2002 mid-term election results

Local

For Seattle voters of sound mind (pardon the pun), things went
well, at least in the three areas that mattered.

Our courageous Representative Jim McDermott was handily re-elected
with 75% of the vote. He probably feels stranded and dispirited
as a liberal in the House right now, but at least he’s there and
speaking his mind.

Initiative 51, a proposal that would have raised taxes to funnel
money into roads, suffered a _massive_ defeat (currently
at 63% Yes, 37% No). Given that Governor Locke threw his weight
behind this thing, along with any number of economic and special
interests, and five _million_ dollars were spent campaigning
for it, this is a pretty stunning, resounding message from the voters.
Even voters in those areas of the state most likely to benefit from
it snubbed their noses at it. Maybe now the Legislature will do
their job.

Last and best and woo-hoo!, it looks like the Monorail initiative
is going to pass. It was touch and go at the beginning, but as of
this writing, it’s got a 52-48% lead, with most districts in. This
means they’re actually going to build the damn thing: an elevated
rapid-transit "Green Line" from Ballard to West Seattle
(to be expanded to the whole city soon, one hopes). Yes, Virginia,
there is a democracy.

Initiative 776, which pins vehicle license tab fees at $30, is
passing by a wide margin, about which I have mixed feelings. It’s
a strategic victory for the more-public-transportation-less-pavement
crowd… but I hate to see that smug dumbass weasel Tim Eyman with
a smile on his face.

You can read complete local election results here.

National

Here the story is grim, grim, grim. The conventional wisdom going
into these mid-term elections was that there were several crucial
races that were too close to call. Well, the Republicans won ’em.
All of ’em. In virtually every race where there was a real contest–for
House, Senate, or Governor–the R’s took it. They even took several
where nobody thought there was a real contest. Hell, they even had
a real go at the _gubernatorial race in California_!

The most significant (by which I mean worst) news: the R’s have
taken control of the Senate. That means they now control the Supreme
Court, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House.
Every branch of government, for the next two years, will be working
in concert, frantically passing as many elements of the conservative
agenda as possible before the next election. There will almost certainly
be a war with Iraq; Bush’s tax cuts will be made permanent; all
kinds of bills held up in the Senate (e.g. the "faith-based"
initiatives program) will be passed; any number of conservative
federal judges will be appointed; etc. etc. ad nauseum.

I know errata readers (hi Vid) are more interested in the what-it-all-means
than the details, but here are a few relevant details anyway. Jeb
Bush (the not-dumb one) was re-elected in Florida. In Georgia, state
R party leader Ralph Reed (formerly of the Christian Coalition,
also known as Beelzebub)
ushered in a jaw-dropping sweep. Sonny Perdue defeated incumbent
Democratic Roy Barnes for governor in a stunning upset that _nobody_
predicted; in the GA Senate race, Saxby Chambliss beat incumbent
Max Cleland in a very nasty race that turned on “homeland” security
(I can’t bring myself to take that creepy word out of quotes); and,
two of the three GA House races went to R’s (the third hasn’t been
called yet). Expect to see Ralph Reed reap great rewards from the
powers that be in the coming years.

Senate races: Allard beat Strickland in Colorado. Ouch. Talent
beat Carnahan in Missouri (by less than 30,000 votes). Ouch. Sununu
beat Shaheen in New Hampshire. Ouch. Dole (yes, wife of Bob Dole)
beat Bowles in North Carolina. Ouch. Llamar Alexander (yes, that
one) beat Clement in Tennessee. Ouch. Thune beat Johnson in South
Dakota. Ouch ouch ouch. These were all close races, all of crucial
significance, and all went to the R side.

Oh, and it’s not called yet, but Mondale (who took over for the
Last Liberal, Paul Wellstone, who died a few weeks back) is losing
to Coleman in Minnesota. Make it stop.

I wont get into the governor races, but while Democrats did gain
a few, they didn’t gain as many as they thought they would.

You can get full national election results here.

What It All Means

For those who don’t follow politics very closely, here’s why this
election is historic. Traditionally, in the mid-term election following
the election of a new President, the President’s party loses seats
in Congress. For instance, you might recall in 1994 (following Clinton’s
election in ’92) the R’s absolutely mopped the floor with the D’s,
ushering in Newt Gingrich and his distasteful minions.

