Last Tuesday (November 5th, 2013), elections for governor were held in New Jersey and Virginia. Additionally, a GOP primary runoff for a US congressional seat in Alabama was held, as well as a mayoral race in New York City.
Some factors influencing these races are pretty stable, such as geopolitics, e.g., New York City is a heavily democratic, or blue, city. Yet, over the past 20 years, New Yorkers elected a republican mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and then an independent mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
New Jersey is also blue state. Until recently, Virginia was considered predominantly red, while Alabama is about as red and conservative as one might be able to find in the USA.
These relatively stable geopolitical factors change very slowly over time as their populations change. However, more volatile factors such as recent past or current events influence elections as well, some to a greater extent than others. Take, for example, the seriously flawed and still not completed implementation of Obamacare (current) and the government shutdown and debt ceiling limit fight (recent events).
First, current (and ongoing) events: Anyone paying attention is aware that the first five weeks of Obamacare’s implementation has been nothing short of disastrous, what with its cranky website, the unanticipated cancellation of millions of sub-standard policies and a myriad of other problems which have caught everyone by surprise. The Obama administration has clearly lost some ground with the American people, as evidenced by recent polling declines in approval ratings, although they are slowly beginning to rise again as the healthcare.gov website improves.
Next, recent events: The government shutdown and race to drive over the debt ceiling limit cliff by the GOP driven primarily by the Tea Party ultra-conservatives in the US House of Representatives. These folks really believed their own rhetoric about how the whole country was behind them, right up to the moment the new debt ceiling limit passed and the government reopened. Even then, Tea Party leaders such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Joe Barton of Texas, Steve King of Iowa and others were still advocating for a government default claiming that it would have been a good thing, when all of the GOP’s traditional backers such as Wall Street and US Chamber of Commerce were screaming for them to stop it.
So, back to Tuesday night’s elections. In New Jersey, republican Governor Chris Christie won a huge re-election victory with 58% of the vote against a democratic in a democrat-leaning state. He won by being a moderate mainstream establishment republican who publicly embraced president Obama during the superstorm Sandy recovery last year on national television before the 2012 presidential election. He won by stating emphatically that he would work with anyone, regardless of political party, to get things done. He clearly put distance between his brand of republicanism and the Tea Party’s extremist brand of republicanism.
In Virginia, the democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe was predicted to win over Tea Party conservative Ken Cuccinelli by 8 to 10 percentage points, but only won by less than 3%. Obamacare’s problems lowered his win margin, just as the tea Party’s government self-destruction-plan a month earlier had raised that same margin. Still, the Tea Party’s hope that hatred of Obamacare is the key to their maintaining control of the House of Representatives and taking control of the senate in the November 2014 mid-term elections less than a year from now seems to be more crack-pipe-dream than reality if they couldn’t even pull it off while Obamacare is at its lowest in a state like Virginia that currently has a republican governor and that even now must be considered a swing state such as Florida and Ohio.
Oh, don’t forget New York City, which elected its first democratic mayor in 20 years.
What all this says is that in the broad spectrum of political locales that held elections last Tuesday, the message was crystal clear and it was the same:
People have had enough of extremism and gridlock. The pendulum is swinging back to the left after having swung way too far to the right. And the future, barring any more unintended burps and gas-passing by the administration, might look something like this:
In the 2014 elections, the democrats will pick up perhaps 14 seats in the House. With 214 votes to the republicans’ 220, they will have enough, with just 3 or 4 moderate republicans blowing off the Tea Party extremists, to get stuff done. In the Senate, the democrats will increase their numbers to 59. With at least one moderate republican, there will be no filibuster, and stuff will get done.
THEN they will all be judged as to their governing skills, as opposed to their ability to emulate walls, for the 2016 elections.