Why Democrats Should Worry About Last Night’s Election Results

Maybe I’m just in a bad mood, but if you are a liberal, there aren’t too many reasons to be happy over the election results last night—unless you live in New York City, which overwhelmingly elected its first liberal in 20 years, a guy who isn’t ashamed of his liberalism. Or unless you were a liberal making minimum wage in New Jersey and will soon get a buck-an-hour raise.

Sure, Ken Cuccinelli, a wacky, war-on-women-and-gays right-winger, lost the race for Virginia governor. But he didn’t exactly lose to FDR. He lost to a very flawed Democrat, Terry McAuliffe. And he didn’t exactly lose in a landslide. He lost 47.8% to 45.3%.

By such a margin “our” guy beat a man who, as Mother Jones reported, once requested that a state-issued lapel pin, which featured the half bare-breasted image of the Roman goddess Virtus, be modified so that her left breast was shielded from Christian eyeballs.

By such a margin “our” guy beat a man who thinks that human embryos have rights that trump the rights of the women in which they might reside.

By such a margin “our” guy beat a guy who thought launching a website to help keep Virginians safe from sodomy was a great idea.

By such a margin “our” guy beat a tax-cutter, a gun rights extremist, a man who wanted to take away the citizenship rights of children who are born in the United States to parents without proper documentation.

Yep, that was quite a victory for our guy. And as I write this, it appears that the Attorney General of Virginia will be, uh, a Republican. Well, at least it was very, very close.[UPDATE: Turns out Democrat Mark Herring is now slightly ahead, 49.91% to 49.88%. The point, however, remains.]

The exit polls from Virginia weren’t all that encouraging either, at least to me. McAuliffe won the votes of women by only eight points. Only eight points. There is a war going on against reproductive rights in this country. There is a desire to have the government probe the vaginas of women seeking to exercise those rights and Cuccinelli’s Virginia is leading the way. And you’re telling me that women only gave the Democrat opposing Cuccinelli an eight point margin? Something’s wrong with that picture. Or this picture that I lifted from MSNBC:

virginia exit polls

Oh, I suppose we should be real happy that a freaky preacher in Virginia, E. W. Jackson, lost the race for lieutenant governor. Remember? Jackson was the one who said, “It was God’s plan to beget the Tea Party,” and:

How in the world can we expect our military to be blessed by the hand of almighty God if we allow our military to become the equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah? God is not pleased.

Tim Murphy, of Mother Jones, said Jackson,

believes that yoga is an instrument of Satan, that gays are “ikky,” and that society is under attack from witches and hip-hop, which he called an “egg of destruction.”

Yep, we ought to be happy that guy lost. Yet that guy, that zealot, may have lost but he got almost a million votes out of 2.1 million cast, amounting to almost 45% of the vote. I dunno, but the fact that 45% of voters in a so-called bellwether state would vote for such a man is a little, well, depressing.

Then there is Chris Christie. He trounced the Democrat in the New Jersey governor’s race. And that Democrat, State Senator Barbara Buono, wasn’t happy about what she characterized christe and unionsas the “betrayal from our own political party.” She was speaking about the bigwigs in the Democratic Party essentially abandoning her by not sending much money her way and, well, I’ll let her tell it:

The Democrat political bosses—some elected, some not—made a deal with this governor, despite him representing everything they’re supposed to be against. They didn’t to it to help the state. They did it out of a desire to help themselves politically and financially.

Yikes.

You know, it’s too bad that a lot of Democrats in New Jersey got in bed with Chris Christie—32% of them crossed over and backed him—and, as Rachel Maddow said, launched his presidential campaign, christie and democratsbut it’s worse that a lot of moneyed Democrats refused to get in bed with a real liberal Democrat, one who stood up to the political bully that Christie essentially is.

And perhaps worse of all, President Obama, who received 58% of the vote in New Jersey in 2012, never campaigned for her. He never bothered to to go there and champion her underdog cause. But then when it comes to politics, he tends to shy away from underdogs. Let’s hope that more folks don’t begin to shy away from his underdog, ObamaCare.

