Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Midterms: Let's Get Weird

I'm still scratching my head over this one, gang. Really and truly, there was weirdness all over the map last night and here in Iowa was no exception either.

The Weird: Nebraska, Utah and Idaho voted to expand Medicaid. Arkansas and Missouri voted to raise their minimum wage. Utah and Missouri voted in Medicinal Marijuana (Michigan legalized for recreational use, North Dakota did not). My favorite of the night was probably Florida, who elected a Republican Governor (and probably a Republican Senator) while passing amendments to require a 2/3 legislative majority to raise taxes AND another one to restore voting rights to millions of felons. All kinds of mixed messages all over the place last night. 

Glass Ceilings: Record numbers of women were elected to the House last night- I don't know if they'll  break 100 seats in the House, but they're pretty damn close at 95 seats so far. Iowa, who hadn't elected any women to anything before Senator Joni Ernst won in 2014, now has a woman for Governor (not that I'm pleased about that) and sent not one, but two women to the House last night. If you're about Representation for women in politics, well half of Iowa's Congressional delegation is now female. That's a good thing in my book. The first Muslim women, the first Native American women and a few women under 30 also won. 

The Beto Thing: Well, he didn't win. But, I think there's an argument to be made that his energy and his coattails were long enough to snag the Democrats some Congressional seats down in Texas. The fact that he made it an actual race is pretty damn impressive. 

Do I think he should run for President? To be honest, I don't. I would love it if he ran for Governor of Texas and won and then used that as a springboard for a Presidential run- but I think a candidate who hasn't managed to win an election in his home state might be a hard sell to voters.

But then I think about who's President and remember that before 2016, he hadn't run for a damn thing either, so who knows? I think up is down, black is white and we can't take conventional political wisdom as gospel anymore.The immediate lesson from Beto is probably the most important for 2020... he was upbeat, positive, talked about his vision for Texas and what he wanted to do for Texas. Tim Walz did a similar thing on his way to winning the Governor's race in Minnesota, with his vision for 'One Minnesota.' I think the appeal of Bernie Sanders was tied to a lot of the same themes-- a solid vision for the country with specific plans on how to improve people's lives delivered in a positive, unifying way? Democrats should be taking notes.

(It's also worth noting that President Trump with his 'Make American Great Again' could also qualify as one of these unifying messages- though I'd consider it to be more of a 'darkest timeline'/Star Trek Mirror Universe one at the moment.)

Oh, Let's Talk About Iowa Then: So, the Democrats flipped the 1st and 3rd Districts and made Steve King sweat it out in the 4th before he (unfortunately) pulled away. The real disappointment was probably the Governor's race, where it looked like Fred Hubbell was in position to eke out a narrow win, but as it turns out his lead kept shrinking throughout the night and Kim Reynolds caught him at the finish line to take it. Hubbell won where he was supposed to win, but Reynolds took the 'burbs and exurbs of Dallas County (right next door to Des Moines) and won comfortably in Pottawattamie and Woodbury Counties. (Council Bluffs and Sioux City respectively.) Hubbell probably needed to win Dallas County and keep the margins a lot closer in the other two to have had a realistic shot. 

It's easy to be bummed by the Hubbell loss, but I think it's important to note that in a state that went for Trump by nine points, we send three Democrats back to Congress and came within a whisker of getting another Governorship. Does this make Iowa more purple than red? I don't know- Democrats didn't flip either chamber of the State House, so the Republicans still have full control of the state government. It's kind of a muddle and I don't quite yet know what it means. In another wrinkle of weirdness, Hubbell posted similar numbers to Axne in the 3rd District (she managed to win there), but JD Scholten won in Woodbury, Webster, Boone, Cerro Gordo and Floyd Counties. Hubbell kept the margins decent in Cerro Gordo and Boone, but they weren't close anywhere else. Does this mean Hubbell was a bad candidate? No. It's a far cry from Jack Hatch's 98 county wipe out in 2014. It's also not like Hubbell was blown out either.

I have no idea what it all means. That's really where I'm at. The State Democratic Party has a pulse? Sort of? It's doing okay? It's got a foundation to build on for 2020? 

(An overlooked bright spot: Democrats won the State Auditor's Race. So that's good.)

What's It All Mean For 2020: I haven't the foggiest. I get the feeling that large portions of the county would prefer to have someone else as President (literally anyone else in some parts) but the economic indicators being what they are, they're not really in a 'throw the bums out' kind of a mood yet either. Activity at the state level like expanding Medicaid and legalization of marijuana and gerrymandering and redistricting reforms here and there advance what a lot of people would consider to be 'progressive' agenda items while keeping Republicans in charge. It's weeeeeeeeird. (I like this headline: In 2018, voters made US politics normal again. That's... kind of true.)

It's really kind of a mixed bag all over the place, depending on what you want to hang your hat on. Democrats regained ground in the Midwest, capturing Governorships in Wisconsin, Michigan and Kansas, but losing them in Iowa and Ohio- yet the latter two states flipped two Democratic seats and re-elected a Democratic Senator respectively. I have no idea what to make of that. Progressive rock stars didn't do so well: Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum and Beto O'Rourke lost their race, but not by much in the case of Mr. Gillum. (Abrams is also refusing to concede in Georgia as of this writing- I don't know if she can force a runoff, but if she can that's still on the table.)

The Democrats have begun to climb out of their hole on the state level. That's good. I'll be happy about that. But the weirdness of this election is just going sit with me for awhile I think. I have no idea what this is going to mean for 2020.

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