It would be easy, as many have, to see last night’s Republican victory in the Senate, House and several Governor’s races as a crushing blow. Despair is an easy trap to fall into with this one; it was certainly the reason for the record-low voter turnout, which even for a mid-term was on the crushing under-side of 50 percent. Yes, it would be easy to lose hope. But don’t just yet. This loss doesn’t particularly indicate anything favorable to the conservatives for the future — quite the opposite, in fact. And there are a lot of reasons for that. But first…why did we lose the mid-terms to begin with?
1) Mid-Terms almost ALWAYS favor conservatives.
Historically speaking, the vast majority of mid-term voters fit into a pretty narrow demographic. They tend to be older, white conservatives with nothing better to do in late October than stand in line to vote for three hours. Lets compare these numbers on voter demographics in this election and the previous:
- 2012: 16% older, 72% white, 35% conservative
- 2014: 23% older, 75% white, 36% conservative
The huge increase in the number of old people voting probably has a lot to do with the GOP’s tireless efforts to make voting a longer, more arduous process. Younger voters are impatient, and have other things to do these days besides stand in line to vote for three to five hours. Retirees, however, are just happy for the day out.
That’s particularly evident in Florida, where Rick Scott won by 2 percent, in spite of being consistently behind 2 percent in the polls. More evident is the failure of Amendment 2 (medical marijuana) to pass. At one time, it had a 90 percent approval total, and; among seniors, though, it barely squeaked above 50 percent at highest. Amendment 2 DID get a clear majority, at 57 percent; but didn’t pass because Florida requires a 60 percent super-majority.
And that’s a pattern repeated all across the nation these mid-terms. Just given the preponderance of GOP voter suppression, and the demographics of mid-terms as a rule, you could almost be forgiven for being pleased that so many non-conservatives got as close as they did.
On the plus side, though — at 57 percent, Republicans still don’t have a super-majority. So, we’re not entirely at their mercy. What’s filibuster for the goose is filibuster for the gander.
2) Presidential parties always suffer in the last mid-term of a second term
Bush ended his presidency with a Democrat congress, and Clinton ended his with a Republican Congress. Reagan ended his presidency with a heavily Democrat Congress, and that continued through Bush Senior.
This is a well-known phenomena, and we saw the GOP capitalize on it significantly in this mid-term season. And they used the same line from the same page from the same playbook that has been used since time immemorial.
“This _____ President did things people don’t like. My opponent is a member of the ______ party…so, a vote for him is a vote for the ______ president you don’t like!”
The POTUS always has to do things people don’t like, including people in his own party. Rarely, if ever, has a president left office with higher approval numbers than he came in with, and it practically never happens at the end of a second term. This is largely responsible for the kind of pendulum effect we see in local and congressional races, and it happens during every cycle. That’s exactly why it is a cycle. So, the fact that so many GOP candidates wound up seemingly running against Obama instead of their opponent is nothing especially surprising, nor is the effect it had on the mid-term election outcome.
3) RECORD Low Voter turnout: GOP Voter suppression tactics apparently work
“Republicans win when people don’t vote.” That’s been an ongoing truism in D.C. for a long time now, and both Republicans and Democrats know it. Republicans have a vested interest in suppressing democracy, which is why they jump for joy when voter turnout drops below 50 percent.
This year’s mid-terms have seen a record low number of voters, even by mid-term standards. Total, for the ballots counted to date, voter turnout is a STUNNINGLY low 30 percent of the voting population in some places, and barely marked 40 percent nationwide. That’s lower even than the latest historical averages for mid-terms, which have been between 45 and 55 percent.
The reasons why are two-fold:
1) GOP voter suppression tactics, including voter ID, restricted early voting and extremely long voting lines worked. The younger and minority voters Democrats depend on are a notoriously fickle bunch, and they’ve got things to do. Red voters are very often either unemployed or retired, and they’re not exactly the most “socially active” bunch out there. The GOP has, in no uncertain terms made voting a complete pain in the ass; and to today’s generation (accustomed to instant gratification, the fast life and low wait times through the internet), the idea of waiting for four hours in a line to do something that probably won’t matter isn’t exactly the most appealing notion.
2) Apathy. Make no mistake, the GOP’s “the system is hopelessly broken and corrupt” campaign isn’t targeted at GOP voters. It’s targeted at us. Despair and apathy are the front-line weapons of any invading army, and the GOP knows well how to use them. Want evidence of the targeted use of apathy? Look no further than the GOP itself. While most of them will tell you the system is “hopelessly broken,” they sure seem to be using it to great effect. But they know that younger people are prone to political apathy and impatience.
They played you like a fiddle.
