Americans are voting for restoration, not revolution

To say that Democrats had a phenomenal night on Tuesday would be an understatement.

In off-year - and especially odd-year - elections, turnout tends to be low, benefiting Republicans and helping them pick up important state and local offices. But that wasn’t the case last night. Democrats flipped the control of both houses of the Virginia legislature, flipping six seats in the House of Delegates and two in the State Senate. Just two years ago, on the eve of election night 2017, Republicans held 66 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates. As has been pointed out, Democrats won on the gerrymandered maps Republicans drew after the 2010 census and will be in complete control of redrawing those maps - and of the state government - after the 2020 census.

In the big upset of the night, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear appears to have defeated Kentucky’s Trump-twin Gov. Matt Bevin.

But in perhaps the most worrying sign for Trump and the Republicans, Democrats swept the Philadelphia suburbs to gain control of local governments Republicans had dominated since before the Civil War. Bloodbath is a kind word for what happened to Republicans in the suburbs last night.

In Kentucky, voter turnout increased significantly. 1.4 million voters cast ballots in the state, a 40% increase in turnout from the previous gubernatorial race in 2015. Turnout in the crucial races in Virginia also appears to have been up.

There is no doubt that this was a big victory for Democrats and a warning sign for Republicans who have been turning their party into a personality cult for an out-of-control president. Despite the breathless warnings from pundits that Donald Trump’s intensity of support is being underestimated, last night proved that it is the pundits who are underestimating the intensity of his opposition.

But this was more than that. This was not just a victory for Democrats. This was a victory of reason over rhetoric, moderation over extremism, and pragmatism over dogmatism. This was a victory of what President Obama once called the fierce urgency of now.

The leading issue dominating the elections last night in Kentucky and Virginia was health care, specifically, the fight to expand and transform Medicaid to an income-based entitlement under the Affordable Care Act. Not a single Democrat who won these seats went around talking about single-payer health care.

Because they fought to make sure people who need coverage can get coverage now, stringent work requirements for Medicaid eligibility will now be lifted in Kentucky. Restrictions forced by Republicans in the Virginia legislature on Medicaid will also now be rescinded.

Democrats fought to protect women’s rights, reproductive justice, and fair pay. Democrats fought for improving public education, reducing prescription drug prices, raising the minimum wage, making polluters pay, and gun safety reform. No one went around talking about breaking up banks, eliminating private health insurance, or an insane promise that everyone can get a job working for the government.

The Democrats who made inroads for last night’s big victory - as well as the majority makers in the House from 2018 - won on largely the same economic message: protect and defend Obamacare, fight to lower the cost of health care and drug prices, equal opportunity, and check the gun lobby so that children don’t get shot in schools.

They won because they ran on what is possible, what they knew they could deliver if they won. They won because they determined that people needed help now and couldn’t wait around for shocks to the system to satisfy politicians. They won because they took the message of practical progress and knocked on their neighbors’ doors.

The Democrats who flipped crucial seats last night were not warriors for a revolution. They were partners for a great American restoration. Because the restoration of the health care advancements we made under President Obama, the resurrection of character in public office, and the revival of the American social and generational compact are big ideas.

And that’s what we want in 2020. Restoration, not revolution.

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