Wednesday, November 4, 2009

4 Races for a Political Junkie

The few elections last night brought out the politics junkie in me again, and I became extremely interested to observe the results, and listen to the various ways that commentators, media, and politicians attempted to spin the results. The GOP won gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, allowing the Republican party to spin those results as a referendum on the Democrats and President Obama (I thought the mid term elections were usually reserved for that kind of talk). The Democrats won the 23rd Congressional District in New York against a non-Republican conservative independent (as the Republican party was not conservative enough for him), and such district will have a Democrat representing it in Congress for the first time since Reconstruction. A Democrat also won the 10th district in California by a sizable margin.

Thus, two Republicans won state races, that is, races for positions relating to state governance, not national governance. Two Democrats won races relating to national governance. In part to this, I have trouble finding that this represents a significant shift in the American electorate in the last year. I'm not saying that such a shift hasn't taken place or doesn't exist (whole other topic of discussion and analysis), just that these races provide little, if any, evidence to that effect.

The Democrat candidate in Virginia barely qualifies as a Democrat, at least as to the coalition that came out in droves last November to support Obama. That coalition, minorities, young voters, and probably more important, progressives, voted solidly for Democrats for the first time in a while. Creigh Deeds, the Democrat candidate, was not a candidate that would attract this coalition to come out and vote. He was moderate, even possibly leaning more to the right than the left, and would not energize that progressive base of the party. In addition, since 1973, Virginia has voted for the non-presidential party in every gubernatorial election. In New Jersey, the incumbent Democrat, Corzine, was most likely shackled by his Democratic party and ties to Obama than questions of corruption and his ties to Wall Street as a former Goldman Sachs executive.

Oh, and there were also local, state issues in this regard. I think this has been mightily overlooked. The idea that the majority of voters are going to decide the leader of their state based on national issues seems an oversimplification, and a mild insult to many voters. I'm sure that there are voters who used their vote to either support or oppose the national politics of the Democratic party and President Obama. But I would wager that the majority used their vote based on their state issues. As an example, in Indiana last year, the state voted for a Democratic candidate for President for the first time in over 40 years. The State also solidly re-elected a incumbent Republican governor. In the area surrounding Indianapolis, the vote went 2 to 1 for Obama against McCain and 2 to 1 in favor of Mitch Daniels, the governor.

Voters will separate state and local issues from national issues when going to the booth. To suggest that voters are only voting in response to national issues when deciding state and local elections, elections that have no relation to national governance, only to state governance, is to belittle the intelligence of voters and ignore realities existing in those state/local elections. Because lest we forget, the Democrats just picked up more of a majority in the national governance category by adding seats in the House.

And even more importantly, we're talking about 4 races. There's 50 governors, 435 Representatives, 100 Senators; that's 585 races already that doesn't include State Senators and Reps as well as local ones. I'm not that we can draw any reasonable conclusions from a sample size of 4 elections.