In any case, in a strange way it was Barack Obama who helped give Chris Christie a tremendous state and national boost after Hurricane Sandy, a boost that brought many New Jersey Democrats into the Christie fold and made many independents happy to vote for him. It turns out that in New Jersey putting your arm around a Democratic President is good politics, even if that arm is attached to a very conservative Republican.

christie votersAnd Christie is a very conservative Republican. Very conservative. And when he gets the Republican nomination for president in 2016, as I have predicted he will, perhaps then Democrats will regret slipping under the covers with him this year. Perhaps they will regret not at least taking money-backed shots at him in the governor’s race this year.

Politico, that bastion of Beltway journalism, is now calling Christie “a center-right leader who has fought and won on Democratic turf.” Center-right? Yikes again. For his part, in his acceptance speech on Tuesday night Christie revealed that he is clearly going to run for president. And who can blame him? In some ways he is the Ronald Reagan of contemporary Republican politics, a man who is very far right, a man who has the reputation of “working” with Democrats as governor, and a man who can hide his reactionary ideology by running against “Washington,” a Washington that now seems to be hopelessly adrift in a sea of dysfunction.

But perhaps the biggest advantage Christie has, and the reason why Democrats may come to regret their unseemly political liaison with him, is that Christie is a media favorite. Reporters love the guy. They puff him up constantly. They love his confrontational style. They love it when he yells at a teacher who dares to challenge him. They love the idea of him running for president, potentially taking on all those extremist teapartiers via a Clintonesque triangulation strategy, taking on all those folks who think Obama is a Kenyan socialist, who think Obama is a monster, a devil, a man who wants to destroy America.

Chris Christie is not a Tea Party extremist. He gets snubbed by CPAC. Rush Limbaugh doesn’t like him. Christie has snuggled up to President Obama in ways that drive the zealots mad. But behind his unconventional persona, behind the man who struggles with his weight and yells at his detractors, there is a man who doesn’t like unions, who doesn’t like reproductive and gay rights, a man who does like deregulation and tax cuts for the rich, who does like cutting government services and social programs. As I said recently about the triangulating governor,

Christie and a Christie-friendly Congress could change the country in ways Ted Cruz only dreams of.

And that is why, I suppose, I am not all that excited about what happened on Tuesday.

[Christie Photo Credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri]

13 Comments

  1. Troy

     /  November 6, 2013

    Bravo! You’ve said it all my brotha! It is so unbelievable what happened last night. It is totally regrettable. Democrats still don’t get it. But I’m afraid in 2014 and 2016 they will: when it’s to late.

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    • The 2014 election is critical. If we get turnout numbers like we got last night, things aren’t going to be good. The Dems have to start now to get the vote out. People have to know how crucial is the next election. Our side has to nationalize it in the same way that Newt Gingrich nationalized the 1994 election. I have my doubts, especially if ObamaCare is still limping along.

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  2. Having followed politics more closely in the past three blogging years than I ever had before, I have come to the depressing conclusion that success in the political arena is more about selling the sizzle than the steak. As you point out, Duane, Christie knows how to sell the sizzle and certainly exceeds no-drama Obama in that regard.

    Sizzle sells better because the average voter doesn’t know any better and either can’t or won’t make the effort to understand the issues. I can’t explain it any other way. An example of this on the local scene was the defeat of the local use tax, designed to prevent vehicle buyers from escaping sales tax by buying across the state line. It was defeated 2 to 1 simply because of the word “tax”.

    Christy-like charisma, or Clinton-like for that matter, seems to be lacking in the Democratic party. I hear lots of cheers for Hillary when she appears at events, but I’ve got a feeling that her appeal is more broad than broad (pun intended). What we need is another John Kennedy.

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    • You put your finger right on my concerns, Jim. Christie knows how to appeal to what used to be called “Reagan Democrats.” That’s one of the reasons I compared him to Reagan. I hear pundits all the time comparing him to George W. Bush, in terms of appealing to a more moderate electorate. Hogwash. This guy is much more ideologically conservative than W. ever was. Christie is Ronald Reagan with a snarl instead of a smile. But he appeals to the kind of Democrats that Reagan appealed to, working-class whites in and around the cities, some of them union members, for God’s sake.

