With the taste of crow still fresh in my mouth after predicting a Hillary Clinton win in 2016, the last thing I should do is wade back into political prognostications, but last night’s election results are simply too tempting to ignore.
Here are my top 5 takeaways:
Trumpism took a beating
There’s simply no other way to say it. Despite how the GOP will attempt to spin it – and they will attempt to spin it — the Democratic wave that was predicted actually did occur. From California to Connecticut, white suburbanites who voted for Trump in 2016 abandoned the Republican Party en masse. In Mecklenburg County, that took the shape of upset losses for all three Republican incumbents on the Board of County Commissioners. Up until Tuesday, those were considered reliably Republican districts. In state races, it took the shape of Republicans losing their veto-proof majority in the North Carolina General Assembly. It took the shape of Democrats winning control of the governor’s offices from Republicans in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin. That same shift among white suburbanites also allowed the Democrats to take back the U.S. House of Representatives. Sure the GOP picked off some key Democratic seats in the U.S. Senate, but those gains came in places like Missouri and Indiana and North Dakota — reliably red states where Trump is wildly popular. No shockers there. That proves only that Trump can still hold serve among his conservative base. That alone will not buy him a second term.
District 6, what took you so long?
Ding-dong the witch…oops, I mean Bill James is going home. After 11 terms as a county commissioner, the man who once declared that urban blacks “live in a moral sewer” was at last defeated. (He’s made disparaging remarks about gays, too.) Two other Republicans also lost their seats on the commission, leaving the board without a single GOP member. Long term, that’s not a recipe for good governance, and Mecklenburg residents can expect to hear renewed calls for district realignments to restore political balance to the commission as well as to City Council, where Democrats hold a 9-2 advantage. We must resist such efforts. While local governance certainly would be better served by a strong GOP, political lines must never be drawn to benefit one party over another. Politics must remain a contest of ideas. If local voters are not buying the GOP’s product, the solution is not to force it down their throats by gerrymandering safe Republican seats.
Voter ID passed as a constitutional amendment, and I’m glad to get it behind us.
Make no bones about it; voter ID is all about voter suppression. For nearly all of our nation’s history – 242 years and counting – the right to vote was never tied to a demand that voters show an ID card. Only in recent years, when women and people of color became a political force in American politics, did the cry for voter ID go up. That said, it is not entirely unreasonable that voters be required to show some form of ID. Plus, liberals were never going to win that fight, a least not in the long term. Now that North Carolina voters have approved a constitutional amendment that requires voter ID, it’s time to shift our focus to ensuring that every resident who wants to vote has a form of state-approved identification.
Jesse Helms is laughing from the grave
I know hearts are broken in Black America over the (apparent) losses by gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia, especially after some polls showed them with narrow leads. What happened, you see, is what we call the Jesse Helms effect. Those of us over a certain age know exactly what I mean. When race becomes a factor in a close, statewide vote in a Southern state, the white candidate typically wins. That’s because opinion polls are not particularly accurate at capturing that political element we call hidden racism. In other words, everyone who says they are going to vote for the black candidate doesn’t. Helms, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina, knew this all too well. When challenged twice for his seat by former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, Helms was never shy about finding ways to remind white voters that Gantt was black. The same thing happened in Florida and Georgia…with identical (and predictable) results.
Women will rule
We’ve seen two women’s marches in America since Trump was elected president, and each time, I’ve watched the marching throngs in Charlotte and wondered whether that determined energy would result in political change. Last night we got our answer. When all the votes are counted, there will be a lot more women making laws in Washington. Gains were especially big on the Democratic side, and I was impressed by the number of women candidates who had put in military service. Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was quoted recently as saying, after watching the #MeToo movement unfold, that women are going to “take charge of society,” calling this a “definitional moment” in American politics. Hasten the day, Lord, hasten the day.