Politics of the United States

Did Candidates Make a Mistake By Distancing Themselves From President Obama?

As I've written elsewhere, the best definition of a wave election may be that whatever happened in each individual campaign no longer matters all that much, and the results are all pushed strongly in one direction by the national trend. That's never 100 percent true for any race, because there's still variation among both winners and losers, but it becomes awfully hard after an election like this to say about any one candidate, "He would have won if only he had done this." Nevertheless, it's still worth asking whether the strategy adopted by so many Democrats this year of distancing themselves from President Obama was really a good idea. That impulse was particularly strong this year because so many of the races were in the South, where Barack Obama and the Democratic party are both unpopular. Even in other places, however, candidates didn't want to have anything to do with the President. For instance, there's an article in Politico today detailing how mediocre candidates (...

Republicans Tighten Grip in Southern State Legislatures

While Senate races distracted observers, the GOP piled up wins at the state level, all but assuring the prospects for more extreme measures on abortion and voting rights.

(Image: National Conference of State Legislatures)
(Image: National Conference of State Legislatures) Republicans gained more than 60 state legislative seats in the South in the 2014 elections, strengthening their dominance in the region's state-level politics. This article originally appeared at Facing South , the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies. W hile all eyes were on the shellacking of Democratic U.S. Senate candidates—including 10 who lost in the South — Republicans strengthened their hand in another key area on Election Day: control of state legislatures. After the 2014 elections, Democrats have the majority in just one legislative chamber across 13 Southern states — the Kentucky House of Representatives. In West Virginia, the only other remaining Democratic legislative stronghold in the South, Republicans gained 15 seats to take control of the House of Delegates, and gained seven in the state Senate to bring the West Virginia higher chamber to a 17-17 partisan tie. Altogether, Republicans gained 64...

Republicans Say That They'll Govern—Don't Believe It For a Second

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
N ow that Republicans have won complete control of Congress, you're going to hear a lot of arguments from Broderian commentators to the effect that after a midterm rebuke from the voters, what President Obama must do now is compromise, change the way he deals with Congress, and be less partisan. What you probably won't hear is a lot of detail, because as soon as you start to consider what those changes might mean, you realize how absurd it is. In order to compromise, you need two sides who are both willing to give something up in order to reach a mutually acceptable accommodation. So tell me: what exactly will Republicans be willing to give up in order to get some of what they want? When they only controlled one house of Congress, the answer was "Nothing." Why will they be more open-minded when they control both houses? For the last two years, Republicans have been telling their base, "Help us get the Senate back, and then we'll really stick it to Obama." Their means of doing so may...

Watch Party Dispatch: Undaunted By Grim Outcomes, Pro-Choicers Gather to Plot the Future

They had hoped for a better night, but they're already thinking ahead to 2016.

(Kristen Doerer)
Kristen Doerer Young pro-choice Democratic activists gather at Local 16, a Washington, D.C., bar, to watch election results of the midterms on November 4, 2014. W alking into the Local 16 bar on U Street in Northwest DC, I was surprised to hear the buzz of an energized crowd. I was, after all, walking into a Women’s Informational Network, also known as WIN, Election Day watch party. The stormy forecast for Democratic candidates and the recent attacks on abortion rights doesn’t necessarily lend hope to WIN, a political and social network of young, pro-choice, Democratic women. Local 16, a popular weekend destination for young professionals, is a dimly lit bar. Red walls and warm orange lights resembling rustic chandeliers lent a cozy quality to the room. An overwhelmed bartender moved quickly behind the counter, taking happy hour orders. CNN played on two different screens, the sounds of which were drowned out by the hum of a crowded bar. With happy hour extended to 10:00 p.m., the WIN...

Top 5 Senate Races Where Dark Money and Outside Spending Ran Wild

Half a billion dollars was spent on U.S. Senate races this year, making this cycle the most expensive midterm campaign ever.

Shutterstock.com
This article has been corrected. G et ready for a week of pundits making claims of just what was proven by the results of the 2014 midterm elections. But one thing is already quite clear: Money is indeed a deciding factor. Half a billion dollars was spent on U.S. Senate races this year, making this cycle the most expensive midterm campaign ever. Much of that money was used by non-profit issue groups for what is known as “outside spending”—meaning money used for advertising and other forms of communication ostensibly to support an issue, but most often an issue that is framed in such a way to lend support to the group’s favored candidate. (These are the ads that often say something like: “Call Senator X and tell him to stop [supporting some allegedly terrible thing].") The 2014 cycle also shows how effectively outside spending groups can sway elections: When conservative groups outspend liberal groups (and sometimes even when they don’t), conservative candidates win. North Carolina,...

