Friday, November 7, 2014

Tornado Alley

I'm still sorting through the debris left by the Republican "tornado" Tuesday.  I guess the news media decided that a "wave" wasn't enough to describe the beating the Democrats took at the polls, although I think "shit storm" better describes it.

The biggest losses appear at the state level, where Democrats suffered gubernatorial defeats in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Illinois, while only managing to retake Pennsylvania.  This is particularly surprising, as it looked like the Democrats would take back several states, including Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Kansas, but late surges put Republicans over the top.  Seems the Democrats weren't watching their flanks.

It really is hard to figure out what happened Tuesday, as five states voted to raise the minimum wage, including Illiniois not mentioned in the article.  Yet, these states all voted for conservative governors who were against a minimum wage hike.

Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, DC, all legalized marijuana.  No real surprise here.  Florida rejected a referendum to legalize medical marijuana.  A minor setback.  More referendums are expected to be on the ballot in 2016, including California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and Arizona.  I guess you can call this a "fog."

The biggest concern remains voting rights, as with two more Republican governors you can expect more attempts to get Voter ID laws and other restrictive voting measures enacted, which don't require referendums.  It is hard to say whether the Voter ID laws hurt Democrats in close elections this time around.  North Carolina was one state under scrutiny. Thom Tillis edged Kay Hagan by less than 50,000 votes, but it will be impossible to say whether those turned away from the voting polls would have voted for her.

This has been the most nefarious policy set by Republican governors and state legislatures since 2010, when the first wave hit.  Voter fraud was one of the many fears generated by the GOP propaganda machine over the last four years.  The political ads made it sound like anyone could get a voter's registration card, including zombies and illegal aliens, when in actuality there are very few cases of voter fraud in the country.

 I suppose if you hand counted ballots, you would probably find some irregularities, as was the case in Florida in 2000 when the presidential race came down to 500 votes difference between Gore and Bush, out of 6 million votes cast. However, in that case the US Supreme Court stepped in to stop the recount, with Brother Jeb declaring Dubya the winner, netting all 29 electoral votes.  A case which still lives in infamy in Democrats' minds.

You can also expect more gerrymandering in states to favor Republican congressional districts, which have a direct impact on the House of Representatives.  One can understand the need to adjust voting districts based on population increases, but what we have seen in many states is the opposite, where Republicans adjust districts to suit their voters, with more populous urban districts, which tend to vote Democratic, being underrepresented in state legislatures and in the House.

Still, this doesn't explain the sweeping victories of Republican governors in states like Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois, which generally favor Democrats.  My guess is that low voter turnout is the key here, as midterm election years generally bring one-third less voters to the polls than do presidential election years, resulting in these "tornadoes."

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