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Tuesday's election sent a righteous message

Eugene Robinson on

Democrats won the Virginia governorship with a candidate who is not, shall we say, overburdened with charisma. They did it without a vivid and unforgettable bumper-sticker message. And they swept the state without forsaking progressive principles. Perhaps the most stunning result came in Prince William County, a Washington exurb, where Danica Roem became the first openly transgender member of the state legislature -- defeating Del. Robert G. Marshall, who called himself Virginia's "chief homophobe" and authored a discriminatory "bathroom bill" that mercifully died in committee. Sweet.

Some of Trump's apologists sought absurdly to claim the result was unsurprising because Virginia is a blue state anyway, which simply is not true. It's headed in that direction, but the state legislature remains solidly in GOP hands (depending on those recounts) and seven of the state's 11 members of the House of Representatives are Republicans. That's no Democratic stronghold.

Trump could hardly deny the election was all about him, since he believes everything is all about him, so he came up with an exculpatory spin: Gillespie would have won easily if he hadn't kept Trump at arm's length.

That is beyond ridiculous. Exit polls showed Trump's approval at 40 percent -- considerably worse than Gillespie's eventual showing. Gillespie was wise not to have Trump at his side; he was unwise, and craven, to run a full-bore Trumpist campaign. In the final days, as polls tightened and it seemed Gillespie had a chance, Trump piled in with a series of anti-Northam tweets, obviously planning to claim all the credit for a GOP victory. Oops.

Democrats do need a resonant message that connects with as many voters as possible. They do need fresh and appealing candidates for 2018 and beyond. But Tuesday's election sent a righteous message about what the country thinks of the Trump presidency. Republicans can save themselves and their honor -- or go down with the ship.

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Eugene Robinson's email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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