First, the good news. Tom Corbett lost his re-election bid for Governor in Pennsylvania. And remember that ballot question in North Dakota we discussed a few days back, which would repeal a North Dakota law ensuring that actual pharmacists own pharmacies? Well, in a resounding victory for small businesses and local self-determination, the good folks of North Dakota defeated that measure by an almost 6-4 margin. Also, five states passed minimum wage hikes, including Alaska, whose voters passed a $9.75/hour minimum wage by an almost 2-1 margin. Marijuana legalization initiatives passed in two states and three cities, and two states passed good criminal justice reforms. And Massachusetts passed a paid sick leave law by a 6-4 margin. These victories demonstrate, to me at least, that if you ask folks direct questions about policies, they'll make pretty good decisions. And that, in turn, should reaffirm our faith in this democratic experiment.
But the rest, you know. In gubernatorial races, Rick Scott is back in Florida, Rick Snyder is back in Michigan, Scott Walker is back in Wisconsin and will likely be President in 2016, and even Paul Freaking LePage and Sam Freaking Brownback are back in Maine and Kansas, respectively. Republicans won back U.S. Senate control, picking up Senate seats they should have (West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota) and others they shouldn't have (Iowa, Colorado), and most of their victories were absolute poundings. Mitch McConnell, who has literally nothing to offer this great nation except his hatred of President Obama and his ability to raise buku campaing funds, won his re-election race by at least a dozen points, a larger margin than he did in 2008 against a far-less heralded opponent. Republicans have also netted over a dozen House seats, with several seats still to be decided at this writing. Hard to believe that Democratic House candidates actually won more total votes nationwide in 2012, or that Democrats picked up 14 Senate seats and over 50 House seats in 2006 and 2008.
Of course a narrative has emerged since 2010 that "Presidential election turnout" and "midterm election turnout" are very different, with more voters who lean left taking part in the former and more voters who lean right taking part in the latter, and indeed, the above-mentioned ballot initiative aside, it does seem like two different countries vote in these elections. Mr. Obama has made noises about getting "traditional" Democratic voters (i.e., minorities and young folks) to vote more in midterm election years, but clearly any efforts he might have made produced bupkus as far as results. But though right-wingers love to call good Americans stupid when they just won't vote the way they want them to, I won't drink from that cup. If good Americans aren't voting during midterm election years, when their voices are needed to keep Republicans from burning everything down, that's mainly because Democrats aren't giving them enough of a reason to come out and vote.
The current iteration of this long-standing problem began in 2009 and 2010, when Democrats failed to fight for substantial change -- like a Medicare-for-all health care plan, higher taxes on millionaire income, a higher minimum wage, and a massive infrastructure rebuilding project incorporating renewable energy sources -- and thus squandered the historic majorities bestowed upon them by an electorate desperate to escape the ruins of Republican rule. Hell, Democrats couldn't even get mortgage cramdown and the Employee Free Choice Act done. All of these would not only have been popular, they would have done a hell of a lot more for America than that pineapple Democrats spent six months crapping out, the Affordable Care Act. Then, after Democrats lost the House in 2010, and along with it any ability to move positive legislation -- even with an expanded Senate majority in 2012, in a year the Republicans were supposed to storm back into power in the Senate -- Democrats largely failed to point out how ridiculous their opponents had become.
And we see numerous examples of this problem all over the 2014 electoral map. Bruce Braley seemed too polite even to notice all the chaotic nonsense emanating from Joni Ernst's mouth in the Iowa Senate race, and his prize for taking the alleged high road was a ten-point loss. Paul Davis had that Kansas gubernatorial election virtually gift-wrapped for him, thanks to the profound fiscal and moral failure of Sam Brownback's tax-cutting, supply-side "experiment" on the good people of Kansas, but he couldn't say why you should vote for Paul Davis, rather than just vote against Sam Brownback. And as a foil for Scott Walker, Mary Burke was no Kathleen Falk -- Ms. Falk, the Dane County executive who ran in the 2012 recall Democratic gubernatorial primary, specifically promised to veto any budget that did not repeal Mr. Walker's notorious public-union busting bill, but Ms. Burke rarely mentioned that injury on the campaign trail, as she was too busy hoping Wisconsin could "work together" again. Such a "vision" will never compete with an actual vision, even an evil one. And recall that all but a handful of Republican House Reps voted for Paul Ryan's plan to turn Medicare into a private voucher program, one that wouldn't cut Medicare's cost to the taxpayer, but would raise the cost of seniors' health care. In a previous era, anyone who voted for such a craptacular idea would find their career at a swift end -- but not when they're running against Democrats "afraid" of offending voters, chief among them their President, who, on that rare occasion Democrats actually ran against the Ryan plan and won a 2011 special election in a New York district Republicans had held for the previous 40 years, was too restrained even to mention Medicare as he applauded the victory.
So why don't Democrats move legislation that not only helps America, but is actually popular with the American people? As DJ Shadow would say, "it's the money." Republicans have successfully destroyed (with Democratic help, of course) the main pillar of Democratic power during the New Deal, that being the labor union, which now claims 1 in 8 American workers as members rather than 1 in 3 as late as the late 1970s. So now Democrats spend just as much time trying to collect corporate campaign dollars as Republicans do, and since corporations generally oppose whatever the people want and need, corporate interests being pretty much the polar opposite of workers' interests, Democrats won't do the hard work that would win votes, when it's far easier to Hoover up the campaign money that might win votes. Your mother would say Democrats are putting the cart before the horse, but again, you would not be paranoid to wonder if that's exactly how they want it -- if the perks of heavy campaign funding themselves, the expensive dinners/networking sessions with the powerful and all other manner of expense-account padders, are the real end-all of Democratic efforts just as they clearly are of Republican efforts.
But the answer lies before us, just as it always has: never place your faith in Democrats -- place your faith in each other. You don't need to have Dave Lindorff's recognition scene with a Republican in a YMCA hot tub to have that faith. If you witnessed Trent Lott take a leadership role battling media consolidation rules in the early 2000s -- merely because the people had told him to do so en masse -- you know we do not misplace this faith. And if you've watched ballot initiatives like the ones listed in the first paragraph succeed, often in the face of reversals in gubernatorial and Senatorial races, you know we do not misplace this faith. Granted, the victories we witness in our efforts here at Thieves in the Temple happen mostly when we embarrass large corporations or foreign governments, but they, too, reaffirm our faith that, as Dr. King liked to say, the arc of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice. Yet it bends only when we act, and no law prevents us from trying to bend it toward justice more quickly.