Elections

Progressive Midterm Victories You Didn't Hear About -- And Some That Could Still Happen

Across the nation, voters passed measures against fracking and abortion restrictions, and for the minimum wage, paid sick leave, public safety and gun reform. 

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Topher Jones, from left, of Denton, Texas, Edward Hartmann, of Dallas and Angie Holliday of Denton, Texas, hold a campaign sign supporting a ban outside city hall, Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Denton, Texas. A North Texas city became the first in the state to ban hydraulic fracturing when voters passed a ballot measure on November 4, 2014. T uesday’s Republican wave of election victories did not reflect public opinion or the public mood. Instead it was the result of the GOP’s triumph in changing the rules of democracy to favor big business and conservative interest groups, including the triumphs of corporate money and voter suppression. But while Democrat candidates were going down to defeat, liberals and progressive won some impressive but little-publicized victories on important issues—including minimum wage hikes—especially in red and purple states, suggesting that voters are not as conservative as the pundits are pontificating. One of the most significant...

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...

Watch Parties: Grim Pro-Choicers, Mouthy Teenagers, Sad Tarheels, Happy Potheads, Plus Poets, Pols and Mentors

We dispatched our staff, interns and a couple of friends to watch parties for midterm election results hosted by groups across the progressive coalition. Here's what they found.

(AP Photo/The Wilmington Star-News, Jason A. Frizzelle)
(AP Photo/The Wilmington Star-News, Jason A. Frizzelle) Campaign Manager Erin Rogers, second right, and Democratic party NC Senate District 9 candidate Elizabeth Redenbaugh, right, watch election results at Ted's Fun on the River in Wilmington, N.C. on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. In the Durham Bubble, N.C. Progressives Caught Off-Guard By Hagan's Defeat Tar Heel progressives may not have loved their senator, but they worked hard to re-elect her—and thought they would. BARRY YEOMAN Just before 10 p.m. on election night, Debby Dowlin climbed onto the long wooden table at 106 Main, a cocktail bar in Durham, North Carolina. An organizer with Credo SuperPAC —which ran field operations to defeat five Republican candidates for U.S. Senate—Dowlin had been working to prevent Thom Tillis, the state House Speaker, from unseating Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. “We’re really hoping to clinch that,” she told the bar’s patrons. “We may have different feelings about Kay Hagan”—whose lackluster first...

Watch Party Dispatch: High Schoolers From Across the Country Want Change Now

For one thing, they're more concerned with voting rights than the behind-the-scenes details of national politics.

Close Up Foundation
T he Hamilton Live, a Washington, D.C., nightclub, is unrecognizable on election night. One hundred twenty-two high school students from 11 states, not to mention the 30 from Mexico, fill the bottom floor of the Hamilton usually packed for late night R&B and blues. This watch party is the culmination of the second day of an election week program run by the Close Up Foundation, an organization that seeks to teach students to be engaged citizens. The atmosphere is fairly sedate for a room full of teenagers away from their parents on a school night. They don’t react to the projections coming in on the big screen in front of them. To their credit, they’re focused on speakers Matt Robbins, of the conservative organizing non-profit American Majority, and Christian Dorsey, of the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute, presenting a Republican and Democrat point of view, respectively. Robbins keeps asking if the students have questions about how things really run in Washington. Although...

Watch Party Dispatch: At Howard University, Mentors Challenge Young Activists' Ideas of Victory

For the African-American community, given all the obstacles, an uptick in turnout can be a victory in and of itself.

(Ayanna Alexander)
Ayanna Alexander Signs decorate the Howard University meeting room where the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation and the Black Women's Roundtable gathered students for a midterm election results watch party on November 4, 2014 A s the midterm results rolled in, what was projected by the oddsmakers came to pass. Some mixed emotions, but mostly utter disappointment over the GOP takeover, filled all of my social media feeds. I took my solace in the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation's Unity Election Night and its "What Say You" political conversation on the campus of Howard University, the historically black institution where I attend college. Attendees ranged in age from 18 to 50-something, and each person in the room seemed determined to stay positive in her comments, despite any qualms about what the new political landscape could mean for America, and especially for the lives of African Americans. At the beginning of the evening, most of those gathered...

Here's a Chart Showing That Last Night Produced Just About What We Should Have Expected

There's no way for liberals to sugarcoat this election, but as I've been looking over the results, it strikes me that with a few important exceptions, it's only shocking because of what we've been expecting in the last weeks and months, not because of what we should have expected all along. In other words, the polls, reading as they did and not only the eternally fickle electorate but probably lots of people who never managed to cast a ballot, gave us a false sense of how things might go. Let me give you a couple of examples to show what I mean. Few people thought that Mark Pryor in Arkansas was going to win, but they didn't think he was going to lose by 17 points. The same is true of Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky—she was a long shot, but I thought she'd lose by 5 points or so; in the end she lost by 16. Yet if you knew nothing about the particular candidates or particular races, you'd say that of course Democrats in Arkansas and Kentucky were going to lose big. Those are...

Watch Party Dispatch: Marijuana Legalization Activists Celebrate in D.C.

