs. It's possible, of course, to read too much into an off-year election. But Virginia is especially telling because it is a genuinely purple state -- and because Gillespie ran a flat-out Trumpist campaign.

Gillespie, a lobbyist and stalwart of the Republican establishment, is a creature of the Washington swamp. His campaign, though, was straight out of the sewer.

His television ads were among the most appalling I've ever seen. One tried to link Northam with the murderous MS-13 street gang, composed largely of Central American immigrants -- an echo of Trump's jingoistic screeds. Another claimed Democrats were accusing all Trump supporters of racism -- an attempt to stoke anger and a sense of victimization.

Another pro-Gillespie ad took aim at National Football League players who kneel in protest during the national anthem -- a cohort that happens to be almost exclusively African-American. And yet another sought to link Northam, who is a pediatric neurologist, with a sex offender who went to prison on child pornography charges. The courtly and understated Northam called that last one "despicable."

The result was an anti-Republican tsunami. In metropolitan areas across the state, voters turned out in huge numbers to defeat Gillespie and the rest of the GOP ticket.

It was a clear and explicit repudiation of Trump and what he stands for. Tolerance, inclusiveness and common decency are still American values, it seems.

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