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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13 Comments

  1. Posted November 3, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    The Democratic leadership made some terrible mistakes. I don’t mean with passing legislation, but with positioning themselves to win. I think President Obama is guilty of the same offense. To some extent, the persistence of the effects of the recession is a large part of the equation, but being better at putting forth a compelling message would have gone far.

  2. Posted November 3, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Nikki Haley (not Harley) is South Carolina’s governor-elect, and it seems like most people I’ve talked to in SC had no idea she is Indian-American. Not sure if that has to do more with a lack of knowledge on the part of South Carolina voters or a lack of information given by Haley/the GOP.

  3. Posted November 3, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Are you kidding me, Feministing?? What on earth makes you think it’s ok to call a Black man a “coon”, even in a strike-through?

    • Posted November 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that was harsh, hasty and emotional, and I apologize if you are offended. A better and more accurate word would have been buffoon. I have little respect for Mr. Steele, what he does and what he stands for. Not because he’s a Black Republican but because of the tactics he has used to try to draw Black voters to the GOP (rapping & fried chicken?!). It was not meant as a slur but more to say that he capitalizes on old racist ideals like he’s part of a political minstrel show. Again, I apologize to you and anyone else that was offended.

  4. Posted November 4, 2010 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Michael Steele will soon be joining the employment statistics that he has so enjoyed (ineptly) exploiting for his own agenda: if there is one thing that Teabaggers do not like, it is browns telling them what to do. (Come to think of it, I guess that is the entire reason why they exist.)

  5. Posted November 4, 2010 at 3:58 am | Permalink

    I look at the Democrats still holding the Senate (with a little cushion) and the Presidency, and it seems that they are still in the best position that have been since 1994, save for the past two years (and even during those two years, Republicans were still generally able to filibuster about anything they wanted). Nor do I see Obama in immediate danger of losing the 2012 election when the Republicans still have no obvious serious challenger during a time their party is accountable again. Nor have I been exceedingly thrilled with the Democratic brand anyway — this new power dynamic may allow new voices to emerge and provide their party (or maybe even the Republican party — I can hope anyway) a better direction. Democrats also have the upper hand on Bush’s expiring tax cuts, so they should be positioned adequately to keep the Republicans from getting so much of what they want.

    I have to say, I’m not really all that surprised, shocked, or worried. Even if Senate Democrats roll over on a few issues, President Obama has veto power, and I think it’ll be exciting to see him use it — and I do expect the Senate to stop any bill that would actually be politically dangerous for him to veto (probably by stalling/filibustering).

    I would have preferred Pelosi to Reid retaining a major leadership role, but once the media runs out of Orange-American Boehner jokes, the Republicans are probably going to find some way to turn moderate sentiment back against them (especially if they launch frivolous impeachment investigations or ask for big tax cuts [for the rich] that challenge their fiscal responsibility mantra).

    I don’t know exactly how matters will unfold, but I think things are going to be okay. It’s not that we are going to get what we want, but progressives probably weren’t going to get a whole lot more under the status quo anyway, and we’re not in immediate danger of losing anything important (unless the courts blow up the health care bill and force some kind of revision or outright replacement. And I can’t say I’d be bothered by a court ruling that forcing people to buy health insurance with their own money is unconstitutional — from my perspective, mandates on individuals just for being alive need to be funded).

  6. v
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    As a chick of Peruvian descent I find it unpleasant and condescending that white liberals love to speak for me and my “ilk.”

    “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.” Right so if you do it it’s good because it’s “progress” yet if we (I’m a Republican) do it’s bad. Can someone try to explain this please?

  7. v
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Also I strongly believe that no matter what our political allegiance, we are all feminists! As much as you guys might hate what the Tea Party stands for, I’d love some recognition that it’s awesome women are being taken seriously politically.

    • Posted November 4, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      How can you expect that given their policies? And how can you be a republican and a feminist. Sorry doesn’t add up. It means you don’t actually believe in what feminism stands for or you could never vote or support such people.

  8. v
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    @honeybee

    “How can you expect that given their policies? And how can you be a republican and a feminist. Sorry doesn’t add up. It means you don’t actually believe in what feminism stands for or you could never vote or support such people.”

    I am a classical liberal. Somehow in today’s world this term has been flipped to mean “right wing”. I believe in equal opportunities for everyone and I vote Republican because Democrats have a history of implementing racist/sexist “positive promotion” type stuff. I think that when we are employed or promoted on the basis of our gender that we have lost. We are every bit as capable as men and thus it is insulting that the Democratic Party thinks we are precious flowers who need extra help.

    Honeybee how dare you say “It means you don’t actually believe in what feminism stands for or you could never vote or support such people.”? I thought I was fighting against the sexist patriarchy, I’d rather not fight against people whom I thought were sisters too. Don’t tell me what I do and don’t think.

    • Posted November 4, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      So, do you believe that the gender wage gap is simply merit-based?

      I’m kind of at a loss, here. First off, because “positive promotion” is not a term I’m familiar with, though it seems that you’re taking issue with Title 9 and affirmative action and the like. I’m curious as to how you hold employers to any standard without such loose guidelines as those provided in the US. I mean, a study published in the NBER in 2003 stated, “White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews [than African-American names].” (http://papers.nber.org/papers/w9873) How, exactly, do you propose to address inequalities like those? Because, I’ll tell you, the “market” isn’t doing it and the GOP has no plan for correcting it. If you want, I can provide scores more studies and statistics showing, in black and white, the sorts of systemic inequalities that what you call “positive promotion” policies are trying to chip away at, but I’ll save the space for now.

      Never mind how odd it is for a “liberal” to support a party with the “culture war”-focused social agenda of the Republicans. I speak now of Republican platforms on reproductive health and justice, same-sex marriage, drug policy, the separation of church and state, access to stem cell lines, etc. etc. etc. Yes, it’s a very “classically liberal” party. Guffaw.

      Finally, and this has been hashed out and rehashed, but just because someone is a woman (such as O’Donnell or Palin) does not make her a feminist. Nor does it make supporting her a feminist act. Phyllis Schlafly is a woman as well, and one who shares many publicly stated values with Palin and O’Donnell, but supporting that “sister”‘s agenda is not a feminist act. On the other hand supporting her right to hold such a backwards agenda, well, that may be.

  9. Posted November 5, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Rand Paul won the Senate seat in Kentucky, not the governor’s race.

    • Posted November 5, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for that Eileen — fixed!

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