Saturday, November 8, 2014

Four Errors about Tuesday

Several mistaken claims (at least, I think they're mistaken) have been circulating in much of the post-election analysis of last Tuesday's sweeping Republican victory over the Democrats. Here are four that I think are particularly flawed:

1. Voters voted for Republicans because they want something to get done in Washington. I don't think the results warrant this conclusion. If the voters wanted Washington to get things done they would've voted to give the president a Congress run by his own party. You don't vote to "get things done" by splitting the balance of power between the executive and the legislative branches. The fact that voters voted the Democrats out in the Senate and decreased their numbers in the House suggests to me that so far from wanting Washington to work together they were voting to stop the president from acting like a monarch.

2. The GOP won big because the elections were mostly in "Red" states. In fact, this is not so. Illinois is a deep "blue" state and yet it elected a Republican governor. The same is true of Maryland and Massachusetts. Florida, though not as deeply Democratic as Illinois, Maryland, or Massachusetts, nevertheless went for Barack Obama in 2012 but it also elected a Republican governor on November 4th. Iowa has been reliably Democratic for a while but it still elected a Republican senator and Democratic states like Virginia and New Hampshire came within a whisker of electing Republican senators.

3. Democrats lost because of low voter turnout. This is partially true. The turnout was low and the Democrats suffered because much of their base didn't show up (the same problem that cost Mitt Romney the election in 2012). But think about what this means. It means that the strength of the Democratic party lies largely in rousing the most indifferent, apathetic, uninformed segments of our society to bestir themselves to get to the polls. In other words, if the people who don't have any idea what they're voting for turn out, they'll vote Democratic, largely because they know Democrats give them stuff, and the party elected by these, the least responsible elements in our society, will run the country. That can't be a good thing.

4. The election was about the economy. I'm not sure about this. A lot of voters said that the economy was their number one concern, but I think the economy is just a convenient synecdoche for the entire sweep of Mr. Obama's tenure as president. I suspect that Tuesday's vote was a referendum on Mr. Obama whom many see as heading an administration riddled with abuses and corruption, listless and without a compass in foreign policy, and divisive and destructive on social policy. I also think that Mr. Obama is viewed by the majority of voters who cared enough to show up on Tuesday as a man who much prefers the perquisites of office than actually doing the job of president and who was singularly unqualified for the position in the first place. The economy is a concern, to be sure, but the biggest concern people had on Tuesday, I suspect, was the quality of leadership being provided by the man at the top.