Resistance Strikes Back

It’s been a long year since Russian Internet trolls and Republican voter suppression tactics combined to deliver the White House to Donald Trump. Voters on Nov. 7 finally got the chance to express their outrage at the trail of lies, mindless tweets and broken promises left by the Grifter in Chief.

It wasn’t much of a surprise that Democrats would win back the governor’s office in New Jersey, after outgoing Gov. Chris Christie (R), who once had presidential ambitions, bottomed out with a 15% approval rating. Being Christie’s lieutenant governor didn’t help Kim Guadagno, as Democrat Phil Murphy won with 55.6% of the vote.

The most widely watched race was in Virginia, where Dems should have expected an advantage since the outgoing governor is a Democrat and Hillary Clinton won the state by 5.3 points in 2016.

But Republican nominee Ed Gillespie adopted Trump campaign themes such as appeals to white supremacism, neo-Confederates, immigrant bashers and climate science deniers and, in the weeks before the election, polls showed Gillespie running neck and neck with Democrat Ralph Northam.

When the votes were counted on Nov. 7, not only did Northam beat Gillespie by nine points, but exit polls showed twice as many voters (34%) said they cast their ballots to express opposition to Trump, as the 17% who voted to express support for Trump.

Women, young people and minority voters provided the margin of victory for Northam. Men were 51% of voters and favored Gillespie by two points, but that’s down from Trump’s nine-point edge among men last year. And women favored Northam by 22 points, up from Clinton’s 17-point advantage last year. Gillespie won white voters by 15 points, but that was down from Trump’s 24-point advantage last year, while black voters, 20% of Virginia’s electorate, went 87% for Northam. The vote was still polarized by geography, as cities and D.C. suburbs supported Northam while almost two-thirds of voters in the mountainous and western parts of the state supported Gillespie.

Democrats also won the two other statewide elections in Virginia — for lieutenant governor and attorney general, and they picked up at least 15 seats in the state House of Delegates, which Republicans had ruled with a 66-34 majority that was now cut down to a one-vote majority, with recounts in three districts that could flip the House to the Dems. Eleven of the Democratic winners were women, including the first Asian American, two Latinas and transgender Danica Roem, who beat the chamber’s self-proclaimed leading homophobe, Bob Marshall, by focusing on better roads in the district.

The downside of the election is that Virginia voted by a margin of nearly nine points for Democrats but still fell short of a legislative majority because of gerrymandered district lines. Democrats will face similar obstacles in trying to turn around Republican majorities in Congress and other state legislatures next year. Democrats need to flip 24 seats now held by Republicans to regain the majority in Congress, but Nick Stephanopoulos, an expert on gerrymandering, told the New York Times Democrats, could get 54% of the national House vote and still see the Republican maintain control.

In the Senate, Republicans have a two-vote majority, and that majority may be reduced if Alabamans decide on Dec. 12 they would rather not send accused child molester Roy Moore to the Senate. (Many evangelical “Christians” say the accusation that Moore molested a 14-year-old girl 38 years ago is no major bar to service if the alternative is a Democrat such as Doug Jones, former federal prosecutor of the KKK.)

Next year, Democrats will be defending 23 Senate seats, along with two independents allied with the Dems, while Republicans have only eight seats up for election. Democrats hope to gain the Arizona seat Jeff Flake is giving up, as well as the Nevada seat Dean Heller holds. Longshots are Ted Cruz’s seat in Texas and the Tennessee seat Bob Corker is giving up, but Dems also have to defend Sens. Bill Nelson in Florida, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Jon Tester in Montana, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, the main lesson Republicans probably will draw from the recent election is that voter suppression has not gone far enough. Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach are helming a special presidential task force to develop new methods of keeping Democrats from voting or preventing the counting of their votes.

It’s been frustrating, as editor of The Progressive Populist, to listen to Trump being described as a populist who would protect American workers and “drain the swamps” in Washington. Populists believe that people are more important than corporations, and the government needs to be strong enough to keep corporations in line. Trump has always been a grifter with authoritarian leanings and a history of stiffing contractors, fighting unions and looking out for No. 1. But it’s getting easier to show Trump is a charlatan as he has packed his administration with half a dozen former executives of Goldman Sachs as well as pro-corporate administrators at federal agencies to prevent health and human services, environmental protection, public schools, federal lands and fair labor and housing standards. And Trump on Nov. 13 named Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive who has repeatedly opposed measures to restrain drug company profiteering, to succeed Tom Price as secretary of Health and Human Services.

The Resistance has organized largely on the Internet, with the progressive press helping to identify the targets. The coalition and Dems in Congress have racked up a pretty good record in the first year, knocking down attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, and fighting Trump and the GOP Congress to a virtual standstill on the worst of the bad bills so far. But the billionaires have told their Republican Congresscritters they’d better get a big tax cut or they’ll cut off funding for campaigns, so Republicans came back with a 2018 budget that would cut $1.5 trillion from health care spending, including $1 trillion from Medicare and $473 billion from Medicare, to set up those tax cuts, regardless of Trump’s campaign promises to protect those health programs. And we’ll see what House Speaker Paul Ryan has in store for Social Security.

Plutocrats have been working for more than 80 years to overturn the New Deal’s reforms that regulated capitalism and enabled the recovery from the Great Depression. In the 1980s Ronald Reagan provided the opportunity for the plutocrats, as they broke the unions that provided major backing for the Democrats; the National Labor Relations Board backed the unionbusters; and Reagan’s Federal Communications Commission killed the Fairness Doctrine, which since the end of World War II had required broadcasters to provide balanced coverage of controversial issues of public importance to prevent fascists from rising in the US. The demise of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 allowed conservative broadcasters to consolidate control of the airwaves, with few opportunities for liberal and progressive voices. Now Trump’s FCC is moving to give corporations control of the Internet, and put more toll booths on the information superhighway, while Trump and other right wingers have worked to undermine the credibility of critical news media as “fake news.” Lately he has called for licensing journalists, taking another page from the fascist playbook of the 1930s.

The Grand Oligarch Party will keep coming with bad ideas, the money to promote them in the corporate media and financial backing for politicians who will do their bidding — and they don’t play fair. The Progressive Populist will try to restore the good name of populism. The Resistance will have to keep fighting back by getting the word out whichever way they can. But it was a good first year. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2017


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