In Virginia, Some Republicans Voted Against GOP to Teach a Lesson

The words were spoken forcefully: “I’m voting straight Democrat to teach the Republicans a lesson.”


Donald Trump.

I heard it over and over. These were lifelong Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents, mostly women but also some men, who had a goal on Election Day: Send a message to the GOP.

Some good Republicans were collateral damage. “But he’s one of the good guys, pragmatic and willing to work across the aisle,” I protested.

“Doesn’t matter. He’s an R,” was the response. The resolve in their voices was unmistakable.

When the pussyhat women’s marches were held on January 21, 2017 — the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration — millions of women marched in big cities like D.C., Austin, Los Angeles, and New York as well as smaller localities like Anchorage, Alaska, where thousands of women showed up in the cold and snow, and little outlying Alaskan villages where they gathered in solidarity with their sisters in small towns across America.

The catalyst was Donald Trump’s misogynistic and crude comments that began during his campaign despite a GOP “autopsy” in 2012 that, among other suggestions, encouraged reaching out to women as well as the ethnic communities. Trump shattered the autopsy and, in doing so, somehow won the presidency.

The march in January wasn’t just a march. It was the beginning of a movement that encompassed men as well as conservative and moderate Republicans to protest not only Donald Trump but also Corey Stewart, Charlottesville, white nationalists, and much more.

By encouraging women to run for public office and by looking for candidates to prevent Republican incumbents from running unchallenged, the energy from the women’s march was turned into more than 50 women candidates to challenge in Virginia’s 2017 primaries for the House of Delegates:

In Virginia, many women say they are responding to state-level trends. The male-dominated GOP General Assembly (women account for 17% of seats) passed a bill in February to defund Planned Parenthood, which Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed. That was weeks after passing a resolution declaring the anniversary of Roe v. Wade a “Day of Tears,” which the state Democratic Caucus called a “woman-shaming” resolution; and introducing a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks that the state’s Attorney General said is probably unconstitutional.

“Their policies mimic Trump. That’s why it was perhaps that final push where more women are stepping up,” said [Attorney General Mark] Herring.

Tuesday’s election in Virginia was undoubtedly a repudiation of Trump.

Not only did Republicans lose the top three statewide offices — governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general — but heads rolled in the General Assembly as 16 Republican delegates lost their seats (several will go to recount), with as many as ten of them going to women.

As Congressman Scott Taylor (R-Virginia Beach) noted, “I don’t know how you get around that this wasn’t a referendum on the administration, I just don’t. Some of the very divisive rhetoric really prompted and helped usher in a really high Democratic turnout in Virginia.”

Former Congressman Tom Davis concurred. “Ed couldn’t escape being a proxy for Trump, which killed him. It’s a huge drag on the ticket. It motivated the Democratic base. Democrats came out en masse in protest. This was their first chance to mobilize the base. The lesson here is that Republicans have to get their act together. Ed did as well as he could do with the hand he was dealt.”

Which brings us back to the Republicans and Independents who were part of this tsunami who said, with determination in their voices, “I’m voting straight Democrat to teach the Republicans a lesson.”

Will the GOP learn from the stunning losses of Tuesday?

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