In an off-year election when the make-up of the electorate is maximally conservative (in terms of turn-out), Terry McAuliffe still won Virginia’s governorship last night. Think about that. He was a deeply, deeply flawed and unattractive candidate running in a Southern state on an unabashedly liberal social platform (pro-gay marriage; pro-immigration), yet the tea party favorite in the race couldn’t upend his relentless march to victory.
And Chris Christie is a center-right Republican in a deep-blue state and he still won.
What do these two facts mean? They mean that the game is over for the Limbaugh-wing of the Republican Party in terms of national politics (control of the presidency, the Senate, and future judiciary nominations). Demographic shifts are finally defanging the collective cultural vampire we know as Birchite America. It’s now a sideshow. We will have no more Bush-style presidencies with neoconservative warmongers and fundamentalists driving American foreign and domestic policy. At least not for the foreseeable future.
And if there is a Republican president in 2016, it will be Chris Christie or (at worst) Jeb Bush. Both men are, if not preferable to Hillary Clinton, tolerable. Anybody nominated further to their right simply cannot win. There will be no Ted Cruz presidencies; no Rand Paul presidencies; no George W. retread presidencies. The two elections last night affirm this. They are the canaries in the coal mine signaling the death of far-right national politics. America will be a centrist country in its foreign and domestic policy for decades to come, and absent a Reichstag fire-level of crisis in the country, no far-right demagogue will any longer have a plausible route to the presidency.
It’s really that simple. And we should all be relieved. It’s weird to have Terry McAuliffe and Chris Christie as their herald, but the liberal hippies of the sixties have won the culture war. What’s left are skirmishes that do not change the fundamental demographic calculus that is now unmistakably at work, the greater trend.