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Thoughts on the Midterm Elections

Funny outcomes. Yes, the GOP trounced the Dems everywhere but, oddly, I don’t see this as a referendum on the parties nor as an indication that the country backs Republican positions. Two factors to consider:

a. The Democratic Party ran the stupidest, most inept, incomprehensible campaign imaginable.

b. In every instance where some social, cultural initiative was on the ballot the Progressive side won.

On that campaign: The essence of it was captured in an interview Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the DNC Chair and, presumably, the “brains” behind the campaign did with Joe Scarborough on the “Morning Joe” show. Scarborough asked her a simple question: “Is voting for a Democrat voting for a continuation of Obama’s program?”

She ducked, babbled some nonsense about what the Democrats need to do …

He asked again. She ducked. And again, and again.

The DNC had decided to run away from Obama, not even mention his name, not ask him to campaign, especially in swing states. They, apparently, were distressed by polls showing that his “approval” ratings were in the low 40s. But, so far as I can tell, no one ever asked just how many of those who gave Obama a low rating were doing so because of disappointment that he had backed away from the progressive agenda he originally ran on. It is, almost certainly, a deeply contaminated statistic. And, it led to a horrible political decision. Here’s what Wasserman-Schultz should have said:

“Of course. Obama has been a transformational president. He took over an economy on the verge of collapse and rescued it. He saved the US auto industry which, you may have noticed, paid back those loans. The economy is in full recovery. Unemployment, which was over 10% when Bush finally left is now down below 6%. Inflation is low, interest rates are low, the stock market is at an all time high. The deficit has been cut by over a half. Immigration reform is still needed but the number of illegals entering the US is dramatically lower and deportation is at all time highs. The dollar is strong. Bin Laden is dead. America has a comprehensive health care plan for the first time in its history. Insurance premiums are down, health care costs are down and record numbers are now insured — and things would be even better here if GOP-dominated states weren’t refusing to cooperate with Medicaid programs. Do you want me to go on, Joe? I could discuss disengaging from two idiotic wars, the complexities of the UN, gay rights, the repeal of DOMA — and all of it in the face of an obstructionist opposition. Yeah, damn straight a vote for a Democrat is a vote for continuing the Obama agenda.”

But she didn’t. She waffled and Republicans laughed and won elections everywhere but, oddly, lost on all those initiatives. So, to the second factor of interest:

Progressive ballot referendums: Alaska, Oregon and Washington DC had the legalization of recreational marijuana on the ballot. It won in all three. They join Washington State and Colorado in this movement. Several other states liberalized medical marijuana laws and, it is reasonable to assume, will soon be moving toward full legalization. Finally, after decades of insanity that began with Nixon’s moronic “war on drugs,” we’re making progress.

So-called “personhood amendments” were on the ballots in Colorado and North Dakota. These initiatives, which declare a fertilized ovum to be a “person,” are idiotic on the face of it, unenforceable and scientifically bankrupt (the majority of fertilized ova are never implanted in the uterine wall). They were defeated by 30 points in both states. They have been defeated every time they have been on a ballot including Mississippi, the reddest state in the country.

Ballot measures to increase the minimum wage in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota passed while these states were electing Republicans who have historically rejected any increase in the minimum wage. In fact, every measure to increase the mimimum wage has passed from the most liberal places to the most conservative. It is favored by over 70%.

Washington had two initiatives on guns, one was the standard NRA-backed plan that would forbid any law authorizing background checks on purchases, loans or gifts of guns. The other would make a full background check obligatory, even for sales at gun shows. The latter won by almost 20 points, the former lost by over 10 and, of course, this happened while the state was electing a Republican-dominated senate.

So what’s going on? First, there’s a lot of emotion and not a lot of thought behind the ways in which folks are voting. Nothing new here, of course. It’s just that the juxtaposition between belief and choice this time is startling.

Second, a good bit of this emotional tone came from a shrewd Republican strategy that fit perfectly with the brain-warpingly stupid one of the Democrats. Do everything possible to block action, load bills down with unworkable amendments, refuse to consider presidential appointments, tie matters up in committee, lie about the economy, instill fear in the electorate, even shut the government down if need be.

Then blame Obama.

It worked, not because Obama was at fault, but because he blew it when it came to touting his own accomplishments and his party abandoned him, ran away from him and his record. So voters sat there feeling angry, thinking that the country was going to hell in a hand-basket and blamed the Black Dude in the White House while, astonishingly, voting in a bunch of Republicans who oppose the things that they simultaneously voted to approve!

What does this auger for the future? Who the hell knows. Even Nate Silver’s crew over at Five-Thirty-Eight didn’t see this train wreck coming.

We’re in a funny time. A majority of people assign the label “Conservative” to themselves but when you probe them for their positions on the economy, education, the environment and other key features of government they look like Liberals. They generally show support for moves to increase job growth, provide better funding for education, a progressive tax code, birth control, gay rights, disengagement from the wars in the Middle East, tackling climate change, funding for science and so many more progrssive programs — and then go out and vote for people who oppose them.


Reader Comments (1)

Great analysis! I think you are spot on with this one. President Obama has a long list of wonderful accomplishments and the DNC abandoned him. Shame on the DNC. On the other hand, I give Obama a low rating for moving to the middle and away from a more progressive stance.

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGretchen McFarland

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