Nov 4, 2009

Some Thoughts on this Off-year Election of 2009

I spent last night following the election results. The most interesting outcomes were the 23rd Congressional District in upstate New York, and the referendum in Maine about same-sex marriage. Obviously, I kept checking the numbers from New Jersey; they looked bad for Corzine the moment the polls closed. So, now the Garden State has a Republican for governor. It's been a very tough year for executives, regardless of their political stripes. The Dems had more seats to defend, therefore more to lose--and they did.

I don't th
ink this off-year election can be used as a barometer for the 2010 midterm elections, when the whole House (435) and 1/3 of the US Senate are up for re-election. There will be more serious messages then about Obama's performance, the Dem leadership in Congress, and the shape of the Republican party.

In Washington State, the voters re-affirmed the legal protections & rights the legislature had given to same-sex couples. They don't call it "marriage" but it's close. I don't think it's far when most blue states will move more aggressively in a progressive direction, and it won't be long before we look back and wonder why the hell we didn't move faster--as we look back today and shake our heads in disbelief that states prohibited cross-racial marriages.

However, I think two results from this election have lots to tell us. First, the repealing of the same-sex marriage law in Maine by a small margin. I'm disappointed but there's good news here. The northeast is moving in a progressive direction. Almost half of those who voted are OK with giving same legal rights to homosexuals. In a few years, there will be a solid majority (at least on this progressive issue) in Maine. Students at the University of ME voted overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the same-sex law. One campus registered 81% support! As older generations expire, the country moves in a more progressive direction. And, this is the problem the Republican party is having nowadays. They're purging the moderates in their midst. When one GOP moderate (through his/her own devices) manages to win public office in the Northeast, the party claims victory. But, it's not the victory that comes out of the conservative ideology and the Republican party's platform.

The GOP seems to be trapped in the southern strategy--which worked for a generation or two, but not anymore. The Republican party is not a national party any more. A governor and a mayor here and there don't make a national party. If, for example, the blue state of NJ wanted the Republicans in charge, they would have thrown out the big Dem majority in the state legislature. They did not. In addition, those Republicans who manage to get elected in the Northeast are rather moderate. The Dem incumbent screws up (especially in a very tough economic environment of today) and the voters replace him with a moderate Republican.

The 23rd CD in NY showed us that the moderate Republicans are the most endangered species. When president Obama chose an upstate moderate Republican to be the Secretary of the Army, the NYS GOP picked another moderate Republican to run in the special election. But, wait, the conservative movement is controlled today by the most extreme, most conservative elements. Thus, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin [do I need to mention more names?] went out of their way to promote one of their own in the 23rd CD. The result was a Dem winning the district. He is the first Dem to represent the district since the 1800s!

Now, I'm not saying the Dem will hold this CD, but this race shows who's in control of the Republican party. It shows the direction is going into. I like it. They think that their ideology or policies [what policies besides "NO" have they proposed since they lost power?!!] aren't the problem. It's the party and the moderates who are responsible for the big defeats in the span of 2 elections, 2006-2008.

There are no Republicans represented in the House of Congress from the six states that comprise New England! Throw in New York state's 29 seats and you get only 2 Repubs. Actually, the Congressional Dems added 2 more seats in yesterday's special election.

On the other hand, I don't have the illusion the country is truly as progressive as some of us would prefer--even though the majority holds progressive ideas on many social issues. These days, we collectively are re-evaluating the role of the government. What is it that the government can do for us? Isn't, after all, our government? Did you see the recently released Prosperity Index?
It's very interesting.

Here are the indexes:

  • Economic Fundamentals – a growing, sound economy that provides opportunities for wealth creation
  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation – an environment friendly to new enterprises and the commercialization of new ideas
  • Democratic Institutions – transparent and accountable governing institutions that promote economic growth
  • Education – an accessible, high-quality educational system that fosters human development
  • Health – the physical well-being of the populace
  • Safety and Security – a safe environment in which people can pursue opportunity
  • Governance – an honest and effective government that preserves order and encourages productive citizenship
  • Personal Freedom – the degree to which individuals can choose the course of their lives
  • Social Capital – trustworthiness in relationships and strong communities.
The US ranks 9th.

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