- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2017

Democrats have long been trying to paint President Donald Trump as little more than a fluke — an aberration, really. A circus clown, a circus act and a course correction in coming.

Then West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced he was switching political parties, from Democrat to Republican, and doing so in large part because of Trump. And suddenly, the anti-Trumpers are shaking a bit more in their boots.

Suddenly, they’re having to recognize that maybe, just maybe, their dismissive and condescending attitudes toward Trump, and Trump voters, are misplaced and out of touch with reality.

Justice is a sitting governor, and one who won his seat on the back of Democratic voters. His roots are conservative, though — he actually was a Republican at one time — and his successful golf resort business savvy and million dollar bank account has led to a long-time friendship with the Trump family.

But switching parties is significant, nonetheless. 

After all, Justice could’ve continued to govern with his Democratic hat, and simply voted along Republican lines. But he wanted to send a message. 

And standing alongside Trump at a podium and before a swell of voters, he certainly did. What was it? Only this: He’s not afraid to come out of the Democratic closet and proudly wear his Republican hat. He’s seen how it worked for Trump, who used to be a Democrat himself, but switched Republican. And he’s seen how the Democrats have lost their political compass. 

So it’s time to let the past go, let the Democratic Party go, and embrace the party of the future.

“This man is a good man,” Justice said of Trump. “He’s bot a backbone, he’s got real ideas. He cares about us in West Virginia.”

Justice’s party switch puts a bit of a squeeze on Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a guy who’s frequently seen on national television as the voice of calm reasoned liberal thinking — because he tries to appease his mostly Republican base. He’s due for a primary fight in 2018. The Republican Governors Association has announced a new super PAC aimed at taking Manchin’s seat and instilling Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Against this backdrop is the steady rise of red in the state on national elections. In 2000, nearly 46 percent of West Virginian’s voted Democrat in the presidential election; by 2016, that figure had dropped to just below 27 percent. Trump swept and took all 55 counties — 43 of which he won with 70 percent or more of the vote.

Really, the fact Justice was able to win as a Democrat at all is the bigger story.

But his party switch is going to be sold in the political realm as a big win for Republicans, a warning to Democrats and a true reflection of the Trump era. Working class, blue-collar voters, the make-up of coal country West Virginia, aren’t content to simply push the Democratic ballot buttons because of histories, say, with liberal-voting unions.

Justice’s switch is a rubber-stamp recognition of the power of the little people — the sheer outrage of a heartland America that drove Trump into office based on a desire for real chance and a rejection of ruling elites. That’s something Democrats and RINOs wanted to see as a fluke.

Apparently, it’s not. Apparently, the same spirit that drove Trump into the White House is still coursing strong.

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