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July 4 2022 9:56 AM ˚
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The menacing thunder could not get much louder for Democrats.

People attend a campaign event for Glenn Youngkin, the Republican gubernatorial candidate for Virginia, at Chesterfield County Airport, in Chesterfield, Va. (Photo: NYTimes)
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Few in the party had high hopes that their era of rule in Washington would last beyond the midterm elections next year. But the Republican resurgence Tuesday in Virginia — a state that President Joe Biden won by 10 percentage points last year — and surprising strength in solidly blue New Jersey offer a vivid warning of the storm clouds gathering as Democrats look warily to the horizon.اضافة اعلان

For five years, the party rode record-breaking turnouts to victory, fueled by voters with a passion for ousting a president they viewed as incompetent, divisive or worse. 

Tuesday’s results showed the limitations of such resistance politics when the object of resistance is out of power, the failure of Democrats to fulfill many of their biggest campaign promises, and the still-simmering rage over a pandemic that transformed schools into some of the country’s most divisive political battlegrounds.

In Virginia, the Democratic nominee for governor, Terry McAuliffe, was beaten with relative ease by Glenn Youngkin, a Republican private equity executive and political newcomer.

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, faced a stunningly close race after being expected to coast to victory. In Minneapolis, voters rejected a ballot measure pushed by progressives that would have replaced the Police Department with a public safety department.

Perhaps most strikingly, the crushing setbacks for Democrats in heavily suburban Virginia and New Jersey hinted at a conservative-stoked backlash to the changing mores around race and identity championed by the party as Republicans relentlessly sought to turn schools into the next front in the country’s culture wars.

For Democrats, the results on the nation’s single biggest day of voting until the midterms next year raised alarms that the wave of anti-Trump energy that carried them into power has curdled into apathy in a base that is tired of protesting and is largely back at brunch. 

Or, in what would be even more politically perilous, that the party’s motivation has been replaced by a sense of dissatisfaction with the state of a country that has, despite all of Biden’s campaign promises, not yet returned to a pre-COVID sense of normalcy.

In the coming days, Democratic anxieties and recriminations over the party’s loss in Virginia — the marquee race of the off-year elections — will echo from those suburban swing districts to Capitol Hill as the midterm map extends into areas once considered safer for Democrats.

Off-year elections have never been perfect predictors of future success. And even before the Virginia race tightened in late August, the national environment looked inauspicious for Democrats, who may lose seats in redistricting and face the historical trend of a president’s party losing seats during his first term in office.

But in a state where elections tend to be interwoven with national politics because of proximity to Washington, it is hard to separate McAuliffe’s defeat from worsening views of the administration. 

Moderate Democrats argued that the defeat was a sign that Congress must immediately pass the party’s infrastructure bill, regardless of what happens with the shrunken version of Biden’s legislative agenda. 

The left blamed the failure of the party to push a broader agenda, including overturning the filibuster to pass liberal priorities like bills protecting the right to vote. 

Political strategists fear that the party is failing to adequately communicate what Democrats have already done to help the COVID-ravaged country and why they have not delivered on issues important to their base.

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