      Even though traditionally I have never been a fan of either Clinton, I think I might disagree with you a little bit about her “Christy-like charisma.” She has a toughness about her that I think appeals to men, but especially appeals to women, who, as you know, make up a larger share of the electorate. I am confident she can stand toe-to-toe with the big guy in any presidential debate. And, unless something major goes wrong between now and then, I am fairly confident she can beat him (if she runs a smart campaign and uses Bill to her advantage). The problem is that I think she is the only nationally-known Democrat that I can think of that could beat him. But, of course, it’s early. No one in 2005 ever thought Barack Hussein Obama had a chance to become president, right?

      Duane

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  3. Well said, as always, Duane — but here’s another spin: McAuliffe was a terribly weak candidate with no office-holding experience, running with the sabotaged ACA providing grist for Cucc’s final run up to election day — and he won. (Note: I grew up in Virginia, though I now live in the imagination-less Midwest.) If Mark Warner or Tim Kaine had been running, Cucc wouldn’t have gotten 20% of the vote. Outside of Northern Virginia there are no progressive newspapers or local electronic media in Virginia — and McAuliffe won. Christie is a jerk, but in the way of conservative jerk’s of old: he is capable of negotiation. What he helped to do, along with McAuliffe’s win in Virginia, is to piss acid on the Tea Party. The death of the TP is important to progress of the Country. New York has a cool mayor, now. Bloomburg wasn’t Satan, but I had issues with him. I’ll take last night’s results over the alternative.

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    • Yes, I will take the results last night over losing any day. And I admit that there are some good reasons to be optimistic, as you point out. I will yield to your superior knowledge of Virginia, but even given the weak Democratic candidate, I just expected a better result. I think the McAuliffe campaign did a poor job of getting the message out that it was going to be a close race. They let the meme go unchallenged (as far as I can tell) that the race wasn’t going to be close, even though their internal polling showed a 2-4 point race. That was a tactical mistake for a couple of reasons. One, in an off-year election you have to do all you can to get your folks out to vote and allowing them to think the good guy is way ahead is not a good way of doing that. Two, since most journalists thought the race wasn’t going to be close, the fact that it was close shaped the narrative last night, as the results were reported. It allowed Cuccinelli to claim a victory of sorts and his Tea Party pals were quick to take encouragement from the result.
      Also, look at the union household vote in New Jersey. I have always said that in my own union, especially around here in Petticoat Joplin, about half the members will run not walk to the polls in order to vote for a candidate who hates unions. But I didn’t expect that to be the case in New Jersey, where Christie has been quite aggressive against union folks. The guy’s testosterone-fueled persona is attractive even to folks who ought to know better.

      I guess I am most worried right now about the turnout in 2014, which obviously will be a crucial mid-term election. The typical low turnout will hurt Democratic candidates, and there were signs in Virginia last night that Democrats will face a lot of challenges in the demographics most favorable to them: young folks, minorities and women (women, who should have been super-motivated to vote last night, made up 51% of the electorate, compared to 53% in 2012; I find that somewhat alarming). Combine that with the fact that insurance companies, just before the election, will be releasing new plans and rates for 2014. If young healthy people don’t sign up for insurance in droves before March, then the rates will likely go way up just in time for folks to vote against the Democrats. That is why, like I saw on Fox this morning, the right is doing its best to discourage them from signing up. I don’t like what I’m seeing, as everything going wrong seems to feed into the right-wing narrative that has been with us for years now.

      As for Christie, after watching his presser today, I am positive he’s going to run and I am even more confident that he will, eventually, become the Republican nominee (it may go down to the end, though). He has already begun to polish his conservative credentials, and given the fact that mainstream reporters love the guy, he will be free to attack the extremists in his party and get plenty of kudos for doing so. That will make a major impression on Republican donors, who will shower him with cash like none of us have ever seen. And just as they did in New Jersey, even though Tea Party types don’t much like the guy, they will vote for him. Especially if Hillary Clinton is on the ballot.

      Having said all that, I hope I am wrong about every single thing I just wrote!

