The beginning of the end of Trumpism?

Tuesday’s Democratic sweep suggests the president’s star may be waning

Was Governor-elect Ralph Northam's victory part of a wider protest against Trump?
Ralph Northam, the newly elected governor of Virginia, was one of many Democratic victors on Tuesday
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

As the dust settles on Tuesday’s US state and local elections, many are hailing a political earthquake.

For the first time in years, the Democrats have made significant gains at state level. Beyond the headline wins in Virginia and New Jersey, hundreds of state seats fell to progressives, even in traditionally conservative districts.

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A year on from Trump’s shock election victory, it is hard not to link the president’s 38% approval rating with the Democrats’ victories.

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They “enjoyed particular success in the type of high-income suburban areas that the Clinton campaign was convinced would be sufficiently repulsed by Donald Trump to overwhelmingly back her”, says Ben Jacobs in The Guardian.

Following a shaky performance in 2016, the Democrats have romped home, “reinforcing a growing cultural chasm between white non-college educated voters and the rest of the electorate”, Jacobs adds.

But “as significant as all these wins are in their own right, they will also help shape the political future”, says The New York Times.

Coupled with the ever-growing list of moderate Republican congressmen and senators announcing their retirement in the face of hostility from the far-right, the results could galvanise progressive Democrats to stand, and win, seats they previously have not contested, tipping the balance of power in Congress.

Polling analysis site FiveThirtyEight has declared the Democrats to now be “slight favourites to retake the House [of Representatives] in 2018” - something that until this week had seemed unlikely.

Highlighting the divisions within the Republican Party, Trump mouthpiece Breitbart yesterday denied Tuesday’s results were a repudiation of the president, claiming it "would be more accurate to point out that, once again, the Republican establishment came up short”.

Not so, says The New Yorker. Since last year, “the president’s leverage over Congress has depended in part upon the belief that Republican voters now identified more strongly with Trump than with conservative ideology or the party”, meaning the way for Republican candidates to win office is to stick to Trump’s themes.

Yet following the rout in Virginia, “the questions now will be about whether even Trump can afford to stay loyal to Trumpism”.

He “remains the most powerful person in the country, if not the world”, says The New York Times, “but the election results show that he also remains the weakest first-year president in modern history”.

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