Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Election 2018—Much to Celebrate but Some Flies in the Ointment

Democrats celebrating gains in the House of Representatives.  Women, young people, and minorities propelled those wins.

It was a roller coaster night for Democrats, progressives, and those who hope to stop a slide into fascism.  But on the whole, there is much to celebrate.  I don’t mean to go into great detail, but here are some high and low lights and my take on them.
Despite the determined efforts of some TV pundits to pooh-pah a Blue Wave in the House and the significance gains Democrats did make—I’m looking at you Chuck Todd—it looks like Democrats not only take back the House, but will exceed most expectations after results of some tight races are called especially in California where a lumbering vote counting procedure can take weeks to announce final results.  Dems will probably end up with a net gain of nearly 40 seats which will prevent the defection of a handful of Blue Dog Democratic conservatives from advancing the Trump agenda in the House.
Even more impressive, Democrats topped Republicans by about 9% in all House votes cast in the nation.  Their gains would have been more impressive except for the heavily gerrymandered districts drawn by GOP legislatures.

But Democratic gains in a number of key races for governor and flipping some state legislative houses they now have a shot a drawing more equitable election maps after the 2020 census.  Despite a tough, narrow losses in Florida and Texas Senate races by rising Dem stars Andrew Gillum and Beto O’Roark and a still undecided Georgia race by Stacy Adams that is headed to court and a possible run-off election, Dems picket up 7 executive mansions previously held by Republicans including open seats in Maine, Michigan, Kansas, New Mexico, and Nevada and ousted two incumbent Governors, Wisconsin’s loathsome union buster Scott Walker, and Illinois’ disastrous Bruce Rauner.  Women won four of the open seats including a stunning victory by Laura Kelly in deep Red Kansas.
A lot of Democrats took the narrow loss of charismatic Texas progressive hard.  But the magnitude of his achievements in raising enromous amounts of cash from individual donors shunning PACs and special interests and in personally runing his direct-to-the -people campain appearing in every one of the Lone Star State's 200+ counties cannot be underestimated.  He redefined what  is possible in Texas and is a rising star for the progressive wing of the party.

In fact it was women who propelled Democratic victories across the country by not only showing up at the polls in record numbers but as fresh new candidates.  That included numbers of African Americans, Hispanics, two Muslims, two Native Americans, as well as some veterans.  The heavy shift of women, who out participate men in elections, is bad news for Republican who are widely viewed as the party of misogyny, because many former Republican women have probably left their old party for good.
Worse for the GOP, Millennials showed up to the polls in Droves and Democrats captured most of them.  Younger voters were particularly motivated by social issues including the protection of Gay and Transgender rights, gun regulation in the wake of school shootings and mass murders, equitable and fair immigration and asylum, a hope for relief from crushing student loan debt, and a general revulsion at racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism that has been fostered in the Republican base by Trump.  The wave of the Millennials already outnumbers aging Baby Boomers.

Young voters lining up to vote in Minnesotta.  Not only dide they show up to the polls in eyepoping numbers, they energied campaigns across the country.
In the wake of Trump’s success in Senate races in his base states, he has put his brand and stamp on the Republican Party.  Many so-called moderates in both houses—a half a generation ago most of them would have been considered hard conservatives themselves—have either retired or been ousted in House, replaced by Trump loyalists.  Trump has cut off appeal to Latin and Black voters, the LBGTQ community as well as women and young people.  His is the party of aging white men.  But whites will be a minority in the United States within twenty years and his base vote will slowly die off and fade away replaced by today’s young voters.  The future of the Republican Party is indeed bleak unless they can pull a rabbit out of hat.

A screen shot of NBC calling the Illinois governor race for J.B. Pritzker.
 If the Blue Wave did not impress Chuck Todd nationally, in Illinois it was a virtual tsunami.  Led by J.B. Pritzker his Lt. Governor running mate Juliana Stratton, plenty of cash to spread around, and fired-up armies of volunteers Democrats swept all statewide offices without breaking a sweat, picked up two suburban House Seats—Sean Casten in the 6th District and Lauren Underwood in the 14th--, increased their majorities in the state House and Senate, reached down to the county and local level boosting Democrats in Red suburban and Collar County races.  

