A day on, and we are already getting the post-mortem analyses of what went wrong for the Republican Party. This time it’s serious:
The New England wing of the House GOP, after showing brief signs of life, is extinct again.
Democrats cleaned out the region on Tuesday, knocking off New Hampshire GOP Reps Charlie Bass and Frank Giunta and fending off stiff challenges to Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney and Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline. Republicans also lost a toss-up open seat race in Connecticut.
The GOP didn’t fare much better in New England’s Senate races either. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown lost his seat, Independent Angus King captured retiring Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat, and Linda McMahon spent more than $40 million in a losing bid for Connecticut’s open Senate seat. In Vermont, meanwhile, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders demolished his GOP foe in a 71-25 landslide while Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse won 65-35.
The Republicans’ initial base was in the Northeast and the upper Midwest. So one good’un, even this early, is Peter Beinart on The Daily Beast. He is almost certainly wrong to assume (as his headline has it) any New Democratic Dominance in U.S. Politics. Where he is useful is to propose a once-over-lightly historical perspective:
For roughly half a century after the Civil War, Republicans dominated American politics because they dominated the North. But by the 1920s, after almost four decades of Catholic and Jewish immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, the North had changed. And instead of embracing that change, the GOP fought it, spearheading blatantly anti-Catholic measures like Prohibition and shutting down mass immigration in 1921 and 1924. Democrats capitalized, nominating a Catholic, Al Smith, in 1928. Smith lost, but in 1932 Franklin Roosevelt built on the coalition he had forged, and won the presidency by combining the white South—a traditional Democratic stronghold—with the new immigrants of the urban North. Then, to an unprecedented degree, he appointed Jews and Catholics to top administration jobs. In 1935 Time magazine noted the change by featuring two key Roosevelt advisers, the Catholic Thomas Corcoran and the Jewish Benjamin Cohen, on its cover.
But it was only in 1936, when FDR won despite a terrible economy and the venomous opposition of much of the Northern WASP elite from which he hailed, that Republicans began to acknowledge that America had changed—and left them behind. And that’s exactly what Republicans are realizing again Tuesday night. For the last four years, Republicans have argued publicly, as they did between 1932 and 1936, that their defeat was a fluke. They’ve said John McCain was a bad candidate who only lost because Americans were sick of George W. Bush. They’ve said the Tea Party heralded an anti-government shift that would sweep the GOP back into power. They’ve said America was still a center-right country.
By no coincidence, and it’s David Frum repeating it, Romney is being depicted as a “weak candidate”. Equally, loyalists in the Republican Party seem to be denying that anything is “structurally” wrong — cue Charles Krauthammer.
On the contrary, the whole scenery has changed.
- Along with returning Obama, the Great American Public have accepted Obamacare and gifted Obama’s second term with the (surely, inevitable) economic bounce-back.
- Even climate change, the great unspoken of this electoral cycle, is now mainstream (Allen West of Florida is a political corpse).
- Maine and Maryland have voted for same-sex marriage, while Minnesotans voted down a constitutional ban: Washington may yet endorse marriage equality.
- Colorado and Washington have legalised recreational Mary Jane.
- California came within a three-per-cent swing of repealing the death penalty. Back in 1978 they voted 7 to 3 for judicial killings
In so many ways, the United States is adapting to the 21st Century.
The Woman issue
This is the biggie.
- There are now a record number of women in the Senate— though not enough.
If you got caught up in the “war on women” narrative this election cycle, you might have missed the fact that that a conspicuous number of women were running for the Senate today. There were women candidates in fifteen of the thirty-three Senate races. In three states—California, Hawaii, and New York—both the Republican and the Democrat are women. And a couple of those women check other demographic boxes as well. In Wisconsin, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, won a tight race against former governor Tommy Thompson. She will be the first openly gay member of the Senate. In six of the contests where women are running, they’re the incumbents, and likely to be reëlected. Among the remaining nine states, there’s Hawaii—which will definitely send a woman to the Senate—Wisconsin; Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown tonight; Nebraska, where Republican Deb Fischer seemed to be beating former governor Bob Kerrey; Nevada, where Republican Dean Heller was trying to defend his seat from Shelley Berkley; and North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rick Berg were running neck and neck. Linda McMahon, a Republican, was defeated in Connecticut.
The Show Me State
Republican center must be taking note of what happened — especially in Missouri.
Romney took the State by some eight points (when McCain in 2008 squeaked a lead of just 3,900 votes out of 2.9 million) — yet he had no coat-tails. The Democrat Governor was returned — the first successful re-run since 1996. And Claire McCaskill steam-cleaned Todd “legitimate rape” Akin by a 15½ per cent margin. 400,000 Missouri voters split their tickets: Romney but also McCaskill. As the AP summary of the exit poll had it:
Women didn’t carry McCaskill to victory on their own, but they did the heavy lifting. McCaskill outperformed by a wide margin among women, who supported her in slightly higher numbers than in 2006. The Democrat’s comfortable edge among women was propelled by those 18-44 who overwhelmingly lined up behind the first-term incumbent, as did a significant number of middle-aged women who made up the bulk of female voters. Akin offset some of these losses by holding his ground among women 65 and older and white women overall. Black women, however, backed McCaskill in a landslide.
Aside from being more likely to look past Akin’s comment, men backed Akin in stronger numbers than women, especially those who are older. Still, the best Akin could muster was a split with McCaskill for the entire male vote.
- Women are some 52% of the Missouri electorate.
As one wise comment, while the results were coming in, had it: If you’re a Republican with views on rape and abortion, better to keep them to yourself.
The wit and wisdom of Bill O’Reilly
You don’t expect it on Fox News, but O’Reilly nailed it:
Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly said tonight that if President Barack Obama wins re-election, it’s because the demographics of the country have changed and “it’s not a traditional America anymore.”
“The white establishment is now the minority,” O’Reilly said. “And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?”
“The demographics are changing,” he said. “It’s not a traditional America anymore.”
He could have added the other element: younger voters bothering to use their franchise, which is another change from pre-Obama days. He was mistaken to suggest that “America” has somehow changed: what has changed is that long-suppressed sections of the electorate — women and the ethic communities, the young and the radicals — have mobilised themselves.
Blue Dog Democrats also saw their numbers shrink from 24 to 15, including six members who retired, sought higher office, or were defeated in primaries earlier this year. Reps. Ben Chandler, Larry Kissell, and Leonard Boswell all lost Tuesday.
The white establishment is now the minority — but they always were.
Now they know it.