For many, this is the first midterm election they’ve voted in. And Initiative 71, which went on to pass with nearly 70 percent of the vote, is the reason.

(Amanda Teuscher)
(Amanda Teuscher) Reggae musician Mateo Monk performs his song “Blessed Ganja Herb,” at an election-results watch party in Washington, D.C., on November 4, 2014. District voters passed Initiative 71, which legalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The party has just started, but the bar is already packed. “Sixty-one percent!” yells the DJ between songs, to a loud eruption of cheers and applause. Not all DJs will interrupt a party to update everyone on precinct returns. But then, this is Washington, D.C., where post-Election night hangovers are as infamous as New Year’s. And this is the watch party/victory celebration of Initiative 71—the ballot measure that would legalize marijuana possession in the District—and supporters are ready to party. Polls in the days leading up to the election showed the initiative passing by a two-to-one margin, so for those gathering in the vast lower-level bar of Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights, there is little reason to worry...

Watch Party Dispatch: Poets and Pols Gather For Some Pointed Words

In which Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton mingles with constituents and the verse is a bit searing.

Busboys & Poets
Busboys & Poets Flickr A poetry open mic at Busboys & Poets, 14th & V Streets, N.W., in Washington, D.C. R estaurateur Andy Shallal, an Iraqi-American in his 50s, has built a successful set of Busboys & Poets locations known for a diverse crowd, a high-energy vibe, and plenty of poetry and progressive politics. Shallal, who made his own foray into electoral politics this year with an unsuccessful run for the mayor’s office, advertised election-watching opportunities in all the Busboys & Poets sites in Washington, D.C., and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs just outside the city. At the original B&P at 14 th and V Streets, NW—in the historically black U Street neighborhood—the performance room was reserved for an open mic night for area poets, so election watchers gathered around television sets in the bar area. As the returns began rolling in, so did a steady stream of people sporting “I voted” stickers. Most of those I talked to were not feeling optimistic...

Watch Party Dispatch: In the Durham Bubble, N.C. Progressives Caught Off-Guard By Hagan's Defeat

Tar Heel progressives may not have loved their senator, but they worked hard to re-elect her—and thought they would.

(AP Photo/The Wilmington Star-News, Jason A. Frizzelle)
(AP Photo/The Wilmington Star-News, Jason A. Frizzelle) Campaign Manager Erin Rogers, second right, and Democratic party NC Senate District 9 candidate Elizabeth Redenbaugh, right, watch election results at Ted's Fun on the River in Wilmington, N.C. on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. J ust before 10 p.m. on election night, Debby Dowlin climbed onto the long wooden table at 106 Main, a cocktail bar in Durham, North Carolina. An organizer with Credo SuperPAC —which ran field operations to defeat five Republican candidates for U.S. Senate—Dowlin had been working to prevent Thom Tillis, the state House Speaker, from unseating Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. “We’re really hoping to clinch that,” she told the bar’s patrons. “We may have different feelings about Kay Hagan”—whose lackluster first Senate term and middle-of-the-road campaign failed to electrify voters. “But it’s good to know we all have a person we absolutely agree cannot be in the Senate. We cannot let the extreme right take over...

Minimum Wage Measures Pass Easily in Four Red States

In the 2014 midterms, the Democrats' economic agenda fared better than Democrats.

(AP Photo/Carson Walker)
(AP Photo/Carson Walker) South Dakotans decided on November 4, 2014 whether to raise the minimum wage in the state from $7.25 an hour to $8.50. Mark Anderson, president of the South Dakota AFL-CIO, led union members in gathering enough petitions to force a public vote on a minimum wage ballot measure. A s devastating as Tuesday night’s election was for Democrats—Republicans took control of the Senate and won a number of key governor races — it was actually an encouraging night for the progressive economic agenda. In four red states—Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota—minimum wage ballot initiatives all passed easily . In San Francisco, voters overwhelmingly passed a $15 minimum wage— with notably little opposition from the business community . And in Illinois, voters sent a clear message through a non-binding advisory initiative that they want lawmakers to raise the minimum wage, and fast. Increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 has been a major economic...

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,...

Anti-Choice 'Personhood' Measures Fail in North Dakota and Colorado

But in Tennessee, an anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(AP Photo/James MacPherson, File)
(AP Photo/James MacPherson, File) On November 4, 2014, North Dakotans voted down a fetal personhood measure. In this March 25, 2013, file photo Kris Kitko, left, leads chants of protest at an abortion-rights rally at the state Capitol in Bismarck. T he 2014 midterm elections proved to be a routing for Democrats; they lost the Senate, gave up seats in the House, and even deep-blue Maryland elected a Republican governor. But despite the Republican wave, there were ballot measures whose results Democrats could celebrate. Throughout the nation, liberal initiatives fared way better than the candidates who support them—including gun control, minimum wage hikes, marijuana legalization and abortion rights. For the third time Colorado citizens voted on a personhood amendment but, unfortunately for anti-choicers, persistence won’t do the trick. Amendment 67 in Colorado would have amended the state constitution to define “person” and “child” in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado...

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...

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...

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