First, the good news. Colorado and Michigan voters passed ballot initiatives creating redistricting commissions for their states; Utah voters also mulled the matter, and with 95% of the vote counted at this writing, the "yes" votes have a narrow lead. Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah voters passed ballot initiatives expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, while Maryland and Nevada voters approved same-day voter registration. Florida voters restored voting rights for some ex-felons by a 25-point margin, while Massachusetts voters banned gender identity discrimination by a 40-point margin; Michigan voters legalized recreational marijuana, while Utah voters legalized medical marijuana. So a lot of so-called "purple state" and "red state" voters approved good policy on Election Day -- which they've done a lot in recent years, often over the wishes of their elected representatives -- and that's always a good thing. And the election results broadly instructed us that our President's support for avowed white supremacists remains an anvil around the Republican party's neck. In a nation where too many of us still have too many private racisms, we shouldn't over-congratulate ourselves for that, but at least those morons walking around in their Hitler T-shirts whining about how "oppressed" they are received no mandate whatsoever from the voters this week.
And now, the bad news: for the third consecutive even-year election cycle, Republicans outperformed the polls, such that Democrats took back the U.S. House, but flipped fewer seats than estimable organizations like the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball predicted they'd flip, and Democrats lost seats in the U.S. Senate, which likely guarantees Justice Thomas's retirement in 2020 and makes taking back the chamber later that year a much longer shot. Democrats flipped seven Governor's offices, but flipped only six state legislative houses, gaining around 350 legislative seats, which actually isn't that impressive (America has almost 7,400 state legislators). These gains at the state level will make a right-wing Constitutional convention considerably more unlikely, but they don't assure better redistricting next decade, let alone better policy -- for example, while I'd love to savor Scott Walker's defeat in Wisconsin, and I will, Republicans still have huge majorities in both legislative chambers there.
How did Republicans outperform the polls? By running on their record of good works animated by good policy and skillful communication with voters? Ah, you know me better than that by now. Republicans won, to some extent, with the vote suppression tactics (gerrymandering, Voter ID, Interstate Crosscheck, and the like) that have characterized Republican stamp-out-the-vote efforts since 2012. Obviously we should fight vote suppression wherever we find it (and we have fought vote suppression tirelessly at this blog). But the main reason Republican politicians seem harder to kill than zombies? Democrats just don't seem to have a clue. Republicans all over America have run this vote suppression scheme three times now, and Democrats have been caught flat-footed each time; the higher turnout this midterm no doubt delivered them the House, but we deserve the credit for that, not them.
And this apparent cluelessness goes deeper than their inability to win races on the ground -- they don't seem to have a clue about what to do when they have power, either. When they have power, they piss it away trying not to offend corporatist donors and trying to "build bipartisan consensus" with a party that deserves oblivion. We used to get mad at Tha Bush Mobb for insisting that they "create reality," but the truth is the Democrats do the same thing -- they piddle away the mandates the voters give them, and when Republicans storm back into power, Democrats tell us the landscape is difficult and all they can do is play for time. Well, since we're talking about time, this state of affairs describes the last 38 years of American politics. And how did that era start again? With the 1980 Republican Presidential candidate who decided he was going to change the landscape! I know changing the landscape is an easier task, logistically, when you have big corporate power behind you, as Mr. Reagan did, but surely if this is the greatest democracy on Earth, it's not that big a lift for those enterprising Democrats who can get the American people behind them.
So change is absolutely possible -- if we demand it. Now, you will not find very many echoes of my theses in "liberal" media analyses. They'll proclaim that Democrats ran too many far-left candidates and should have run more "electable" candidates who could "win" (again, in this self-fulfilling prophecy of a "landscape"). Never mind that for every Kara Eastman the pundits can cite I can find an "electable," "mainstream" Democrat who also got the silver medal on Tuesday. Never mind that the Democrats' Senate losers on Tuesday were all "electable" "compromises" with the "harsh realities" of the political "landscape." The fact is this: when you do no good works with your power, people won't work that hard to keep you in power -- and this is as it should be! We beat up on our fellow Americans for not being more engaged with politics, but the sickness, immorality, and decadence of our political class is a far bigger and far more urgent problem. If you fix the latter, you will fix the former. I know it's a big task, but only the big solutions last. And this humble blog will continue to help you push the big solutions on your representatives -- until they have no choice but to follow the popular will, regardless of their party or ideology.