      Duane

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  4. ansonburlingame

     /  November 6, 2013

    Duane,

    Well stated for a strong liberal. If I was on your side I couldn’t have written it better. But of course I am not on your side. So I offer my conservative, riight of center, but Independent (not GOP) thoughts, briefly.

    Clinton was as close to the political center as any President in my lifetime. The current “Great Divide” began in his terms however with impeachment proceedings. Then a contested election with Bush winning, followed immediately with a globe changing event, 9/11. America has not regained its political bearings since then.

    When Obama won he immediately went farther left than any President before him. Physics, an equal and opposite reaction, created the Tea Party. From that point on we not only could not find our bearings, we had no device to look for them, like a compass. And here we are today, with an even greater Great Divide.

    BUT, I honestly believe your side is gaining ground in the battle. Right or wrong, the Tea Party has become more radicalized in the minds of voters than Obama and his supporters. And given the clout of the Tea Party in GOP primaries, I am not sure that the GOP will nominate national candiates not so aligned. I can see more Akin/Santorum like candidates which of course scares me to death.

    The VA governors race is a point. A Tea Party candidate lost, but he was only narrowly defeated by a Democrate that does not please you. MacCaulif sounds too conservative for your tastes. Had VA Dems run a candidate aligned with your politics more closely, well MAYBE the Tea Party might have prevailed, in VA. Who knows.

    IF, in Nov 2014 Dems run moderate candidates, platforms that you will not like, they may prevail in some Red States and Dems regain control of the House. But if Obama-like candidates run against Tea Party candidates (That I generally don’t like), well two more years of a GOP House.

    Then the big race in 2016. My guess is a Clinton/Christy race if “reason” prevails on both sides. But if either side goes for more radical candidates then watch out. The GOP is more likely to do so, it seems to me. If such happens, we reset the politics back to 2008, one party government.

    Given the potential extemes on both sides, and yes I consider your platform extreme for the country, a one party government really scares me, a lot.

    I would hate to see races with candidate that you support on the left and Geoff (to pick only a local example) supports on the right. That is today’s politics. But if a race evolves where I am undecided up to close to the vote, well that might be a good race for the country, with room for compromise after the election.

    Even with things like Benghazi that will haunt Hillary from the right, she seems to me to be for now at least the closests to a “moderate” (call her pragmatic if you like) that Dems will tolerate. Christy on the other hand has a huge burden to gain the GOP nomination, with people like Santorum challenging him every step of the way.

    In the end, unless major events happen, I see trends that could well deliver a full Dem government after the 2016 election with Hillary as President. Given such a conservative outlook, I would think you should be more comfortable with what just happened in VA, NJ and NYC, yesterday. Two out of three is pretty good, for your side.

    Anson

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  5. Anonymous

     /  November 6, 2013

    Here’s the comment I made last night on Facebook: Okay, so Chris Christie won big, and he says he’s a moderate and willing to compromise with the other side — but it’s all talk, it’s all posturing. Is he a moderate? NO. His policies and positions have been as conservative as any Republican governor in the country. He vetoed the minimum wage, and the people had to override his veto. He was against gay marriage until forced to back off. The economy of New Jersey is in the crapper. 75% of the people impacted by Hurricane Sandy say they haven’t gotten the help they need from him; the $850 million appropriated for Sandy aid is mostly unaccounted for. And so on and so forth. But if by some miracle he manages to get the Republican nomination for President, he’s going to have to pick a right-wing running mate because he walked side-by-side with Barack Obama. Not because he’s some kind of a liberal. And that’s what scares me the most: If the Republicans should happen to win in 2016, and Christie drops dead of a heart attack, our President will be Rand Paul or Ted Cruz or Paul Ryan. Think about that before you start thinking that Chris Christie isn’t so bad. He’s WORSE, because he’s a wolf in a sheep’s Big and Tall clothing.

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    • You wrote, “Think about that before you start thinking that Chris Christie isn’t so bad.” I’m not sure to whom you are directing that since I clearly stated how worried I am about what happened last night. I do think a President Christie would be bad, not even considering the point you raise about a potential Tea Party VP pick.