The Democrats' Catastrophe and the Need For a New Agenda

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, joined by his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrates with his supporters at an election night party in Louisville,Tuesday, November 4, 2014. McConnell won a sixth term in Washington, with his eyes on the larger prize of GOP control of the Senate. The Kentucky Senate race, with McConnell, a 30-year incumbent, fighting off a spirited challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, has been among the most combative and closely watched contests that could determine the balance of power in Congress. D emocrats had ample reason to fear that this year’s midterm elections would not go well for them, but bad doesn’t begin to describe what happened to them—and the nation—yesterday. Catastrophic is more like it. Democrats didn’t just lose the Senate; they lost statehouse after statehouse. They didn’t just lose the red states; they lost the purple and the blue. They lost the governorships of Maryland...

Democrats Cede Advantage to GOP By Failing to Embrace Pocketbook Populism

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) In Kentucky's combative Senate race, Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes makes an appeal at a campaign rally, Saturday, November 1, 2014, at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. The results of the closely watched Kentucky contest will be crucial in the midterm election that could shift the balance of power in Congress. W hy are Democrats on the verge of an avoidable mid-term disaster? Some of the reasons include the six-year jinx, in which the president’s party normally loses congressional seats. Some of it is luck of the draw in terms of who is running, with less than stellar candidates such as Bruce Braley in Iowa and Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky. And some if it reflects an electorate turning against an incumbent president who is hunkered down rather than fighting back. Yet that set of alibis lets the Democrats off the hook far too easily. There is a huge amount of unfocused anger and frustration in America, much of it around...

David Brooks: Wrong On the Effects of Microtargeting, Wrong For America

Flickr/ljlphotography
I stopped reading David Brooks a while ago, when he decided it was his mission not to provide thoughtful commentary on current events but instead to produce one column after another that read like the Cliff Notes for a high school "character education" class. But his column today is worthy of comment, because it gets at something that I've been thinking about for a while, raises an important issue about how campaigns are conducted today, and still manages to be utterly wrong. As we all know, campaigns have become increasingly sophisticated at targeting voters. Back in the stone age when I worked on campaigns, they had little more information to work with than what was on your voter registration card. They knew your age, your gender, your address, and a couple of other data points, and with some creativity they could infer other things about you (for instance, one campaign I worked on sent a mailer about gay issues to any household with two people over 30 of the same gender living...

Can Green Party Candidate Howie Hawkins Make Cuomo Oppose Fracking?

He's certainly made it an issue. But progressives are divided on whether his gubernatorial bid could harm the Working Families Party.

(AP Photo/The Buffalo News, Dererk Gee)
(AP Photo/The Buffalo News, Dererk Gee) New York gubernatorial candidates, from left, Rob Astorino, Govornor Andrew Cuomo and Howie Hawkins participate in a debate sponsored by The Buffalo News and WNED-WBFO at WNED Studios in Buffalo, New York, Wednesday, October 22, 2014. A s voters in New York head to the polls today, there is little doubt who the state’s next governor will be. With a 20-point lead over Republican challenger Rob Astorino, incumbent Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, will slide comfortably into another term. Given the circumstances, it’d be easy to overlook Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins. But the 61-year-old UPS truck unloader and member of the Teamsters union is polling unusually high for a third-party candidate. According to the latest polls, he stands to garner nearly 10 percent of today’s vote; the last time Hawkins ran for governor in 2010, he pulled in about 1 percent. Hawkins’s performance is partly due to the significant number of progressives casting protest...

GOP's Neo-Confederate Theocrat Wins Council Seat in One of Richest U.S. Counties

Voters were looking for something new when they elected Michael Peroutka to run as a Republican for a seat on Maryland's Anne Arundel County Council. What they got was something very old—like ante bellum kind of old.

(AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)
(AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli) Michael A. Peroutka, the one-time presidential candidate of the theocratic Constitution Party, in a debate between third-party presidential hopefuls at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Wednesday, October 6, 2004. UPDATE, November 5, 2014 --The subject of this article, Michael Anthony Peroutka, running as a Republican, won a seat on the Anne Arundel County Council in the November 4 election, beating his opponent, by nearly 1,900 votes, according to the Baltimore Sun . The Baltimore Sun O n November 4, 2011, standing on a small stage with Bible verses splashed on the background behind him, Michael Peroutka told a small audience attending his lecture that “when you see and hear folks describe the earth as millions of years old, you know that they are either willfully anti-American, or they are ignorant of their own heritage and history. What I am saying is that the promotion of evolution is an act of disloyalty to America.” Three years later, on November 4...

