Lots of awesome news for liberals to be psyched about this morning. President Obama won handily with a broad multi-ethnic coalition. Democrats kept their Senate majority despite facing down a very tough map. LGBT issues had a huge night with marriage equality ballot initiatives passing in Maine and Maryland so far, and the election of the first openly gay Senator and first gay Republican House candidate. Marijuana legalization passed in Colorado and Washington.
In PA, Democrats killed it in all the statewide races and narrowed the Republicans’ majorities in the state Senate. The Republicans lead by just 27-23 in the Senate, while the House split will stay about the same. Depending on how the outstanding races shake out, they’ll lead by between 13 and 17 seats.
The bad news is that the American people seriously need a remedial course in how politics works. You’d think by now that voters would understand that picking both Barack Obama and a Republican House member doesn’t produce sensible moderate policies but rather scary debt ceiling standoffs and government shutdown threats. You’ve got to be some kind of idiot to vote for Obama and then also send him an opposition Congressman whose explicit objective is to ruin the guy’s Presidency. That’s the singular goal of an opposition party member! But evidently people really do not understand how this works, because a bunch of Obama voters apparently thought it would be good for him to have to work with John Boehner as the Speaker of the House again.
Ticket-splitting is in long-term decline, but it’s still going to be an annoying part of American politics for a while. I don’t have any particular insight into what we can do to complete the polarization in the short term beyond explaining to friends, family and colleagues why it’s counterproductive to split their tickets.
Over the long term, we really need to organize for voting reforms like Party-List Proportional Representation, where only the names of the political parties appear on the Congressional ballot line, not the names of the candidates. Thinking about the personal qualities of the candidates is what’s screwing people up here. The ballot should put the correct question to voters – which party do you want running Congress?
Luckily, none of the big goals for Obama’s second term involve shepherding legislation through Congress, but rather defending policy wins from the first term that are already scheduled to happen – health care implementation, financial reform implementation, rolling back the Bush tax cuts. As long as Obama doesn’t preemptively cave to Republicans on any of this stuff, they have very little leverage to stop any of it.