Thursday, November 05, 2009
Yesterday a number of elections were held throughout the United States, including:
-A gubernatorial election in Virginia (Republican win)
-A gubernatorial election in New Jersey (Republican win)
-A race in California (Democrat win)
-A race in New York, NY-23.
The gubernatorial election in Virginia is one for Democrats to be sad about since it was a clear battle between two potential governors and their candidate clearly lost. The one in New Jersey was between two pretty unsavory candidates so there isn't much to cheer about either way. The one in California was a district the GOP didn't even try to win so no surprise there, but NY-23 is particularly interesting as it involved a vote split that didn't need to happen, resulting in the first Democrat to represent the district since the 19th century.
This vote splitting was part of the reason the Liberal Party of Canada was able to attain so many majorities during the 1990s, as it was just on the cusp of an era where the Progressive Conservatives were punished by the voters and the Reform Party had just become a major party, leaving a split in the vote on the right resulting in many Liberal candidates getting elected without achieving a majority of the vote.
The difference, of course, is that the Reform Party of the 1990s was founded by a man with a pretty impressive ideological vision (Preston Manning) that began while conservatives were in power, while the current one in the US didn't happen until the election of 2008 when all of a sudden the GOP remembered the value of a balanced budget. The former is thus intellectually consistent, the latter is not. Ron Paul supporters have always been consistent, mind you (and Preston Manning resembles Ron Paul quite a bit), but during the primaries in 2008 the GOP made sure to oppose and deride Ron Paul supporters at every turn while trumpeting candidates that had no problem with unbalanced budgets and needless foreign adventures so no points for them.
It's because of this split that the media narrative over these elections is a bit puzzling. Scan the headlines of most papers and the headlines referring to the elections are something along the lines of "It's not 2008 anymore!" "Obama magic is gone!" "Obama is now mortal!" when gubernatorial elections really have little to do with who happens to be president. California has a Republican governor, so does Hawaii. Mitt Romney enacted universal health care when he was governor of Massachusetts. Governors respond to the needs of their constituents far more than any ideological concerns of their own, and this makes the party balance among governors far less relevant than that in Congress.
Compare for example the electoral college vote from last year:
to the party balance among governors.
There really is little correlation between the two.
neither side is backing down, there is little reason to suspect that this won't happen again. Conservative populists (so-called teabaggers) are trying to put a brave face on the loss by saying that at least a RINO (Republican in name only) didn't get voted in, but it really isn't good news - if it was, then they should be really happy if next year the same thing happens in a few dozen districts instead of just one.
There is also a large danger in supporting one candidate during a primary over another, one of which may seem to be more politically palatable but has a much lower chance of winning in a general election.
Of course, election defeats can be avoided simply by supporting a candidate that actually knows a thing or two about local issues. That might be something to think about next time.