Why Republicans Have Gotten Away With Craziness This Year

Just a couple of people with non-crazy ideas. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
We don't know if Joni Ernst is going to be the next Senator from Iowa, but one thing we can say is that Democrats failed to paint her as a radical Tea Partier with dangerous ideas. (Actually, there's another thing we can say: her replacing liberal lion Tom Harkin would have to be the widest ideological swing in a Senate seat from one Congress to the next in a long time.) The question is, why? And more broadly, why have they failed to do that with any of the GOP Senate candidates running this year? It's not like this is a bunch of moderates. One explanation is that the establishment triumphed by weeding out the nutcases : National Republicans managed this year to snuff out every bomb-throwing insurgent who tried to wrest a Senate nod away from one of their favored candidates. They spent millions against baggage-laden activists such as Matt Bevin, the Louisville investor who mounted a ham-fisted challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Mississippi state Sen. Chris...

What We Talk About When We Talk About a Republican Senate

Presuming we have a Republican Congress next year, there's going to be a lot of talk right after the election about what that will change 1) politically and 2) substantively. While I'm ordinarily an advocate of more substantive discussion and less political discussion (not that I have a problem with political discussion, since I do plenty of it myself, it's just that it should be leavened with consideration of the things that actually matter), there's a potential problem in the substantive discussion that I think we should be on the lookout for. For instance, this morning on the radio I heard some energy expert whose name I didn't catch say that if Republicans take over the Senate, we're likely to see the government shift its focus toward fossil fuels and away from renewables. Which sounds perfectly logical until you ask how such a shift is supposed to take place. This is what is often missing from policy discussion: enough acknowledgment of the institutional processes that determine...

Red State, Blue State: Polarization and the American Situation

The country is stuck but it is not stationary. Some things are changing—just not at the federal level.

(Map: Angr/Wikimedia Commons; Flag: AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip) A racing fan waves an American flag as they wait for the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at the Circuit of the Americas, Sunday, November 2, 2014, in Austin, Texas. This article appears under the title "The American Situation" in the Fall 2014 issue of The American Prospect magazine. A merica, it seems, is stuck—unable to make significant progress on critical issues such as climate change, rising economic inequality, and immigration. To explain that inaction, people often point to political polarization. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, are now so sharply opposed to each other that they are unable to find common ground. But while the country is stuck, it is not stationary. Some things are changing; it’s just not at the federal level that the changes are emerging. Polarization leads to stalemate only under certain circumstances—when the two sides in a conflict are closely balanced, and political institutions and procedures (such...

Electing Judges Is Insane

This guy never had to run for reelection. Plus he brings his own gift bag. (Flickr/Nathan Rupert)
With a couple of minor exceptions, like a few local judgeships in Switzerland, the United States is the only country where judges are elected. Indeed, to the rest of the world, the idea of judges running for office—begging for money, airing attack ads against their opponents, thinking always about their next election even after they take the bench—is positively insane. And they're right. We've had elected judgeships for our entire history, but until the last few years, those elections were nothing like races for Congress or governorships. But those days are past—now not only are judges acting like politicians, outside groups (yes, including the Koch brothers) are pouring money into judicial races to produce courts more to their liking. And when you make judicial elections more partisan, you get more partisan judges, like one Judith French, a member of the Ohio Supreme Court who is running to retain her seat : At a Saturday event at which she introduced Republican Gov. John Kasich,...

Are GOP Donors Going to Get Anything In Return For Their Millions?

Oh please. Who are you kidding? (Flickr/Danny Huizinga)
If you're a liberal zillionaire who contributed lots of money this year to prevent a Republican takeover of the Senate, on Tuesday you're probably going to be pretty unhappy. Which is why, Ken Vogel of Politico reports , the people who run the groups through which all those millions are being channeled are rushing to reassure their donors that it was still money well spent. Which got me thinking about the conservative donors who are probably going to be celebrating next week. For some of them, Republican victories are an end in themselves, but others have a more specific agenda in mind. They help Republicans get elected because they expect something in return. To be clear, I'm not talking about quasi-legal bribery. If you're an oil company or a Wall Street firm, you donate to Republicans not so that they'll be forced to do what you want whether they like it or not, but because you know they like it quite well. Republicans want, deep in their hearts, to cut taxes and slash regulations...

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