04 November 2009

Live by the teabag, die by the teabag

[Updated -- see below.]

Contrary to my expectations, yesterday's election sent the Republicans an unambiguous message.

As everyone predicted, Republican Bob McDonnell won the governorship of Virginia. McDonnell had moved away from the Christian Right's "social issues" (a.k.a. theocratic bigotry and control-freakery) and ran on economics and transportation. That proved to be the right strategy for this formerly red, but now increasingly purple, state which is dominated by DC suburbia in the northeast while remaining traditionally Southern elsewhere. I would have preferred to see a Democrat win, but strengthening moderate forces within the Republican party is important as well.

As almost no one predicted, Democrat Bill Owens won in New York's 23rd Congressional district, beating Conservative party candidate (and champion of the Beck-Limbaugh-Fox-teabagger far right) Doug Hoffman even though 5% of the moderate vote was wasted on liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava, who had dropped out. This is in a district Republicans have held since well back into the 19th century.

So the moderate conservative wins in a socially-diverse state, while the far-rightist loses a race he should have won easily. If the Republicans want to pull out of their ongoing decline, the way to do it is as clear as can be.

The biggest disappointment was Maine, whose gay-marriage law appears to have been overturned in a referendum (though the margin was so small it's conceivable that a recount could change the outcome). Yes, it's encouraging that the margin was so small (like in California last year), in a rural state which was flooded with out-of-state money backing the anti-gay side; even a few years ago the result would have been far worse. And yes, it's encouraging that a domestic-partnership law offering most of the rights of marriage won in Washington state. But it's queasy-making to see fundamental rights put up for a vote, even if the right side were to win; it's a reminder that we must never compromise in defending Roe vs. Wade and the First and Second Amendments, to make sure other fundamental freedoms can never be similarly put at risk.

The other big race was the New Jersey governorship; I have no background knowledge of that, but New Jersey bloggers Sue and Hugh Jee may post about it later.

The serious danger is that the governorship losses may scare Congressional Democrats into an even more timid stance on health-care reform. If that happens, more spine-stiffening pressure from the public may be needed.

Oliver Willis reviews the results here -- "the much vaunted Tea Party movement probably just increased Nancy Pelosi’s power by one" -- and notes that this was not about Obama.

Update: Blogger reactions on the election from Sadly No, Jack Jodell, Liberal Values (here too), Attentive Aphorist, Hugh Jee, Sue -- and conservative Roger L. Simon, who "gets it" about NY-23. Andrew Sullivan has a roundup of more mainstream pundits.

What baffles me is all these right-wingers saying that NY-23 "proves that Republicans can't win without conservatives". Um, what actually happened was that a conservative failed to win without moderate Republicans.

8 Comments:

Blogger ZIRGAR said...

I guess Republicans aren't students of history, because since 1989 the party winning the White House has gone on to lose the governor's race in both VA & NJ the following year. And actually for VA that trend goes back to the 1970's. McDonnell ran a great campaign, because, as you said, he kept away from social issues and focused on economics, and he didn't allow Sarah Palin to publicly endorse him. He knew her imprimatur would be the kiss of death. Sorry, but yesterday's events were no mandate for the GOP. They reflected an historic trend, not a current one. Those wins hardly signalled much of anything that is indicative of an outright GOP resurgence. Nice try though, GOP.

04 November, 2009 05:45  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Sure was alot of action going on around the nation yesterday politically.In Dallas there was only a bunch of tax legislation and constitutional amendment issues to vote on concerning property,taxes,eminent domain,etc.No candidate postion's,and only local school board seat's to be filled.It was so boring, that when I voted I was the only person voting...and the 6 hour's that the poll location was open prior to my visit...only had 23 cother people vote beside's me.

Interesting political read's and link's though ..Thanx.

04 November, 2009 06:44  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Zirgar -- Interesting observation about VA & NJ. I knew that the party winning the Presidency usually loses seats in Congress two years later.

Even though Hoffman lost, I have a feeling the hard right will still manage to learn the wrong lessons if they try hard enough -- and shoot themselves in the foot in bigger races later.

RC -- Taxes and eminent domain can actually have a pretty big impact on the average person, and school-board contests held in low-turnout years are how creationists traditionally manage to get in a position to sneak their rubbish into the schools. It's curious that people aren't more motivated to vote about such things.

04 November, 2009 07:39  
Blogger mendip said...

I'd have to respectfully disagree regarding the GOP in Virginia. They did very well and they either openly ran as reactionaries, or their backgrounds were publicized enough for one to grasp that. The governor-elect not bringing up social issues during the campaign was merely a tactic so as not to energize NoVa against him. His social conservatism is well-known in the state anyway, there was no reason to bring it up - the rednecks know their own. It worked magnificently, helped along by a Democratic nominee so incompetent and inept that one wonders if he wasn't a Republican plant. If one wanted to see how well off the Right did in the Old Dominion, I'd direct your attention to our new Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, a man right out of the 19th century Confederacy. This is how Virginians South of the Rappahanock think. He's a perfect example. The party also made significant gains in the legislature. If a Democratic is going to make headway in this state it will only be through the incompetence of the Republicans in mobilizing their base, such as happened in 2008. As for me, I am hoarding Confederate currency, it's legal tender, once again...

04 November, 2009 08:06  
Blogger (O)CT(O)PUS said...

Palin, Pawlenty, Armey, Glenn, et. al. came on like a gang of, not tea baggers, but carpetbaggers when all the good citizens of District 23 are interested in is local issues like snow blowers. Hoffman was not even a local resident but an outsider himself.

So I agree with you, 1753, Zirgar, RC et. al. that this was not what the GOP had expected ... although the spinners will spin another version of it. The anti-RINO, ideological purity claptrap may yet be their undoing if the GOP ignores these results.

04 November, 2009 08:43  
Anonymous phuckpolitics said...

I love how Republicans are spinning the District 23 lost into a win.

04 November, 2009 09:16  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

BTW Mr.Infidel ... I love the title of this post! I can remember a time where I lived by the bag...and nearly died by the bag a couple times(once in Atlanta,and once in Los Angeles) :) just not "teabag's.

Mr.Mendip's comment's are interesting as far as tactic's and strategies. To be frank here... I dont think I have ever been so politically confused in my life, as especially to what the GOP strategies may be.

04 November, 2009 10:23  
Blogger Sue said...

I hope the gov. losses don't scare dems on HC reform and other important issues. We definitly need to stay united so the rethugs don't win back any House seats!

04 November, 2009 11:15  

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