Opinion: Voters Reject Trump Style Politics in New Jersey and Virginia

Marchers at the Not My President March in early 2017. (Unmodified Creative Commons photo by Elvert Barnes. bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Voters came out this past election with the intent of shunning President Trump’s hateful tactics and rhetoric. A wave of Democratic wins swept this election cycle, with historic wins in both New Jersey and Virginia.a

Both Democrats and Republicans took to the polls with the hopes of making positive, progressive change in their state- and that change included electing leaders who plan to unite their constituents rather than divide them with Trump style politics.

New Jersey’s Gubernatorial Election

For the first time in 8 years, New Jersey elected a Democratic governor. Philip D. Murphy beat Kim Guadagno with 55.7 percent of the vote.

Murphy comes from a lavish background and has a resume to match, for over 20 years he worked as an executive at Goldman Sachs and he served as the United States ambassador to Germany from 2009-2013.

Murphy’s views are progressive, favoring the legalization of marijuana, stricter gun laws, and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. His opponent, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, opposes all of those beliefs, aside from stricter mental health background checks for gun owners.v

Guadagno worked to distance herself from former Governor Chris Christie’s policies throughout her campaign, especially due to his continuously dropping approval rating. However, the voters made it clear that they were ready for a fresh, new governor.

New Jersey’s Mayoral Election

Ravinder Bhalla became the first Sikh mayor elected in New Jersey, winning 34 percent of the vote in a six-way race. Bhalla is Democrat who ran on a platform that included upgrading infrastructure, environmental sustainability, promoting the arts, and preserving public education.

Bhalla had won two elections for City Council in 2009 and 2013 prior to his run for mayor.

Bhalla’s win is historical, proving positive, progressive change is still obtainable during times of such high racial tensions in America, but he was still no stranger to discrimination on the campaign trail.

Just prior to election night, flyers including a photo of Bhalla with his turban on and “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our Town!” were left on car windshields around Hoboken. Bhalla responded to this flyer on Twitter by saying “Of course this is troubling, but we won’t let hate win.” then continued on by tweeting that “No matter your race, ethnicity…you are welcome here in our city.”

Virginia’s Gubernatorial Election

Ralph Northam was elected Virginia’s governor with 53.9 percent of the vote, defeating Ed Gillespie. Northam is not a well-known politician outside of Virginia, but voters chose to reject Gillespie’s Trump-style campaign tactics and elect a Democratic governor.

Before starting his political career, Northam served as a United States Army medical officer, then worked as a pediatric neurologist in Virginia. He then went on to serve in the Virginia State Senate and later was elected Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.

Northam favors abortion rights, stricter gun control laws, an increase to the minimum wage, and the taking down of Confederate monuments—a hot topic of debate, especially since the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While serving in the senate, Northam knocked down a bill involving an invasive ultrasound to be required prior to abortions, allowing him to showcase both his medical knowledge and progressive politics.

Ed Gillespie, Northam’s opponent, modeled his campaign after President Trump’s. Trump took to Twitter to endorse Gillespie in early October, but immediately after Gillespie’s loss he tweeted that “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for.”

In order to “embrace” the president, Gillespie used Trump’s racially insensitive and outspoken tactics, releasing campaign ads condemning immigrants as criminals, which turned out to not resonate well with voters.

Virginia’s House of Delegates Election

Of all the phenomenal wins of the night, that of Danica Roem may be the best. Roem, a transgender woman, defeated Virginia’s notoriously homophobic, anti-trans delegate Robert Marshall for Virginia’s 13th district seat.

Roem is the first transgender to be elected to Virginia’s legislature. Throughout the campaign, Marshall refused to debate Roem and would only refer to her using male pronouns. Marshall also sponsored Virginia’s ‘bathroom-bill” that would restrict the access of public restrooms to those who are transgender.

The platform of Roem’s campaign focused on a wide array of issues, extending far beyond that of just LGBTQ rights.  “Transgender people have really good public policy ideas that span the gamut of transportation policy to health care policy to education policy, and yes, to civil rights as well,” she continued. “We shouldn’t just be pigeonholed into the idea that we’re just going to be fighting about bathrooms.”

This groundbreaking win shines a light on the fact that America has not been entirely consumed by Trump’s messages of bigotry and prejudice, Roem’s win proves that voters want meaningful politics, not hate-driven campaigns and intolerance.

Hope for the Future

The backlash to the Republican Party in this election cycle can be attributed to the current administration’s lack of tolerance and compassion in a nation that was built by such a diverse array of people. Life-long Republicans chose to vote outside of their party because the president is tarnishing its core beliefs. A leader should embrace and enhance what its party stands for, not incite hatred.

Many voters are optimistic that this election is a peek into the future of our next presidential election. Whether Democrat or Republican, our next leader cannot use racial and sexist rhetoric to divide our country and make hatred acceptable. If one thing became clear in the New Jersey and Virginia elections, it’s that neither Democrats nor Republicans are choosing to embrace Trump’s intolerant political tactics.

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