Elections

Red to Purple to Blue

America's electoral map has changed to the Democrats' advantage—and it's going to change a whole lot more. 

A t this moment in American politics, we can count on a few things in presidential elections: The Northeast will vote for the Democrat. The Southeast will vote for the Republican. Both parties will fight for the Midwest and the Southwest. Democrats will be able to count on the West Coast. This geographic breakdown has been in place for more than a decade, but it’s a relatively new configuration in presidential politics. As recently as 1976, the electoral map was different. In that year, the Republican candidate, Gerald Ford, won California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, New Jersey, Michigan, and Rhode Island, while the Democratic candidate, Jimmy Carter, won the industrial Midwest and every state of the former Confederacy aside from Virginia. The Democratic strongholds in 1976 were part of a venerable coalition with strong historical roots. The Democrats had been the party of the South since before the Civil War, and with the addition of support from African Americans and the Northeast...

What Democracy Lost in 2012

Illustrations by John Ritter
*/ John Ritter L ast November 7, a syndicated cartoon made the rounds in progressive circles. Drawn by Signe Wilkinson, it showed a battered, bruised, patched-up Uncle Sam defiantly flexing his biceps and flashing the dazed grin of a fighter who’d survived a vicious knockdown and prevailed in 15 rounds. The caption, “Democracy Wins,” became a popular meme amid the liberal euphoria that broke out on election night. President Barack Obama had been re-elected, Karl Rove had been embarrassed on national television, and the Sheldon Adelsons and National Rifle Associations of the world had thrown hundreds of millions of dollars down the toilet. Voter suppression had not kept blacks and Latinos from the polls. Citizens United had not done its worst. Democracy had been tried and tested, and emerged banged up but miraculously intact. Liberals had earned their moment of giddiness. But the assumption that “democracy won” because Obama won and Democrats carried the U.S. Senate is flat wrong...

Will the GOP Vote-Rigging Effort Invite a Backlash?

This must not stand.
Over the last 12 years (since the Florida debacle of 2000), I've argued repeatedly that politics in America is characterized by an Audacity Gap. It may not hold in every situation and every controversy, but most of the time, Republicans are willing take actions both small (shouting at the president that he's a liar during the State of the Union) and large (filibustering everything or holding the economy hostage over the debt ceiling) that Democrats are far too timid to even consider. Often it occurs when Republicans decide to violate a norm of how business had been done previously, safe in the knowledge that since what's at issue is a norm and not a rule, there's really nothing to stop them. As I put it some time ago, Republicans are the party of "Yes we can," while Democrats are the party of "Maybe we shouldn't." It doesn't always work to Republicans' advantage, but much of the time it does. When it works, it's often because the public doesn't know, doesn't understand, or doesn't...

Elected by 32 Donors, for 32 Donors

Flickr/ Tax Credits
When was the last time you contributed $1,000 to a political candidate or cause? If you’re like most people, the answer is “Never—if I have that kind of money it’s in the college savings account.” Well, candidates for the U.S. Senate this election got nearly 64 percent of the money they raised from individuals in contributions of at least $1,000—from just four one-hundredths of one percent of the population. Billion-Dollar Democracy , the latest Demos and U.S. PIRG Education Fund analysis of the role of money in the 2012 elections, reveals what most Americans already know: political power in America is concentrated in the hands of an elite fraction of the populace—threatening the very concept of government of, by, and for the people. Running for federal office means spending your days and nights courting a very narrow set of very rich donors who have the power to fuel your campaign or turn off the lights. Add the post- Citizens United Super PACs to the equation and big money dominance...

Where Are They Now?

Catching up with Americans Elect

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File
In last year’s March issue of the Prospect , I profiled Americans Elect—an extravagantly funded but terminally confused organization that sought to create a centrist third party in American politics by funding signature-gathering operations in every state to qualify a presidential candidate for the ballot and creating an online primary in which people who affiliated the party could choose its nominee. As no major, or even prominent minor, political figures chose to throw their hats into Americans Elect’s ring, however, the effort was aborted—but not before the organization had raised roughly $40 million, chiefly from donors it declined to identify. (Like many super PACs, the group claimed a 501c4 “social welfare organization” status, which enables it to conceal its funders’ identities.) An online list of the organization’s “Leadership,” however, revealed that many of its leaders were, like the group’s founder, Peter Ackerman, hedge fund managers or other varieties of Wall Street rich...

