07 November 2014

Mixed election messages

It's already been noted in the news that some of the states that elected Republicans this year also approved measures to raise the minimum wage. That's probably the best evidence against interpreting this week's elections as an ideological repudiation of the Democratic party. As far as I know it's pretty solid GOP orthodoxy that to raise the minimum wage is a bad thing, since the opinionators and their favorite economists tell us that higher wages at entry level means less entry level jobs. So if people were voting Republican because they'd decided that Republicans are right about stuff, they shouldn't also have voted for higher minimum wages. Votes in favor of medical marijuana in other states aren't so contradictory, since they testify to a libertarian streak that can obviously benefit Republicans under the right circumstances. But they, too, can testify that rather than signaling a turn to the right, the November 2014 elections basically told us that Democrats suck. They ran lousy campaigns for lousy candidates, it seems, and failed to get their base voters out despite the usual scare tactics. Democratic voters also suck, it might be said, for failing to take anything other than presidential elections seriously. The ultimate question for analysts is whether voters feel strongly right now that Democrats suck, or whether the results only reflect their conviction that President Obama sucks. He and his party clearly share blame for something in many voters' eyes, but the moderate Republicans are probably right to say the elections were about "competence" more than ideas or principles. But they and the voters are no more than half-right if they meant to say that Republicans are competent. It was only eight years ago when voters decided fairly decisively that the Great Decider and his party were far from competent. We're always willing to believe, however, that they're not like that anymore, and for that same reason the Democrats will win again soon enough. The weird thing is that we're always ready, after a little while, to forget the blunders and scandals of the major parties, yet we can't imagine any other party doing better. We seem content, on seeing one of the majors fail again, to assume that the other can't be worse, while nothing is worse, it seems, than an entirely new thing. This risk-aversion, supposedly atypical of Americans, only makes us more complacent and cynical as the major parties grow still worse with every election cycle. At some point someone has to decide that the unknown can't be worse. The only question is how bad things have to get for that to happen.

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