      One of the reasons he would be bad is because if he were elected, he would likely have coattails, possibly enjoying Republican control of both the House and Senate by that time. I see a Christie presidency, under those circumstances, as transformative. He is a very conservative guy, as I stated in the piece, and with a Republican Congress, he could do all kinds of damage to the country, in terms of health care reform, the social safety net, and deregulation. His political persona, at least as it is shaping up now, will hide his ultra-conservatism from many voters and they will not know what hit them until it is too late.

      Fortunately, I think Hillary Clinton can beat him, should he get the nomination (she most certainly is running and will win the nomination of her party). At this time I think she is the only figure in the Democratic Party with enough clout to overcome his outsize personality and what will be fawning press coverage. But if something major goes wrong and we were to end up with a President Christie, we wouldn’t have to wait until he dropped dead of a heart attack for the worse to happen. He is as functionally reactionary as most teapartiers.

      Duane

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      • Okay, okay! Christie is the devil. I get it. He has three years to screw up royally — and in my gut I believe he will. He’s volatile and cocky. Remember the scene in Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life” where a disgustingly obese Terry Jones eats so much he explodes? I know this comment lacks the keen in-depth reserach we like in this blog, but guys, lighten up: Ken Cuccinelli is NOT Governor-elect of Virginia.

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        • Hilarious! It’ll take some time to get that image out of my mind whenever I see him on TV, thanks to you.

          You hit upon the one thing that might make my prediction false: “He’s volatile and cocky.” That kind of personality probably plays much better in New Jersey than it will in other parts of the country, and should he not learn to tone it down a bit, it may eventually trip him up.But if he hires the right pros, people with a lot of national experience, like, say, great speech writers (something he desperately needs), he may be able to overcome his tendency to shoot off his mouth, like he did at that teacher the other day.

          Christie is not the devil; he would be the best Republican in the field, as far as his ability to govern. And that’s my point about his danger: he could get stuff done, a lot of stuff I wouldn’t like. I continue to hope I am way off on this one. I want a sure win in 2016.

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  6. RDG,

    Exit polling showed Hillary Clinton beating Christie by four percentage points should they run against each other in 2016. Not a comfortable margin, but a telling sign that Christie’s appeal to New Jersey Democrats has its limits. I am not convinced Beltway pundit fluffing is enough to buffer Christie’s legislative assault against social safety nets Democrats consider sacrosanct. While not saddled with the Tea Party’s reactionary cultural and theological baggage, Christie is every inch a Club for Growth Republican. That is why D.C. media elites will do everything they can to portray him as a fresher version of McCain circa 2000.

    The Republican base could mellow their “Iron Age” histrionics, but that would imply they are capable of self-restraint. It is hard to imagine that Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and other “Real American” pseudo-conservative grifters will tether their cash cows long enough for Christie to craft a more moderate party platform. Hell, Pat Robertson is facing excommunication from glossolalia experts for displaying doubt about our planet’s true Biblical age. Christie needs to memorize the Anima Christie prayer in order to survive his party’s vetting process and avoid St. Stephen’s rocky fate.

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  7. ansonburlingame

     /  November 7, 2013

    It was not my intent to start a left wing rant against Christy with my observations above. Rather it was intended to start a dialog that extemes on both sides should not be able to compete at the Presidential, or other national offices, level(s). But that is a vague wish on my part as well.

    I would hope that Hillary would prevail in Dem circles where only Dem candidates were discussed. She does have baggage, like it or not, and she should be challenged as such, within the Dem party. I would love nothing more than a Clinton, Biden, Kerry and a few left wing Senators competing strongly for the Dem nomination, but that probably will not happen.

    But if Christy runs, which he will do unless….., then Santorum, maybe Gingrich, some black ace in the hole for the right, a libertarian or two, will all be in the fray again, killing themselves for the national election against a Democrat.

    But I also know this. If the Dems found a candidate that would receive the full and unwavering support from Duane, from the git go, before a Primary, well I shutter to think about the platform that candidate would take into the national election!!

    Dems AND the GOP need some pure pragmatism in both platforms come 2014 and 2016. The one that does it best may well be the winner, overall.

    Anson

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