Monday’s Mtg: Evaluating State-Level Tea Party Governments

President Obama is not on the ballot on November 4, although the entire Media is treating the election as if he is.  This is entirely fair.  All elections are referenda on the incumbent national party, especially these days when polarization has caused most people to vote in state/local elections in line with their opinions about national politics.  Still, I’d hate to see people interpret these mid-terms – which probably will be one of the lowest turnout elections in history – as only a referendum on President Obama.

Do you know who is literally on a lot of ballots in two weeks?  State-level, ultra-conservative Republican governors and other officials that were elected in the Tea Party-inspired GOP wave election of 2010. Voters are rendering judgment on their rule, too, in some cases for the first time since they were elected.  This is the flip side of what’s happening in the U.S. Senate, where a bunch of red state Democrats elected in the 2008  Obama wave are the vulnerable ones.

You know some of the names of the more controversial state GOP officials if you follow the news.  Governors Scott Walker in WI, Rick Scott in FL, and Sam Brownback in KS.  Other GOP governors haven’t made the news as much but are either locked in a tight race (Paul LePage in ME, Nathan Deal in GA, and Rick Snyder in MI) or are expected to lose (Tom Corbett in PA).  Even a couple of national Senate races are in part referenda on Tea Party state governments, especially in North Carolina.  In NC, incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan has been pounding her challenger, Thom Tillis, because Tillis was the speaker of the state House when its Tea Party government veered state government far to the right in recent years.  She is ahead, but like so many of these, it’s too close to call.

Conservatives fiercely defend these Republican state officials.  They bold cite what they’ve done (bust unions, enact abortion restrictions, etc.).  But they also sat that these states have had a better record of recovery from the Great Recession than other states and so the ultra-conservative governing model works.  A more philosophical justification would be that states are supposed to be laboratories of democracy and the voters wanted these experiments.

Anyway, it’s a big topic.  I’ll open the meeting by listing the major policies these Tea Party-backed governments have tried, like big tax and spending cuts, weakening labor unions, business deregulation, abortion restrictions, refusing to expand Medicaid per Obamacare, etc.  then, we can talk.  On two weeks our topic will be an election post-mortem, which I expect will focus more on the Senate and other national issues being contested on Nov. 4.

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Next Week: Should the Constitution ban extreme speech?

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3 responses

  1. Elections in the 6th years of a President’s term almost always produce a vote for the opposition party.
    It is hard to buck such an historical trend, but given what I would perceive to be far from majority support for the far right, it is also hard to understand why people would not turn out in greater numbers to “thrown the bums out.”
    Incidentally, I am going to have to cast a largely blank ballot myself. I would have welcomed the views of our group, particularly on the many judicial candidates.

    1. Perhaps turnout is low because “throw all the bums out” is not a ballot option. If it were, it might happen. But it’s not — we don’t get to vote to throw out the bums from those “other” states. So we’re left with 454 individual Representative contests . . . and long-term incumbents are so very good at following Rule 2: Stay elected. Turnout might be higher here and there, because first-termers are where the action usually is — they’re not quite so dug in (I’m reminded of ticks, for some reason . . . not a blanket value judgment, just a behavioral observation).

  2. Or–perhaps a variant on above–voters feel that the political system is so dysfunction that it is hopeless to try to attempt anything, and hence stay at home.

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