Let’s not sugarcoat what happened on Tuesday night in Virginia’s statewide elections. The Republicans suffered an absolute massacre. A number of late polls suggested the governor’s race was turning into an unexpected barnburner. However, in a performance that far exceeded those polls, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam defeated former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie by almost 10 points–the strongest showing for a Democrat in the Commonwealth in over three decades.
More importantly in the long run, the Democrats’ showing in elections for the House of Delegates, the lower house of the state legislature, exceeded even the most optimistic Democratic projections. Due to one of the most brutal gerrymanders in the nation, the Republicans went into Tuesday night holding a supermajority of 66 seats. However, the Democrats took 15 Republican-held seats, their strongest performance in recent memory–and actually scored a net gain of seats for the first time in 40 years.
In another four Republican-held seats, one candidate leads by less than or close to one percent–the threshold for a recount. In one of those seats, the Democrat leads by 68 votes; if that margin holds, it will result in a 50-50 tie and a power-sharing arrangement. If the Democrats can hold onto their narrow lead in that seat and flip another, they will take control of the House for the first time in 17 years.
Much of this is due to a dominating performance for the Democrats in Northern Virginia. Northam carried the 10 counties and independent cities entirely or mostly within area code 703–generally considered the core of the Virginia side of the Washington metro area–by over 276,000 votes, far more than his statewide margin of 232,000 votes. Moreover, if current results hold, the Democrats will hold every state house seat in the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church and Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William counties, and all but one seat in Loudoun County.
That doesn’t sit well with one of Virginia’s most infamous residents, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. He thinks that Northern Virginia is better off being part of Washington.
Most media outlets called the governor’s race for Northam just after 8 p.m. About an hour later, when it became apparent that this night was turning into a rout, Falwell took to Twitter.
DC should annex NOVA and return the governance of VA to Virginians! The founders intended DC to include all fed employees who are conflicted
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) November 8, 2017
We’ve heard this argument before. If you’ll remember, back in 2008, John McCain campaign adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer mused that the main reason Virginia seemed to be getting away from her boss was that Northern Virginia had swollen with Democrats moving from across the Potomac. She added, though, that the “real Virginia”–the area outside the Washington suburbs–would be more receptive to McCain’s message.
This line is no less outrageous now than it was nine years ago. To hear Falwell and Pfotenhauer talk, since Northern Virginia has turned almost solidly Democratic, its residents aren’t really Virginians at all. At heart, they’re residents of the District of Columbia.
It’s also very similar to the logic used by those who dismiss Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by almost three million votes. They claim she only pulled it off by running up her margins in areas of the country that would vote for a comatose Democrat.
But Falwell takes this argument to another, and even more degrading, level. Unless I read this tweet wrong, Falwell believes Northern Virginia should pay for its insolence by effectively giving up its voice in national politics. Remember, folks, the District is represented by a single non-voting member of the House, and it has no Senators.
Falwell also forgets that the Democrats running for the state house were up against a map that was blatantly rigged to lock them out of power. So rigged, in fact, that the Democrats needed to pull off the equivalent of a double-inside straight to have any hope of wiping out the Republican supermajority. The National Democratic Redistricting Committee crunched the numbers to show just how skewed this map was.
If you add up total votes across Virginia for the House of Delegates, Democrats beat GOP 53%-44%, but a 50/50 split for seats won seems likely.
It takes a massive wave for Democrats to overcome the gerrymandered maps that GOP drew in 2011. We have to fix this broken system.
— NDRC (@DemRedistrict) November 8, 2017
Alex Seitz-Wald of MSNBC put this in even starker terms.
Gerrymandering toll, via @DemRedistrict…
Total vote for VA House of Delegates: Dems 53% (1,300,645 votes), GOP 44% (1,076,275).
BUT House balance likely split about 50-50 (pending recounts).
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) November 8, 2017
Granted, the margin may have been skewed by members of both parties running unopposed. But the numbers don’t lie. The Democrats won the popular vote for the state house by over 220,000 votes, and yet they could still end up with a flat-footed tie with the GOP in terms of actual seats. And Falwell’s whining about the need to “return governance to Virginians”?
But then again, we shouldn’t be surprised to see Falwell take this line. After all, Falwell is part of a wing of the GOP that doesn’t think ANY Democratic president or governor is legitimate–whether he or she is black, white, or polka-dotted. So when a Democrat actually wins, and even when he does so by a convincing margin, they do all they can to claim that his or her victory isn’t real.
Let’s say it all together as a group–when a Democrat wins by running it up in urban and suburban areas, it doesn’t make his or her victory any less legitimate. The people of Virginia have spoken, Jerry–and in an election that was not tainted by foreign interference. Deal with it.
(featured image: screenshot courtesy WDBJ)