Playing Constitutional Hardball with the Electoral College

Flickr / Politics for Misfits
Republicans are playing Constitutional hardball again. It’s a dangerous game. The GOP may attempt to rig the Electoral College by changing the electoral vote allocation in GOP-controlled states which voted for Barack Obama. The idea would be to shift from the normal winner-take-all plan to something that would split the votes in those states. Ideally, from the Republican point of view, every Republican state would be winner-take-all while all Democratic states would be split more or less evenly, making it almost impossible for a Democrat to win the White House. All of that, as obviously undemocratic as it is , would be perfectly Constitutional; the Constitution leaves every state in charge of how to choose its electors. The idea should be not be seen as a stand-alone. Instead, it’s best thought of as one of a set of schemes Republicans have advanced over the last 20 years. It includes the establishment of the 60-vote Senate; mid-decade redistricting in Texas after Republicans took...

When Majorities Don't Mean Control

(Flickr/ johan weiland)
In the Empire State, winning elections doesn’t always translate into power it seems. Next year, Democrats will likely have a majority of seats in the state’s upper chamber. But they aren’t likely to control it. It’s one of the stranger outcomes of the latest election. Just getting a majority of seats was impressive. Since 1965, the Democrats only controlled the chamber once, in the 2009-2010 session. The party had conceded easy victories, agreeing to a deal in which the GOP drew Senate districts in exchange for a more favorable Democratic map in the state Assembly. But in the end, they had a lot to celebrate. Two Democratic incumbents held their seats against tough challenges, while an open seat in Rochester, previously held by the GOP, switched hands. Perhaps most exciting for the long-suffering party, in the “super Jewish” district, former Councilman Simcha Felder beat the incumbent senator with a commanding 67 percent. In total, Democrats have a 31-30 majority, with two races still...

Obama Wins the Future

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green) President Barack Obama waves at his election night party Wednesday night in Chicago. E lection Day 2008 crackled with possibility—with the electric buzz of history being made, of a country being transformed. A race-haunted nation was poised to elect its first black president. The economic and military catastrophes of the Bush years—and the religious haters, the Wall Street hustlers, and the chicken-hawk neocons who caused them—were about to be rejected. Change was coming: symbolic, palpable, and thrillingly uncertain. The 2012 election never appeared to carry the same historical weight. For progressives, especially, this campaign seemed all along to be more about averting disaster—the atrocities the radical right had in store if Republicans won the White House and controlled both the House and the Senate—than about forging a new liberal path for the country. The moment for that had passed. The consensus, on both left and right, was expressed by The New York...

Follow the Money—Where?

During the past few hours in California, the new model of Republican/Big Money campaign finance has become clear. It’s the Russian Doll model—every time you think you’re about to identify the source of a major contribution, you open it up and lo! There’s another doll that you have to open up and lo! There’s another … To move from the metaphoric to the actual, the contribution in question here was an $11 million check that came in several weeks ago to a Sacramento-based right-wing business organization called the Small Business Action Committee that is running a campaign against Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30, which would raise taxes chiefly on wealthy Californians in order to keep school and public-university budgets from falling through the floor, and the campaign for Proposition 32, which would make it much harder for unions to access their members’ dues for their political activities. The Sacramento organization, required by California law to reveal the source of the...

Tuesday Predictions

270toWin.com
270toWin.com If you read yesterday’s look at the swing states, you’ll have a good sense of how I think this election will end on Tuesday. In short, President Obama will win reelection and keep every state where he currently holds a lead. It looks like Obama will lose around 2.5 points from his national vote share in 2008. This is a bit crude, but if you subtract that from his 2008 totals in every swing state, you end up with this map, and my prediction for November 6: An Obama win in New Hampshire, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Colorado, and Nevada, with Romney wins in North Carolina and Florida. That means the president claims 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 235, and he ekes out a popular-vote victory of 50.4 percent to Romney’s 48.2. How do I figure all that? Averaging the polling averages, Obama holds greater than 2-point leads in Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and New Hampshire. Unless something catastrophic happens between now and Tuesday, it’s safe to say he’ll keep them...

Can Unions Stop Romney?

