America got what it deserves. In this “off” election year, no kings were crowned and no vagabonds were unjustly thrown out of office. Yet, the election results, the whys and wherefores, are a sad commentary on the American people. We of the Democratic persuasion mistakenly think that one victory seals all of our future victories. Wrong. President Obama’s landslide one year ago was a different animal than the election of this year. The main factor that got President Obama such a mandate was turnout. Did you hear me? Show up or shut up.
The races for governor in New Jersey and Virginia, and the mayoral race in New York City, are not a referendum on our sitting President. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, wrote this piece a few days before the election:
By briefly analyzing both races for governor plus the mayoral election, it will become apparent why voter apathy, laziness and falsely assuming that someone else will pick up the slack — coupled with weak candidacies racked by equivocation, is a sure formula for handing over the reins of government to the GOP. In none of these three contests is there any evidence at all that they were a referendum on the Obama administration. That excuse does not hold any water.
In New Jersey, the electorate ousted the sitting Governor Corzine in favor of Christie. This action was a result of economics: not only did Corzine, former head of Goldman Sachs, symbolize all that is corrupt in our financial industry, but the voters also held him personally responsible for the tattered state of the New Jersey economy. For example, with an unemployment rate in that state very close to double digits, the people’s anger overtook their sensibility when their property taxes were increased. In actuality, Corzine had no responsibility for that tax increase as other legislative bodies dictate any changes to that rate. But perception is all it takes to show the incumbent out the door.
In my home state of Virginia, we were in trouble right from the get go. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds never stayed on message because he never had a message. He was a weak candidate because he constantly equivocated and the voters do not like uncertainty. Furthermore, Deeds has a speech impediment: he is a stutterer. Like Deeds, I am also a stutterer. Often, in order to get a word out of his mouth, he had to substitute a different word with the same meaning. Thus, people thought this rather choppy speech pattern reflected a confused thought process. Not so, not fair, but still this is exactly what happened.
The Republican candidate Bob McDonnell is a snake in the grass. His positions on such social and cultural issues as equal pay for women, reproductive rights and equal gender rights is as right-wing as you will ever find. However, all through the campaign, he stuck to his platform of increasing jobs, prosperity, less government interference and no tax hikes. He never once deviated from his message. Even though he is full of hot air and will never be able to deliver these goals without a tax increase (especially after the stimulus money is used up), he stuck to his guns and never wavered. This is a typical Republican strategy: promise everything to everyone, say whatever you have to because you know damn well you will deliver on nothing. The only objective is to get in office and keep the Democrats out in the street.
The other reason for the Democrats’ failure in Virginia was that no one showed up at the polls. In order for a Democrat to win anywhere, but especially in Virginia which is a purple state, i.e. it can swing either way, the typically Democratic voting blocs must go and vote. Where were the African-American voters on Election Day? Where were the young voters? Do they only show up when we have a sexy, charismatic candidate running? Democrats need to be ever-vigilant. One national electoral victory does not ensure future victories. It is an ongoing battle and Rule Number One is that you must vote.
In New York City, Mayor Mike Bloomberg won a third term. Of course it didn’t hurt his chances when he spent almost $100 million from his own pocket. In contrast, his opponent, Bill Thompson, spent only a scant $ 8 million. A local election does not generate as much hoopla and thus, turnout, as does a national election. In the Big Apple, only about 25% of the electorate made it to the polls, once again spelling disaster for the Democrats. Being the sage politician that Bloomberg is, he and his advisers knew it was going to be a close race, despite the polls that said he had as much as a 20 point lead. So he decided to put his bucks where his mouth is, and that strategy worked. He won. Once again, Bloomberg proved to be a politician who chose a strategy and ran with it. No hemming and hawing. And those voters that did show up liked his decisiveness. As an aside, do you realize that Bloomberg spent about $200 per vote?
So in this “minor” election year, we nevertheless need to acknowledge our shortcomings as Democrats to ensure that we have better results in “major” years. This time our lack of civic duty sealed our failures at the polls. The lack of kings and vagabonds to awe us, to get us to show up, is no excuse for our lack of responsibility. We must always act dutifully even if there is no political star or scoundrel in the immediate picture seeking his fifteen minutes of fame or shame. The consequences of this election day will not be so terrible, but our actions, or lack thereof, could have dire effects on future, more consequential contests.
Of course, my muse for this post was the one and only Elton John:
So quit your whining and crying. Next election, no matter if it is a local or national one, get yourselves —- and at least two other voters —- to the polls. We were lucky: we were not terribly hurt in this election. But your vote in the next one might make the difference in a much more serious scenario.
The Washington Post has printed my article, “The Wife App’, albeit an abbreviated version. Here is the link:
Tags: 2009 elections, Bill Thompson, Bob McDonnell, Christie, Corzine, Creigh Deeds, Mike Bloomberg, New Jersey gubernatorial race, New York City mayoral race, Virginia gubernatorial race, voter turnout, voting blocs