Midterm Elections Post-Mortem

Are you sick to death of election coverage? Feeling defeated by major losses in the House? Annoyed with press conferences and pundits? Well, the media has a talent for giving us election fatigue but there is some good news and insightful analysis out there to prepare us for this arduous road to 2012.

Even as the Tea Party heavily pushed their discriminatory platforms, ethnic diversity didn’t take a total hit in these elections. As Lori reported earlier, despite the fact there will be no African-American senators for the next two years, Alabama elected their first Black congresswoman. In typical appropriating fashion, the GOP won big with their candidates of color, namely Indian-American Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s first female governor, and Susana Martinez of New Mexico, the country’s first Latina governor. Nevada also elected their first Latino governor, Brian Sandoval, another Republican.

What’s unfortunate is that it reeks of diversity for the sake of diversity. Since the election of President Obama, the GOP has been on a mission to appeal specifically to African-American and Latino communities but were certainly happy to have any black, brown or yellow faces sprinkled throughout the party once we became en vogue. It started with the hiring of GOP chairman Michael Steele but now we are seeing the fruits of their investment. The real problem is that these candidates are often supporting measures that detrimentally affect their communities of the people they most want to “reach.” Sigh.

One hot race is for California’s Attorney General where Democratic contender, Kamala Harris, is narrowly beating her competitor, Steve Cooley. She leads by one-third of a percentage point and provisional and absentee ballots still need to be counted. Cooley had been the favorite because his career as a prosecutor in Los Angeles County but Harris, who some pundits tout as the next Obama, has given him a run for his money (literally).

In other (more positive) diversity news, there were a record number of LGBT candidates elected to various offices including state legislatures and mayoral positions. Even as Tea Party psycho Rand Paul won the Senate race in Kentucky, Lexington (the second largest city in the state) elected an openly gay mayor, and the fourth openly gay member of Congress, David Cicilline, was elected in Rhode Island. That’s a good segue to the future of DADT which is now lays in the hands of “Republican cooperation.”

It’s also been confirmed that youth are still engaged, involved and interested. The old idea of youth apathy dies hard but it was reported that voter turnout of people under 30 was comparable to the 2006 midterm election numbers, and that many of these young voters are pro-Democrat. This is particularly important to note since many progressives have commented that the majority of Tea Party voters are seniors.

Regarding the Tea Party, it’s hard not to be alarmed by all of their rhetoric and to easily believe that they are wielding a large amount of power over voters. Though I don’t believe they will go away anytime soon, they are not the major voting block that they sell themselves to be. Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer got more votes than ten of the Tea Party’s candidates combined. Granted California is a huge state and the Tea Party folks mostly ran in smaller states, it gives some perspective about the actual significance of the Tea Party’s influence on elections…and allows me to breathe a small sigh of relief.

What’s been my silver lining for the day was an important point made (more eloquently than I will here) by Melissa Harris Perry during this morning’s live discussion: “Pop and Politics with Farai Chideya.” Essentially she said that the results of last night’s election signified more of a shift in partisan control than in actual ideology. Many of the Democrats who lost were conservatives who are being replaced by Republican conservatives. While it is troubling considering Republicans are way more apt to vote among party lines when the Democrats don’t (remember Stupak?), it does not signify a major departure from politics as usual, particularly the Democrats scrambling around for votes outside of their party.

I think it’s easy for progressives to be disillusioned by the results. Yes, we did lose the House. Yes, there are some nutty Tea Party candidates who are actually in office. But it’s all more fire for us to fight for candidates that support our interests and issues, not for diversity’s sake or photo opps but for the betterment and uplift of our country.

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