An Angry Electorate or Democracy Speaks?
Election Day across the land was this Tuesday and the results provide a window into the political mood of the country. Were the results the “latest warning shot fired at the political status quo, a surge of populism playing out at the edges of the parties,” an awful night for Democrats, a rejection of big money politics or simply a voting anomaly partially caused by low voter turnout? Political pundits, pollsters and talking heads will all weigh in, but time will have the last say.
Look at some of the results and come to your own conclusion:
Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, designed to protect the rights of gay citizens and others, failed by a wide margin.
Voters opted to repeal an existing law that offered broad non-discrimination protections. The hotly-contested election turned primarily on the opponents’ allegations that the ordinance allowed men dressed as women, including sexual predators, to enter women’s restrooms. Supporters argued that the law extends an important local recourse for a range of protected classes to respond to discrimination.
Ohio rejected marijuana legalization by a two-to-one margin.
The ballot initiative would have allowed adults twenty-one and older to use, purchase or grow small amounts of marijuana and allowed others to use it as medicine. The most controversial part of the legislation limited the number of growing facilities that were to be controlled by private investors, leading opponents to label the legislation a “marijuana monopoly.” Even legalization advocates believe the defeat was caused by the legislation’s call for “a constitutionally mandated oligopoly over an agricultural product.”
Democrats fail to pick up Virginia’s State Senate.
Virginia Republicans held on to their Senate majority despite aggressive campaigning by Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe and the pumping of millions of dollars into the campaign by billionaire, Mike Bloomberg. McAuliffe and Bloomberg hoped to show that Democrats could win on the issue of gun control. Now McAuliffe’s political agenda and Bloomberg’s push for gun control are dead, and the election raises questions about Hillary Clinton’s chances in Virginia in 2016. In many ways, this legislative election turned on issues central to her campaign.
Republican Matt Bevin won in a huge upset In Kentucky Governor’s race.
Bevin becomes just the second Republican in forty-eight years to be elected Governor. Both Bevin and his lieutenant governor running mate, Jenean Hampton, are Tea Party activists. Hampton is now the first African American elected to statewide office in the history of Kentucky. Bevin’s campaign focused on social issues, including promises to defund Planned Parenthood and defend Kim Davis.
San Francisco’s Sheriff who steadfastly defended the city’s “Sanctuary City” policy was defeated.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi came under fire after Mexican immigrant Francisco Sanchez allegedly killed thirty-two year old Kate Steinle. Sanchez had been released from jail despite a request from Federal immigration officials that he be detained. San Francisco also defeated a proposal to impose restrictions on Airbnb.
What does one take away from this week’s elections? One thing that is for sure is that both political parties—and every candidate for President—will put the most positive possible spin on the results. We will hear a lot about how the results endorse their candidacy and values.
I would caution that such a rosy outlook on the election outcome is digging one’s head in the sand. There is a surging discontent with a broken political system, and it will not be quieted by another round of broken promises, gridlocks and finger pointing. Yes, this discontent is being fueled by social media and the plethora of media rabble-rousers, but it is real because underlying the discontent is the reality that for a long-time our leaders have failed to unite the country or address our long term problems including debt, immigration, crumbling infrastructure, failing schools and an out-of-control military-industrial complex.
Many of Tuesday’s results were upsets and weren’t predicted by scientific polls. Perhaps if we take anything away from Tuesday and look toward the future, we should expect the unexpected.