Starting off, I’d say our bellwethers performed pretty well. In both the House and the Senate, one of the four held solidly Democrat (5th District of Oregon and West Virginia) two went Republican (9th District of Indiana, South Dakota At-Large, Illinois and Wisconsin) and one remains undecided but leans Democrat (8th District of Arizona and Colorado). By the bellwether logic, that indicates a close-but-not-quite bloodbath for the Democrats — which is pretty much what happened. They lost the House by a somewhat dramatic margin, falling short in at least 60 seats when the underlying structural factors — the economy and voters’ natural tendency to “regress to the center” after a particular party has held unusually high levels of power — said they should have lost by only around 45. On the other hand, Democrats will hold the Senate. It’s just a question of by how much.
The Freakshow was a positive-yet-mixed bag. Harry Reid managed to squeak (but only squeak) past Sharron Angle in Nevada. Freakshow extraordinaire Christine O’Donnell went down to defeat in Delaware, but managed to get 40 percent of the vote before doing so. And write-in candidate, maybe-moderate and former-Republican Lisa Murkowski won a respectable victory over Tea Party candidate and Palin-favorite Joe Miller. So good results, but still unnervingly close. The bad news is that Rand Paul, who made his mark by suggesting the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional, is now a Senator from Kentucky. Oy.
Texas performed as expected, re-electing Governor Rick “Good Hair” Perry to yet another term. California elected Democrat Jerry Brown for governor and held onto its Democrat in the Senate, which for me was a bit more surprisingly heartening. The state isn’t nearly as liberal as the stereotype suggests, and Senator Barbara Boxer in particular has never been overwhelmingly popular there. And you’d think if the economy was going to encourage a “throw the bums out” mentality anywhere, it would be in California. But apparently not, thank goodness.
The California propositions were also a big positive note. Prop. 23, which would have killed California’s embryonic carbon-control legislation, got shellacked with a 61 percent “no” vote. While I was at The Prospect, I talked to UCLA economist named Michael Kahn, who had just put out a study on voters’ tendency to turn hostile to carbon reduction policies whenever the economy’s bad. Granted, California isn’t exactly the conservative south, nor is it a state with carbon-intensive industry. Still, that Prop. 23 was defeated by such a wide margin in this economic environment would suggest concerns over global warming are achieving a level of traction in the American psyche that transcends immediate economic self-interest. And that’s very good news.
Prop. 25 also passed by a solid 10 percent. This will require simple majority votes — rather than two-thirds majorities — in the state legislature to pass budgets. As someone at the election party I attended joked, this result alone should make your night. There are few subjects on which the average American is more naive, confused and self-contradicting than government budgeting, and on this score Californians’ are actually quite a bit worse than the mean. In that context, this is a remarkably sane and encouraging result.
Prop. 19 to legalize marijuana regrettably fell short, but you can’t win ’em all. And it’s more or less legal as a practical matter in California already.
That leaves what last night’s results foreshadow when it comes to redistricting, and on that subject I’m still compiling. Though I hope to return to it in the future.