I won’t lie. This was fun.
As President Trump went to war with his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, on Wednesday, I watched from a cushioned seat at West Chester University as four women exacted their own version of revenge on the commander-in-chief and the party that has refused to rein him in.
We were gathered inside the ballroom of Sykes Student Union as this fearsome foursome — accomplished professionals with minimal to zero political establishment credentials — were sworn in to Chester County row-office posts not held by a Democrat since before the Civil War.
Two of these barrier-breaking history makers were former Republican women who thought that their party had abandoned them over the last decade as it became a hard-right refuge of reactionary rhetoric.
All now were Democrats. And all had decided last year to fight back against Trumpism by doing more than whining. They would fight back by running for office — and they won with such a high turnout behind them that Republicans across the region still are wondering what hit them.
Some people hooted and hollered as these women, one by one, put their hands on a Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. It was a powerful display of voter satisfaction fueled by rage. Which, in this age of I-rant-on-Facebook-and-call-that-public-service, amounts to something potent.
It was great to see this engagement level from women who, frankly, have the income and means to be comfortably inert about politics. One is a physician; two are financial professionals; the fourth was the founder of her own company with offices in 20 states.
Just like the blue-collar Trumpies who sent the real estate heir into the White House in 2016, women like this are now armed with their own fury against a president who once boasted of sexually assaulting women.
To see them win in a place like Chester County made it more remarkable, given that Republicans still have the voter registration edge there. This is the richest county in Pennsylvania — a place where not too long ago, Republicans loved voting for anyone who would, first and foremost, protect their money.
Because of them — and the moms who in November lugged kids to polling places to vote for the first time in local elections — the GOP halls of power in West Chester must now make room for an unwelcome infantry of Democrats, on whom the party hopes to build an even more enduring power infrastructure: Margaret Reif, controller; Yolanda Van de Krol, clerk of courts; Christine VandePol, coroner; and Patricia Maisano, treasurer.
The chairman of the county Republican Party was notably absent from the midday ceremony.
But Trump? Who just the night before had seemingly taunted the world with an astonishing Twitter boast over his capacity to start a nuclear war? He was there.
Without him, none of these women would have run.
“I believe this is a moment in our history where we’re all going to be judged for how we responded,” said Reif, 50, who got politically involved only after being terrified of Trump’s victory in late 2016. She was raised Republican but decided she couldn’t remain in a party that put up Sarah Palin as a vice presidential nominee. Trump only further cemented her conversion to the left.
“I do find Trump offensive, and I know a lot of other women do, too,” she said.
The women of Chester County who took office Wednesday represent a movement that has Republicans nervous across the suburbs of Philadelphia. Incensed by Trump’s anti-immigrant, racially inflammatory, and wealthy donor-focused policy-making, Democrats grabbed fistfuls of power from the GOP in local and county elections two months ago.
Two Democrats won Council posts in Delaware County, another history-breaking milestone for a county long considered one of the strongest Republican bastions in the United States. Democrats won four of five row offices in Bucks County, too.
“We gave them a real ass-kicking,” said Brian McGinnis, the Scranton-born Democrat who for the last four years has led the Chester County Democratic Party.
Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, it’s gratifying to see that boots on the ground can still make the difference in a political climate so distorted, it seems that elections and public discourse have been hijacked by big donors and nefarious bots spewing propaganda on social media.
The lesson Wednesday, even as the president threatened to bury us all under a nuclear winter and went mano-a-mano with Bannon, is: If anyone feels the system is past the point of no return, look no further than the Pennsylvania suburbs of Philadelphia.
Good old-fashioned American democracy is alive and kicking. And it should make for an interesting 2018 — especially if Trump continues to offend reasonable Americans with incredible and insatiable ardor.