Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Hunt for Red November

Some final (albeit belated) thoughts on the 2014 midterm elections:

It's not terribly clear to me how Bruce Rauner plans on steering Illinois in the right direction, but all the power to him. His defeat of incumbent Pat Quinn for the governor's seat ended 12 years of Democratic reign, and possibly a dozen years of unfocused state GOP politicking. What should have been a runaway victory against an unpopular incumbent came right down to the wire. Rauner's nearly fatal flaw was assuming just being "the other guy" was enough to seal Quinn's fate, and indeed, his stance on a variety of issues was oddly vague until the last five weeks of the campaign. And, as Rauner himself admitted, if we don't like it we can boot him in 2018.

So what triggered the Democrats' trouncing in the election? Even though they share the views on several social issues with a narrow majority of Americans --including most crucially, marriage equality-- the 2014 midterms were both a referendum on President Obama and the ineffectual and sometimes polarizing presence of the party powers that be (Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, etc.). The President has had a brutal second term, partially his fault and partially out of his control, and exasperated voters made their say. The kinda-sorta GOP landslide not only evokes 1994's "Republican Revolution" but serves as a mirror image to the butt-kicking the Democrats handed their competitors to the right in 2006 and 2008.

The Republicans made fewer mistakes as well; there was no Todd Akin/sexual assault blunder to set a disastrous domino effect into motion. On the flip side of that is the misconception that the GOP is unilaterally pro-life and wary of Planned Parenthood. Most of the defined pro-choice candidates lost, but the Republicans that support women's health matters (caveats or concessions or not) are usually stifled by the social right, not necessarily a majority of the party but a crucial line of financial needs and manpower. Alas, the social-right motormouths from the deep red states will get a more substantial chunk of our (and the media's) attention, and the influence of lobbyists and Grover Norquist-type policy wonks will ensure the impression that the GOP is in lockstep on all social issues.

Other random notes:

+ At least the 2014 World Series came down to the last strike on the last out in the bottom of the ninth. My thanks to the Kansas City Royals for a fun postseason; it wasn't perfect, but it was worth 29 years of waiting.

+ Have you checked out Stu News yet? It's not nearly as political as this blog, but it'll certainly put a smirk on your face in the morning.

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