There are many explanations for why voters seem eager to balance
out what they did in Presidential elections so quickly, instead
of helping Presidents by electing Congressfolk from their party.
Whatever the explanation, it is as close to an iron law as there
is in politics: the President has no coat tails to ride on.

Last night was the first time that the President’s party has regained
control of the Senate and gained seats in the House in a mid-term
election _ since 193-fricking-4_ (yes, folks, that was FDR).
It is the first time an R has done it since the _Civil-fricking-WAR_.
It’s one for the history books, as every pundit on the planet will
be telling you for the next few weeks. Nobody predicted it.

Why did it happen? There are two explanations, and probably some
truth in each.

The first explanation is that President Bush, by campaigning so
heavily for R’s, in effect nationalized these state races. He turned
them into a referendum on the war on terrorism, "homeland"
defense, the impending Iraq war, and his own leadership. This year,
the President _did_ have coat tails, big time, and many R’s
coasted into office on them. The election was a massive show of
support for a war-time President.

Those who favor this explanation will read the election as creating
a mandate for Bush that he didn’t have after the contested 2000
elections. He is now encouraged and enabled to go forward full steam
with his agenda: large tax cuts, massive defense spending, aggressive
foreign policy, energy policy based on petroleum, and so on.

The White House will certainly favor this explanation, and will
be busy spinning the election this way in the coming weeks.

The second explanation pins the responsibility for this historical
loss squarely on the Democrats. When you vote D these days, what
are you voting for? Does anyone know? Do the D’s know? You might
complain that they aren’t _for_ anything, just against the
R’s, but then… wait… _they aren’t even against the R’s._
They went meekly along with the resolution on Iraq. They complain
about Bush’s tax cuts, but have never proposed repealing them. It’s
hard to think of an issue where the D party (as opposed to a few
old-school mavericks in it… R.I.P. Wellstone) have offered principled
opposition to the R agenda. Yes, they bitch and moan, they bite
at heels, they hold up bills… but note the word "principled."

Here is a political party (one of only two that matter, mind you)
with ZERO positive agenda–no coherent plan for the economy, no
coherent plan to fight terrorism, no coherent plan to reform health
care or the welfare system or the judicial system… no coherent
alternative at all. No vision. Say what you will about the R’s,
they have an ideology. They may be deceptive and hypocritical at
times, but when you say you’re an R, people basically get what you
mean. When you say you’re a D… what follows? What does that say
about your political philosophy? Anything at all?

The D leadership consists of Gephart and Daschle in Congress, both
wan, pale, mealy-mush-mouthed politicians of the worst sort, and…
uh… anybody else? Oh yeah, ex-Pres Clinton, who obviously carries
little weight, given that every former member of his staff (Bowles,
Reno, Reich, etc.) just got their asses kicked in their own races.
Other than the recently-deceased Paul Wellstone, what D strikes
you as having a coherent political philosophy and the gonads to
support it consistently? Virtually no one. This makes the prospect
of the 2004 Presidential election horrendously depressing (especially
if we get a Gore v. Bush retread).

Most young, intelligent, engaged people I know dislike the R’s,
and vote against them. In fact, poll after poll shows that, on almost
every specific issue (particularly domestic), most citizens are
opposed to the R position. But people vote for candidates who are
saying something, who are _for_ something, who seem to have
their shit together. A "we’re-not-them" party does not
inspire passion. It does not inspire action. It barely even inspires
voting, as we have just seen. Passion comes from supporting something.

I dislike the R’s as well, for a million reasons, but do I consider
myself a D? Hell no. I don’t even know what that would mean.

Even a die-hard R should agree that the D party needs to pull itself
together and get a positive agenda, because even a die-hard R should
agree that citizens of this, the oldest and most successful democracy
in history, deserve a choice of real, substantive alternatives.

 

One further depressing note:

In Nevada, citizens voted Yes to banning gay marriage and No to
legalizing marijuana possession. Nice job, Nevada.

 

So as not to end on a depressing note:

James Traficant, formerly of the D party, ran as an Independet–_from
prison_, where he landed on corruption charges–and managed
to get 15% of the vote in the Ohio District 17 House race. Nice
job, Ohio District 17.