Lauren Underwood celebrating her historic win in the drawn-for-Republican Illinois 14th Congressional Distict with supporters.
But Pritzker, who carried some baggage as a Billionaire who evaded property taxes by removing toilets from and empty mansion next door to his Gold Coast home, was actually outperformed by his down-ticket running mates including Kwame Raoul for Attorney General, Michael Frerichs for Treasurer, and Susana Mendoza for Comptroller.  Jesse White, the perennially popular Secretary of State won a sixth term with 69.4% of the vote topped the ticket.
Meanwhile McHenry County showed that it is still a tough nut to crack Republican stronghold with loyal voters showing up in droves on Election Day to counter strong Democratic turnout among early voters.  Yet the nut was at least cracked even if all the meat could not be extracted.
Sean Casten won his portion of the County although Lauren Underwood, despite a tremendous ground-game campaign and many visits here could not win her part.  She made up for that for that in Kane and DuPage Counties to win anyway. 
Jesse White was the only state candidate to carry McHenry, but he has won here before and is popular from regular appearances of his Jesse White Tumblers in local parades and festivals.
Democrats were blanked in State Senate and House races although Nancy Zettler came close in the 33rd House District with 48.73% of the vote.

Kelli Wegener was one of three Democrats who made it onto the McHenry County Board.
The real good news is that due to McHenry County’s quirky three member County Board system with no more than two seats open in off-year elections Democrats were able to pick up three seats bring a grand total to 4 out of 18 seats.  That will be the most Dems in living memory on the board.  Democrats Michael Vuuk in District 1, Suzzane Ness in District 2, and Kelli Wegener in District 3 all finished second three person races to win a Board seat.  Carlos Accosta in District 4 came within 187 votes in his race.

The Cheeto-in-Charge is gloating about his Red state Senate wins and will probably double down on the divisive rhetoric and hardly veiled racism that he believes won the day.  He has not yet grasp the peril that a Democratic House majority represents for him.
The bad news of Election night, of course, was the U.S. Senate where Trump’s relentless red meat rallies helped fire-up his base in an election map that heavily favored Republicans, They will increase their majority in the Senate by at least two despite Jacky Rossen flipping a seat Blue in Nevada.  Republicans turned out Democratic incumbents in Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota.  Democrats staved off challengers in deep Red West Virginia and in Montana.  Races are still too close to call in Florida where incumbent Senator Bill Nelson is within .4% of current Governor Rick Scott and in Arizona where Democrat Kyrsten Simemea currently trails Martha McSally by .9%.  Both races will turn on absentee and provisional ballots and may result in re-counts.
Firm control of the Senate is most dangerous because it will give a free pass to boatloads of Trump hyper-reactionary judicial appointments, including one or two possible Supreme Court openings in the next four years.  Those lifetime appointments will warp the courts for decades and will be extremely dangerous for free speech, minorities, voting rights, reproductive rights, Gay and transgender rights, immigrants and asylum seekers, labor, general civil liberties, environmental regulation while being sympathetic to corporations and Christian pleas for exemption from many laws and regulations on the grounds of supposed freedom of conscience. 
Perhaps even more immediately dangerous, his Red state victories have confirmed to Trump that his instinct to use immigration as scare tactic, attacks on the press, and tacit approval White Nationalism and violence.  Chances are that he will double down on all of that.  He may even turn to his base for protection should the Mueller investigation get close to him, House Democrats unearth irrefutable evidence of criminal behavior in his personal or business affairs or prove collusion with the Russians.  He is not above raising the specter of civil war or even of pulling the trigger on one if cornered.
He will also continue to try to rule by executive fiat with growing confidence that a sympathetic court will not stop him.

The United States will undergo huge racial, ethnic, and age demographic changes in coming decades.  The Party of Old White Men is doomed.
The problem for Democrats is that at least until the demographic and generational changes discussed above fully kick in they are at a complete disadvantage in the Senate, which guarantees two Senators for each State serving six year terms.  Blame the Founders and the compromise between large and small states engineered by James Madison as the price of ratification of the Constitution.  Today the Southern, Border, and Western states carried by Trump in 2012 minus Florida, Texas, Missouri, and Arizona have a combined total 34 Senators despite having a total population less the California which has only two. 
We are hearing talk of a Constitutional Amendment base Senate representation on population.  But there are only three ways to accomplish that.  A new Constitutional Convention could be called, but that would open the entire document to revision perhaps putting the guarantees of the Bill of Rights in jeopardy.  No one outside the far-right fringes seriously supports a new Convention and they aren’t the folks likely to change the Senate.
Since small states will not to vote to reduce their influence in Congress there is no hope to reform Senate representation by Constitutional Amendment.
Both Congress and the States themselves can initiate a proposed amendment.  But Article 5 requires 3/4 of all the states to ratify an amendment for it to take effect.  It beggars the imagination that the many states with small populations would voluntarily vote to reduce their own influence in Congress. 
The Senate as we know it is here to stay whether we like it or not.  Even if Democrats win an overwhelming Presidential victory in 2020 and increase their majorities in the House they would likely still face a hostile Senate and definitely be restrained by a hostile court.
There are no easy paths in the continuing struggle ahead.  But continue to struggle we must.

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