Today marks the one-year anniversary of what was, for millions of Americans, a day of shock, anger, and despair. November 8, 2016, saw the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. In the ensuing 365 days, many (but not all) of our worst fears have been realized. The Trump presidency has been a whirlwind of scandal, bigotry, and ineptitude that has done severe damage to our nation's institutions, our environment, and our standing in the world.
To say it has been a rough year would be a grand understatement. And yet, to the unending credit of the citizens of this country, you did not let the election of a spiteful con man crush you. Millions of you participated in marches and rallies. You made countless phone calls and held numerous protests, putting enough pressure on Trump and his party that their attempts at repealing the Affordable Care Act failed spectacularly. And every time you suffered a defeat, you used it as motivation to come back and fight harder.
For the millions of Americans who have taken up the call to resist the Trump administration and what they stand for, Election Day 2017 was more than just a scattering of off-year races. It was vindication, proof that resisting does make a difference and that our fight has been worthwhile.
I'll admit, after having my hopes crushed last November, I was extremely anxious about last night. The fact that the polls in the marquee race for Virginia governor had tightened considerably did nothing to soothe my nerves. I was half-expecting to see another underwhelming off-year election and another state house going Republican. At least, I would be able to console myself, Chris Christie would finally be gone.
What I saw instead gave me the kind of hope I have felt only rarely in the past 12 months.
Democrat Ralph Northam demolished his Republican opponent Ed Gillespie (who had run a very Trumpian campaign in the closing stretch with a strong focus on MS-13 and Confederate statues) to keep the Virginia state house blue, outperforming the polls and benefiting from massive Democratic turnout. He'll be joined by a Democratic lieutenant governor (only the second African American to be elected to a statewide position in the state since the Civil War) and attorney general.
As expected, Phil Murphy put an end to the Christie era in New Jersey with a resounding defeat of the current lieutenant governor, returning the state to full Democratic control.
Maine overwhelmingly voted to expand Medicaid with nearly 60% of the vote, overturning the Republican governor's veto, becoming the first state to partake in the Medicaid expansion in this way, and laying the groundwork for other red states to do the same next year.
Most surprisingly, the blue wave that crashed through Virginia utterly devastated the Republican majority in the highly-gerrymandered House of Delegates. Republicans entered the night with a 66-34 super-majority; by this morning, they were struggling to accept the very real possibility of Democratic control in that chamber for the first time in decades. Even if the GOP does hold the gavel there when it's all said and done (and several of those contests will almost certainly go through recounts), the message was clear: at every level and in every district, the Resistance is real, and no seat is safe.
I found two things to be extraordinarily satisfying about the across-the-board thumping laid on Republicans last night. The first was the high level of diversity of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and political philosophy among the winners. The highlight of the night was the victory of Danica Roem, a transgender woman who ended the 25-year run of her opponent, the author of Virginia's transphobic bathroom bill. But it didn't stop there. New Jersey and Virginia now have African American lieutenant governors. A civil rights activist is now the district attorney in Philadelphia. Hoboken elected the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey history. A Liberian refugee became the first black mayor in Montana history with a win in Helena. An Indian woman won a special election in Washington to give the Democrats full government control in the state. A Democratic Socialist unseated Virginia's House Majority Whip. Before the night was done, Virginia's House had also added its first Asian-American woman, its first out lesbian, and its first two Latinas. It was a beautiful thing to watch.
Also immensely satisfying was how obvious it was that this Democratic blowout was a referendum on the man in the White House. The exit polls made that abundantly clear. Trump drove turnout by Democratic voters across the board, and despite his claims to the contrary (made as he quickly threw Ed Gillespie under the bus), it is blatantly apparent to the GOP that Trump's continued presence will cast a shadow over every election going forward. Voters across the country made sure that elected Republicans learned an important lesson: you can't embrace the politics of hate without massive consequences.
Yes, Election Night 2017 was a grand improvement over its predecessor. We should enjoy this win and celebrate the result of all our hard work. But we cannot let up the pressure. The GOP is still trying to push a horrific tax bill through Congress. They're also favored to win the next special election in December, when extremist former judge Roy Moore faces off against Democrat Doug Jones for a vacant Senate seat in Alabama. The Yellowhammer State is the heart of Trump country, and no one is expecting Jones to win; but then, no one expected the Virginia House to be in play either, and polls have showed Jones to be in striking distance.
And all eyes remain on 2018, where every U.S. House representative is up for election and the Democrats will face an uphill battle as they defend numerous Senate seats in red states. We can't just sit back and assume that everything will turn out fine. We must continue to march and call and write and protest. We have to knock on more doors and register more voters. We need to continue to resist.
After all, now we know that we can win.