Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ignorance Is Your New Best Friend

Election hangover time. Here's a few thoughts on last night's vote-o-rama. Nate Silver does some good analysis here, so if you want some intelligent thoughts, make with the clicky. But for you who set sail with the Good Ship Rant, we'll start south and move up:

Virginia: McDonnell won, and won big here. No surprises - Creigh Deeds' campaign was so weak and so negative that one could be forgiven for thinking that this guy was the actual candidate. And as much as was made of McDonnell's woman-hating graduate thesis, he actually ran as more center-right than anything - or at least he kept his distance most of the far-right national luminaries like Sarah Palin. And the people who actually turned out to vote were a conservative lot - according to Silver, they voted for McCain 51-42. Anyway, this continues a bizarre trend in Virginia politics - the party controlling the White House has lost every governor's race in my lifetime (1977 was the last time it didn't happen). I don't want to dismiss the role of Virginia's fierce regional rivalries in this result either - McDonnell, from Fairfax, was probably thought of by a lot of Northern Virginia voters as better on NoVa issues than Deeds, who hails from Appalachia.

New Jersey: This douchebag-turd sandwich challenge went to Republican Chris Christie, a moderate who defeated one of the most reviled governors in the country, Democrat Jon Corzine. Corzine had a perception of sleaziness that wasn't helped by the fact that his former employer, Goldman Sachs, isn't exactly at an acme of popularity right now. Christie, whose reputation as a corruption-buster was called into question in past weeks, was just better enough to win. Independent Chris Daggett was a non-factor. This reminds me of nothing more than the last time a Republican Christie won the NJ governorship - Christie Todd Whitman, back in 1993.

NY-23: The North Country gets its first Democratic representative since... since... hell, I don't know if anyone can remember the last time a Democrat won up there. Bill Owens was the beneficiary of a civil war among conservatives so fierce that when Republican Dede Scozzafava dropped out last weekend, she actually endorsed Owens instead of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. A sizeable chunk of Scozzafava's voters appear to have followed her, which is what drove Owens to victory. It's tempting to look at this race as a rebuke to far-right conservatives, but I don't think we can discount a major factor - the sheer incompetence of Doug Hoffman. An MSNBC reporter last night said that not only did Hoffman go into an interview with NY-23's largest newspaper not realizing that Ft. Drum was the district's largest employer and that he'd be responsible for fighting to keep its funding if he won, he seemingly went into the interview not knowing what Ft. Drum was. When there's a one-on-one battle between a guy who knows the district and a guy who doesn't, always bet on the former even if his party hasn't won a race there since God-knows-when.

Oh, and is there any doubt that Scozzafava runs away with this race if not for Hoffman's presence? It's a district tailor-made for moderate Republicans.

Maine: In by far the most depressing result of the night, Maine voters chose to take away gay people's right to enter into a legal contract with one another by a 52-48 margin. I was crunching some numbers on this race last night and I noted a couple of bizarre trends. One was that the vote had a distinct urban-rural split. Portland and environs generally held to their liberal lean; the numbers from Portland basically track those of Obama last year. However, the rural areas were a disaster. In Caribou, a town in the sparsely populated northern reaches of the state, Obama won 56-44 last year - but voted to overturn gay marriage 72-28.

Second is that conservatives were far more motivated than liberals (again). Raw numbers for the anti-marriage voters generally tracked McCain's raw numbers for the state - remarkable for an off-year election - while pro-marriage numbers were well below Obama's numbers last year. For the life of me, I can't understand why conservatives are so motivated on an issue that doesn't affect them at all, but there you go.

Anyway, I see two, and only two, ways forward for marriage equality from here. One is to wait until all the old people die off. Opposition to gay marriage is generally driven by cranky meddlesome old people who think they know everything (what I call the Get Off My Lawn Lobby) - young people are generally okay with the idea. The other is to figure out what's causing so many people to think that gay marriage actually affects them. I read an article a while back (I can't find the link for the life of me) that argued that the main problem with democracy was that it's trivially simple for the majority to take away rights from minorities, because they have the numbers. I don't think we can blame widespread malice for the failure of marriage equality in Maine and California though - in my experience, most people don't just to want to take away rights from others out of spite, especially when they're not affected by the decision one way or the other. So people must be convinced that they are affected by marriage equality - but how? How do straight people conceivably think that two gay guys signing a legal contract actually affects them? Answer that riddle and a strategy for achieving full legal rights for gay couples will emerge.

Finally, a fun conservative contradiction: why are conservatives so in favor of the right to free contract when it comes to businesses and employment but not when it comes to personal matters?

Update: Just checked the census data for Maine - it was projected to be the third oldest state by 2010, behind only Florida and West Virginia. As I noted, there's a huge generation gap on this issue, which put equality deep in the hole in Maine before the fight even began...

Assorted other issues: It wasn't all bad news for our LGBT brothers and sisters - Washington voters approved full legal rights for same-sex couples, and the city of Kalamazoo, MI passed its anti-discrimination ordinance.

Democrat John Garamendi, to no one's surprise, beat Republican David Harmer to become CA-10's new congresscritter, replacing Democrat Ellen Tauscher.

And if you like gambling, you have a new vacation spot... Toledo. Yes, Ohio voters approved a measure that would allow one - and only one - casino in each of Ohio's four largest cities (Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo). Only one casino per city? Isn't basically granting a monopoly on gambling to one company asking for trouble? Why not just make gambling legal and allow cities to decide whether or not they want casinos, and how many they want? Just a ton of weirdness all around there.

1 comment:

Mike said...

It wasn't all bad news in Maine: at least medical marijuana is still okay.

I want to attempt to provide some sort of analysis for why gay marriage continues to fail (even as "everything but marriage" laws like Washington succeed), but I'm drawing a blank, and anyway I should really be working. Just wanted to give a shout-out to the continued nanometer-by-nanometer crawl toward drug legalization.