(Flickr/Steve Rhodes)
Labor started early this year. America’s most politically active union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), first deployed staffers to Ohio and key battleground states in March, says SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, with whom I spoke by phone on Saturday afternoon as she walked precincts in Cleveland. SEIU hasn’t confined its outreach to its roughly 30,000 Ohio members: 151 members from other states have taken off from their jobs to work fulltime in Ohio, 140 paid canvassers were hired for a joint project with another voter mobilization group, Progress Ohio, and roughly 2,300 SEIU members have volunteered to walk and phone this weekend and on Monday and Tuesday All these campaign workers are focusing not just on SEIU members but on the state’s African-American and Latino voters as well. That focus reflects a high level of strategic coordination within what is still, formally, a divided labor movement. While SEIU has emphasized registering and mobilizing black and Latino...

The State of the Swing States

Electoral-Vote.com
Electoral-Vote.com With only three days left, where does the race stand in the nine swing states that will determine the election? The best way to figure this out is to focus on the polling averages calculated for each state. There has been a torrent of polls released in the last two weeks, and—collectively, never individually—they give us an accurate picture. Rather than use one average, we’ll average all of the averages—from Real Clear Politics , Pollster , Talking Points Memo , and FiveThirtyEight —in order to get the fullest picture. Since the swing states are divided into four regions—Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and Southwest, we’ll tackle them in that order. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s unusual—if not rare—for candidates to lose states where they lead by two points or more this close to Election Day. It can happen, but it’s far from likely. The Northeast There’s only one swing state in this heavily Democratic region of the country, and that’s New Hampshire , with...

In Nevada, Will Demographics Trump Ethics?

(AP Photo/Nevada Appeal, Chad Lundquist)
(AP Photo/Nevada Appeal, Chad Lundquist) Representative Shelley Berkley of Nevada during a news conference prior to her speech to the state legislature in Carson City, Nevada I f Democrat Rep. Shelley Berkley still has a shot at ousting Republican Dean Heller from one of Nevada’s two senatorial seats next Tuesday, she should get none of the credit. Mired in scandal, under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, Berkley shouldn’t have a prayer in next week’s election. Yet she does—because Nevada’s burgeoning Latino population is moving the state leftward, because Heller trumpets his anti-immigrant stance, and because Barack Obama and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid both have fearsome get-out-the-voter operations in the state that will get those Latinos to the polls. The Nevada race is one of five senatorial contests this year in which the Democrats have a chance to flip a seat that’s currently Republican. (The other four are in Maine, Massachusetts, Indiana, and...

I Can Haz Recovery?

Jamelle Bouie
Jamelle Bouie For this month’s jobs report , don’t pay attention to the top-line number. Yes, unemployment increased to 7.9 percent, but that’s because the economy is creating more jobs, and more people are looking for work. Not only did the economy create 171,000 new jobs—beating expectations by a significant amount—but labor-force participation is up, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics added 50,000 more jobs to the total for August (bringing it up to 192,000) and 34,000 to the total for September (bringing it up to 148,000). If this were unusually good—250,000 new jobs, for instance—or unusually bad, then it could have a significant effect on the presidential race. As it stands, it’s just solid, and it won’t bend the needle in one direction or the other. President Obama can cite it as evidence that the economy is moving forward and we need to continue on the current path; Mitt Romney will hammer it as an example of the president’s “failed leadership.” In fact, right on time, that’s...

Ohio's Brown Revolution

(Flickr/SEIU)
United States Senator Sherrod Brown is wearing Velcro strap sneakers. They are distinctly geriatric in flavor, black and sturdy-looking, the sort that might be found in the “Mall Walking” section of the shoe wall at FootLocker. Brown is wearing them with a suit. On stage. At a big Teamsters rally a couple of weeks before Election Day. Say what you will about Brown—and plenty has been said about the liberal bête noire of national conservatives during this election cycle—but the man certainly has his own distinct brand of business casual. And in his fierce race to maintain his Senate seat against Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel, it just might be Brown’s brand of who-gives-a-hoot sartorial schlump and off-the-cuff crankiness that is winning Ohio voters over. His opponent is a trim, smooth-faced 35-year-old Iraq War veteran who favors pin-neat suits and a crisp haircut reminiscent of a Marine buzz. Mandel stands in stark physical contrast to the 59-year-old Brown, who sports an...

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