Perfect Storms Don’t Last — Why None of the Above Matters
We might have lost this particular battle…but the war still goes to us. PROVIDED that we can maintain some semblance of democracy, this mid-term may prove to be the final flash of a dying conservative star. For all the reasons above, our loss this season wasn’t entirely a shock. In fact, when you combine all of the factors working against us, this season starts looking a lot less like a referendum on conservatism and a lot more like a perfect storm of factors favoring Republicans.
And even with that perfect storm, the fact that so many of these races were as close as they were, and the polls running all these candidates neck-and-neck, it shows that the momentum of change is on our side. The will of the majority can only be suppressed for so long. And when the majority has had enough, institutions don’t tend to undergo undergo renovations…they explode, and are torn down brick by brick.
Nevermind the outcome of this year’s political machinations: here’s what the majority have shown, and where things are going, after 2014:
1) America still doesn’t like Republican policies or governance
While the GOP is sure to tout this as “proof” that people like the GOP, and want Republican governance and policies…that’s a long way from true.
Look at every single Republican Party platform position, and every bill and law that either passed, or didn’t pass because it lacked the required super-majority. The majority of Americans are against almost everything the Republican Party stands for, including
- repealing Obamacare, stopping medicaid expansion,
- corporate personhood, Citizen’s United, deregulating corporations and Wall Street
- killing gun control laws
- global warming denial
- voter suppression
- cutting expenditures on social programs, killing minimum wage increases
- stopping marijuana legalization, continuing the war on drugs
- ramping up war in the Middle East
- mass deportation of immigrants
- putting “God” in everything that will hold a three-letter word
- ending abortion rights and contraceptive support for women
The list goes on and on.
In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single Republican policy position that more than 35 to 40 percent of the country supports. Oh, except for the one:
“We don’t like Obama.”
In that, at least, they’ve got 59 percent support…which is higher than anything else they’ve proposed.
3) They Don’t have a Prayer of Winning a Presidency for the Next 10 Years, at Least
Locally, it seems as though the GOP has some kind of unity and strength. But the fact is, the party as a whole is so factionalized at this point that a “Republican” from Iowa agrees with almost nothing said by a “Republican” from New York. Tea Party people elect “Republicans” because they won’t vote for libtard Democrats…but that’s about where their ideological identity ends with the majority of non-tea-party-state Republicans.
On that basis alone, Republicans are unlikely to ever get another president elected; and the GOP base won’t keep voting indefinitely for people who can’t get anything done in Congress, on the basis that the Democrat president vetoes everything. A Tea Party congressman is, in essence, a “protest vote.” And, while fun, protest votes aren’t exactly useful over the long run. And they’re not shared by a majority.
At this point, one of two things will happen. Either the rabid conservative base stops voting for Republicans, and starts going independent — which is entirely possible, and already happening in some places. OR, they realize that putting more Ted Cruz’s and Joni Ernsts in office is pointless, and 20 years worth of Democrat presidents drag the whole party back to center. OR, the whole thing just disintegrates into a hail of gunfire, racial slurs, and attempts to deregulate Wall Street.
OR the old people supporting the GOP die off. OR the next thing happens.
2) The GOP Now has Every Inch of Rope it Needs to Hang Itself, and Every Ounce of Gas to Burn Itself Alive
Over the long term, this “loss” may be the single best thing ever to happen to the Progressive movement, and to democracy in America. Right now, the GOP has sleazed its way into controlling the House, Senate and Supreme Court, as well as many governor seats and state legislatures.
BUT, the public still hates the GOP as a whole., and almost everything it stands for. It hates the tactics that Republicans use to get elected, and what they do once they’re in power. And the number of people who hate them is growing by the day, rather than shrinking. We are a growing majority.
And the majority cannot be suppressed forever.
You know the nice thing about not sitting in the driver’s seat? When the psycho who took the wheel by gunpoint crashes into a mailbox, at least you can say
“Don’t look at me.”
The fact is, the Republicans are going to spend the next couple years, to some extent at least, getting their way. And the things they’re going to get will be the exact opposite of what the majority wants. Because the majority hated them when they weren’t running things…and we already know what happens to approval ratings after people get into power.
Apathy has become the GOP’s number one weapon against America, and against democracy. But we can probably rest assured that after the next two to four years of screwing everything up, and showing the people their true colors…APATHETIC is about the last thing America will be toward the conservative movement.
All light bulbs and dying stars flare their brightest just before burning out forever. Atomic nuclei release their greatest energy in the moment of self-annihilation. And no mansion is ever more awe-inspiring than in those few minutes it spends burning to ashes. Judgement Day nears for the GOP.
So, for the next few years…let’s enjoy the luxury of sitting back, popping a beer, and watching this motherf***er burn.