Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Election Day Retrospective

Yesterday was Election Day. Unless you lived in Virginia or New Jersey, you probably didn't notice. (And boy, did Virginians notice.) So here's the rundown:

Congratulations to Tim "Candy" Kaine, who continues Virginia's long march to purpleness with a victory in the race for governor. He succeeds the wildly successful and wildly popular Mark Warner, who managed to raise his profile for the '08 Democratic presidential nomination in the process.

In the process, blue America's border moved from the Potomac to the Occoquan. Congratulations to Chuck Caputo especially, who defeated gay-basher and immigrant-basher extraordinaire Chris Craddock in his southwestern Fairfax County race. (Craddock ousted incumbent Gary Reese in the primary, in part by linking him to an decade-old endorsement from a gay-friendly publication and by questioning his sexuality. Reese, a moderate Republican who often sided with Warner, likely would have held the seat. This reinforces the notion that primary voters are often fools.)

The Post describes the election as a "backlash" against Republicans in the suburbs. I doubt that. The fact that Kaine (the lieutenant governor) came so close to losing is testimony to how Republican Virginia still is - he was barely able to ride Warner's 80% approval rating (!) to victory. However, a lot of Republicans thought Warner's ambitious budget-balancing tax hike would play out badly, but Virginians realize that the state budget was in a hole after Gilmore, and Warner's tax plan helped the state as a whole. My point: people aren't as anti-tax as we might want to believe, even in the South.

I'll add this as well. Kaine's opponent, Jerry Kilgore, ran for the most part on the death penalty (to which Kaine is opposed) and abortion (Kaine is mildly pro-choice). He lost. Since most Virginians like the death penalty and don't like abortion, this means that a significant chunk of Kaine's votes came from so-called social conservatives. This just goes to show that a plurality of voters care about much more than just social issues, and it's time the pundits recognized that.

I'll go out on this limb while I'm at it - Bush's social conservatism had nothing to do with his 2004 victory. Discuss.

Of course, when the ballot is a social issue, the demagogues will often have their way. So it is in Texas, where voters approved a constitutional amendment denying gays the right to marry. At least sanity still rules in Maine, where voters rejected an effort to repeal their new gay-rights law. Will somebody please tell me why allowing gays to claim the legal rights associated with marriage threatens anyone? MA voters discovered this for themselves: gays were allowed to marry, and heterosexual marriage didn't implode.

Attempts in California and Ohio to take the power of drawing congressional districts away from state legislatures both failed. We can all look forward to more geographically improbable districts and uncompetitive races from those two states. Ironically, Democrats supported the Ohio measure and opposed the California measure; Republicans supported the CA measure and didn't like the OH one. Guess who holds the congressional majority in each state. Personally, I supported both, so it's a disappointment for me. I think it's somewhat important in our democracy to have the capacity for high turnover in the House. We won't have that unless we make the redistricting process non-partisan, or at least bi-partisan.

Corzine wins in N.J., to absolutely nobody's surprise.

Non-election fun:

This is my hometown, y'all. I'm glad there are people with enough time on their hands to harrass illegal immigrants who are looking for work so they (and their families back home) can eat. You want to curtail illegal immigration? Tackle our broken immigration system that forces people to immigrate illegally. You want to engage in a self-aggrandizing stunt that accomplishes nothing but intimidating people looking to better their lives? Do what these people do.

Congress is investigating the CIA's secret prisons. Oh, wait, no. They're investigating who told the press about the CIA's secret prisons. Apparently the fact that the CIA is keeping secret prisons - a tactic usually reserved for the Saddam Husseins of the world - doesn't faze Republican Congressional leaders at all. Focus, people. Focus.

Of course, the non-secret military prisons appear quite porous. Anyone else think that this wouldn't have happened if they'd been in San Quentin instead of somewhere in Afghanistan? Would your average Californian give shelter to four people in orange prison jump suits? And they probably couldn't read English, so finding John Walker Lindh's house in the phone book is out of the question.

(Thanks to Leah for those three stories.)

I was watching The Daily Show yesterday. John McCain was the guest. Jon Stewart asked McCain if VP Cheney, who wants to maintain the government's right to torture, was insane. McCain had to think about it for a little while. I was amused.


Jeff said...

I just read the Post's editorial on Kaine's victory. The last paragraph:

"The sounder conclusion is that Mr. Kaine's triumph proves that a strong, smart candidate can win in Virginia regardless of party affiliation and that hot-button attacks and crass wedge-issue politics are not enough to defeat him. By thumping away at Mr. Kaine's stands on the death penalty and illegal immigration, Mr. Kilgore tried to play on voters' fears. He failed, and that offers a lesson that should be heeded beyond the state's borders."

I swear I did not read the Post's editorial before writing this.

Mike said...

A link to an article by Leonard Pitts on Kaine that might interest you.

I agree with you on Bush. His social conservatism got some of the far right-wingers out of the woodwork, but the fact is that he won because John Kerry failed to provide American moderates with what they saw as a viable alternative.

I wrote a long post about Texas Prop 2, then deleted most of it because it rang repetitive and hollow. Even when you expect it, you're not really ready for it. If you're interested, you can read the much shorter version of my post here.

Ben said...

If I remember correctly, Jeff, you were never all that big a fan of Mark Warner.

Jeff said...

I was always kind of lukewarm on Mark Warner - he's still a little conservative for me. (Still my favorite Warner, but that's not saying much.) He won't be the savior of all things liberal, I'll tell you that. But he's effective, which is more than I can say for 75% of politicians out there. I think a lot more highly of him now than I did four years ago when he was elected - he did some courageous things to get VA out of its Gilmore-inflicted budgetary hole.

When it comes right down to it, I'd prefer someone with Warner's effectiveness and with a dose of liberal idealism. But sensible pragmatism is okay, and in VA I'll take what I can get.