All eyes seemed to be on Virginia during the general election the other week. The media celebrated Democrat Ralph Northam’s upset over Republican Ed Gillespie in the gubernatorial race. Headlines about the defeat flooded news sites and social media as people rallied behind Northam and called his success proof of both a Democratic resurgence and the power of voter participation.

The tide is finally turning for Democrats after the systematic shock of last year’s presidential election. At least that’s what the media and amateur political pundits (a.k.a. everyone on Twitter) would lead people to believe.

As a Virginian, it was amusing to see Virginia in the spotlight and hear so many people’s opinions on the race. As a conservative, it was even more amusing to see their reactions, which ranged from reinvigorated Democrats to distressed Republicans. Although heralded as a monumental achievement, the win was hardly news to those familiar with Virginia politics.

As explained in the The Washington Post, Virginia’s last “Republican U.S. senator was elected in 2002, last GOP governor in 2009 and last Republican presidential candidate in 2004. Virginia over the past few decades has transitioned from solid red to blue.”

So yes, Virginia, there is an elephant in the room. In their excitement to declare a victory, Democrats overlooked the painfully obvious context of it: Virginia has been a blue state for years. A Democrat victory in the state should not have come as a surprise to anyone. Nor should it be painted as the product of a Democratic resurgence.

Nevertheless, it was undoubtedly a sign of increased voter participation, which should concern Republicans for 2020. In fact, the turnout was “the highest in 20 years for a gubernatorial race,” according to The Post, with 10 percent more Democrats voting than Republicans.

Northam’s victory in Virginia was not as shocking of an upset as the mainstream media would have us believe. Democrats learned a hard lesson last November and have since worked to increase voter turnout. This time, Democrats didn’t let complacency become their Achilles heel. Let’s hope Republicans have been paying attention too.

Jill Teitelbaum, Guest Columnist

teiteljh@miamioh.edu

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