There comes a time when circumstances demand a people, party or ideology to pull back and reconsider its premises and positions. For liberals, this is not that time. The so-called Republican Wave of 2014 was a perfect storm that is not likely to be repeated anytime soon. In fact, 2016 stands to be a Liberal Wave of even greater magnitude. So quit sulking, and get ready to fight the family fascists over Thanksgiving dinner. The election past was disappointing, but many of its specifics point to good things ahead.
We begin by observing that the change in Senate leadership changes nothing. Before the election, the two parties had to compromise to pass any legislation. Since legislation requires the president’s signature, that has not changed. Looking at the individual Senate seats that went red, surely the losses in North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado are a concern, because they are swing states. But when you step back to consider that North Carolina and Colorado only became swing states in the past decade, you realize that the long-term strongly favors liberals. That’s why the fight occurs primarily in conservative country, as states in traditionally conservative areas trend toward liberalism. Democrats held onto seats in Virginia and New Hampshire, for example, which used to be reliably conservative.
Then you have Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska: all of whom went strongly for conservative candidates, but nonetheless passed ballot initiatives raising the minimum wage, which would surely be opposed by the conservative candidates on the same ballot! This schizophrenia drives home the longstanding point that conservatives fundamentally fail to recognize the candidates who support their self-interest. The electorate’s backing of conservatives is significantly based on ignorance and misapprehension, and as such it can be readily turned.
Other liberal ballot initiatives also succeeded, including the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Oregon and Alaska, as well as the legalization of marijuana possession in DC. Another measure in Florida that would have legalized medical cannabis received 57% of the vote, though it ultimately failed, since Florida requires 60%. In California, where Jerry Brown was reelected by a wide margin, a ballot initiative changed several non-violent crimes from felonies into misdemeanors, including possession of most kinds of illegal drugs. It’s expected to help ease the incarceration rate.
Liberals should look forward to 2016, where a disproportionate number of vulnerable Senate Republicans come up for reelection (Iowa, North Carolina, Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin), during a presidential election cycle when turnout among traditional Democratic voters (minorities and young people) typically surges. Further, as the GOP continues to rely more and more heavily on white male voters, that demographic is shrinking as a share of the electorate. In 2014 the GOP got 35% of the Latino vote – less than the 38% it got in the 2010 midterms.
But the 800 pound gorilla for conservatives is the electoral math for presidential elections. Since 1992, of the 50 states and DC, 19 have voted every time for the Democratic candidate, and 13 for the GOP candidate. The problem for the GOP is that those 19 solidly Democratic states contain 242 electoral votes – while the 13 GOP states contain only 102. Putting aside the fact that Democrats have won the popular vote in 5 of the past 6 presidential elections, a Democratic presidential candidate may need just 28 electoral votes in swing states to win – while the Republican needs practically every swing state. A Democratic victory in Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, may by itself be enough to secure the presidency.
So, fellow liberals, get up off the mat, and get ready for the big stakes game just around the corner. In the long-term, the 2014 midterms will be looked back upon as a statistical blip in a trend that will, inevitably, bring liberalism to every corner of the US.