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Diversity among Democrats a good thing

October 2, 2018

Let’s begin with a biographical sketch, a very 21st-century American dream.

When David Hallquist was a child attending Catholic schools in Syracuse, N.Y., he always felt female. He knew he was “different,” but he couldn’t find a word for it. He hid his impulses and played men’s sports at school. He pursued a career in energy technology, got married, raised a family, and finally, in 2004, he began the long process of coming out. Six years later, he confided his secret side to his family. And in 2015, his son made a movie, entitled “Denial,” that publicly tracked his transition to who she is today, Christine Hallquist.

Then, at a women’s march in Montpelier, Vt. this past January, Hallquist had an epiphany. She later said, “One of the things the Me Too movement has been pushing is that we need to get involved in politics.” So she did. She filed as a candidate for governor of Vermont, and in the state’s Democratic primary, she became the first transgender woman in America to win a major party nomination.

Christine epitomizes the 2018 Democratic zeitgeist. On the cusp of the autumn general elections, grassroots Democrats have sharpened their message that diversity will make America great again.

With virtually all the primaries completed, Democratic voters have made it abundantly clear that they want more women in elective office. At this point, 200 women — 155 of them Democrats — have won their House primaries in 2018. That’s a record, trumping all previous records.

This surge of women candidates, with heavy support from Democratic women voters, may be historic, but it’s not a huge surprise — given how fervently most women (with the probable exception of blue-collar white women) have come to detest Trump. If his goal this year was to talk and behave in ways designed to guarantee a female backlash against the party he purports to lead, he can probably chalk that up as one of his few tangible achievements.

Let’s scan the updated national map. Connecticut Democrats chose, as one of their House candidates, a black woman — the first to carry the party banner in a Connecticut congressional race. Minnesota Democrats chose, as one of their House candidates, a Somali-American woman — who’s likely to join a Muslim woman from Michigan in the next Congress.

Gender news aside, Democratic Party leaders are pinning their hopes on one particular midwestern male. In Speaker Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin district, ironworker and union activist Randy “Ironstache” Bryce defeated a female for the right to contest the Ryan-endorsed Republican, businessman Bryan Steil.

If Bryce can pull off a win in November, despite some personal baggage (arrests for driving under the influence, late payments for child support), it would truly signal that a blue wave was cresting.

And a working-stiff white guy nicknamed “Ironstache,” joining the swelling ranks of women, would be another victory for Democratic diversity.

Jennifer Rubin, the center-right columnist, took it even further, declaring that a “demographically diverse repudiation of Trump up and down the ballot will have obvious consequences for the remainder of his term.” I wince at her confident certitude, but those are indeed the stakes in November.

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