Well, the Republicans have indeed made a clean sweep of the election as I suggested in an earlier post.
The reasons for the sweep are far more difficult to pin down. The truth is one can choose almost any reason since one small segment of the population can make a huge difference. Just a few examples might include that the African-American community failed to turn out in sufficient numbers. The enthusiasm in the Latino community was subdued. I have heard that the religious right was the deciding factor, or maybe the abortion issue.
You get the idea. In Maryland, the deciding factor in electing a Republican governor may well have been the failure of the Democratic candidate himself to connect with the electorate.
But what issues were the electorate thinking about as they went to the polls? Let’s take a look at the exit polls and see what they tell us. Once again I think you will find that it is a bit complicated.
Not surprisingly, the economy seemed to be the number one issue. Forty-five percent of voters mentioned the economy as their number one concern. A whopping 78 percent feel the economy is going in the wrong direction in the year ahead. This is true even though there is a lot of positive data on the current economy.
But Americans were also thinking about a number of other issues. Up to 72 percent of Americans expressed worry that a major terrorist attack would take place in the U.S. A lot of people are thinking about Ebola. Half of the country approves of the government’s handling of the Ebola crisis while 44 percent disapprove. Again, this is a big issue even though currently there is only one person in the entire country being treated for the disease.
Although the data suggests that a gender gap remains in which more women are voting for Democrats than Republicans, it does seem that the gap has shrunk. In 2006, the gap was 12 points and this year it was only four points.
Democrats made a number of mistakes in their campaign and voters appropriately punished them for their failures. In some places such as Colorado, they focused solely on reproductive rights as the only issue affecting women. They continued to try to paint Republicans as ogres when in fact it was a much more reasonable set of Republican candidates who were running in most contests.
I believe that candidates who ran away from the president in difficult races made a huge mistake. First of all, there are plenty of positive accomplishments to point to, especially the Affordable Care Act and the need to provide Medicaid services to those eligible in each state. Touting the millions of Americans who now have insurance for the first time would have made sense. Attacking Republican governors, who failed to provide Medicaid to those in the greatest need in their states even though money was available, seemed a reasonable strategy.
Even more important, when you desert what your party stands for how do you even justify running for office? Just one example was the embarrassing situation in which the Senate candidate in Kentucky refused to admit that she had even voted for President Barack Obama. How can such a candidate deserve anyone’s support?
It is one thing to disagree with the president on some issues, but the wholesale disavowal of everything the president and the party stood for played right into Republican hands. If the people disagree with you and your positions and vote you out, so be it. That’s why they hold elections. But if the goal is to pretend you believe in something when you really don’t, then what kind of an officeholder will you be?
Now it’s time to move on. What will Republicans do with their victory? How will Democrats and the president respond to their defeat? What does this election mean for 2016? What will the next two years look like? Can we expect there to be any level of cooperation in the new Congress?
It sounds like there are still a number of issues to explore in a future blog.