As many of you know, New Jersey and Virginia will each be having statewide elections on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Every student registered in either of these two states needs to go out and vote on Election Day. These elections represent the first major opportunity for progressives since last year’s presidential election to push back against the current administration and the damage it seeks to do to many of us and our fellow citizens.
The movement that has risen as a result of the far right’s major win last year is an encouraging sign that Americans of all stripes will not stand for the rhetoric and policies that the President and those in his administration continue to espouse and encourage. I am of the mindset that this surge in activity means nothing if those of us who are horrified by the administration cannot convert that energy into electoral gains. While the left should continue to protest much of what this administration stands for and what it represents, we should also use the institutional opportunities afforded by a republican system of government to create a reliable and consistent check on the Trump administration.
In my view, the biggest check that the elections provide is political. Neither of these elections are about sending people to our nation’s capital; however, in preceding the incredibly important midterms in 2018, these two elections can send a message to Republicans that Democrats have what it takes to defeat Trumpian candidates — Ed Gillespie in Virginia and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in New Jersey. Further, though I generally believe the concept of momentum in politics is not valid, I do think that whichever party wins the gubernatorial race in each of these states has a leg up on the other going into the midterms. This is why this election is so important. If Democrats lose this election, Republicans across the country will see that far-right nationalism is a better way to win elections at all levels than traditional American conservatism. This would be a step in the direction of xenophobia and hatred that the Trump administration chooses to embrace.
Besides learning a lesson in the hateful politics of xenophobia, Republicans would have control over two more governors' mansions that will pursue actual anti-immigrant policies. Phil Murphy, the Democrat running for governor in New Jersey, has said that he would favor turning New Jersey into a “sanctuary state,” which would limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration agents. Guadagno attacked Murphy, saying that Murphy was protecting “deranged murderers” and that he was “too dangerous for New Jersey.” These same issues have also played out in Virginia, though not to the same extent. The Gillespie campaign released an ad stating Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam cast the “deciding vote in favor of sanctuary cities” and that Gillespie vowed to ban all sanctuary cities to get tough on illegal immigration. Gillespie has made his stance clear, and while the issue of the vote on sanctuary cities is murky, his vote does indicate that Northam looks to protect immigrants in Virginia. Clearly, immigration is a key issue in both states and the candidates have each taken a different position on the issue.
This election could have long-term consequences for all Americans as well. The issue of gerrymandering should certainly be a top issue in voters’ minds. Whoever wins the governor’s race in these two states will be in charge of approving the district map that the state legislatures draw. This can have tremendous effects at the local, state, and national level. As we have recently seen, Republicans have been able to so effectively gerrymander that some experts say that Democrats will have a difficult time winning the House until 2030. This means that if a Republican is sitting in the governor’s mansion in either Virginia or New Jersey in 2021, they could give their party an even larger advantage than they would otherwise have.
This election matters and as residents in the state of New Jersey, we have a responsibility to fight for our rights and those of our fellow citizens. Most students on this campus will be living here for at least the next year and could be drastically impacted by the results on Nov. 7. If you want to help create a bulwark of states against the Trump administration and prevent a further power imbalance in state and national politics, follow President Barack Obama’s advice: “Don’t Boo. Vote!”
Sebastian Quiroz is a sophomore from Longwood, Fla. and the Vice President of the Princeton College Democrats. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.