ALEXANDRIA, Va. — In speeches that sounded eerily similar to those delivered one year ago, Democrats reminded voters the night before election day that history has its eye on the U.S. and Virginia in particular.
With little mention of the economy or the tax overhaul Republicans are undertaking in Congress, Democrats focused on the man in the White House and the racially charged issues raised by Republican Ed Gillespie on the eve of Virginia's gubernatorial election.
“The people of the U.S. are watching this election,” said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “They are asking a simple question: What do we stand for as a nation? Are we going to allow Donald Trump to be who we are defined by? Hell no.”
Perez briefly mentioned Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but the Democrats in attendance — including Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken — reminded voters that the Republican candidate stoked the same cultural anxieties President Trump did during the presidential election.
“Do we think after 230 years we’re still about equality or we going to throw that on the trash heap?” Kaine said. “Are we going to go forward by looking in the windshield or do what we’ve often done in the past and drive by looking in the rear-view mirror? That’s what this race is about.”
Taking a page from Trump’s playbook, Gillespie promised to crack down on undocumented immigrants, fight for the preservation of Confederate statues. It’s brought him within points of catching Democratic candidate Ralph Northam.
“This is not just an election that’s being viewed from Addington to Alexandria,” Warner said. “We see international leaders all the time and they’re asking, ‘what’s happening in your country?’”
“This will be the first time since a year ago that any large group of Americans are going to be able to speak,” Warner added. “Not only in terms of what we care about in Virginia, but in terms of what’s happening [in our] country nationally and internationally.”
Democrats were speaking to a friendly crowd at a restaurant in Alexandria, but one tried to bring them back down to reality, reminding them what happened last year when Democrats were sure they had the presidential election in the bag.
“I want to take you back a year, I want you to remember how you felt the first Wednesday in November after Donald Trump won,” said Rep. Don McEachin D-Va. to groans and boos in the room. “I want you to remember this. You need to remember this. It’s not enough for you to vote. We have got to work like we are losing.”
“There’s way too much happiness in this room right now and I need to suck this happiness out,” McEachin said. “We’ve got to beat hate back at each and every turn and it starts tomorrow.”