Obviously, Nov. 4, 2014 is a day this Progressive would like to forget. I am still trying to sort it all out to figure out why millions of people voted against their own self-interest, why Democrats failed to articulate their core principles, and why so many Americans (especially those who are the butts of conservative greed-driven policy jokes) refuse to examine public policy choices or participate in elections.
Historically, midterms in a president’s second term have not been good to the incumbent president’s party. But, I doubt the voters and nonvoters used that fact as their guide. My sense is that there is a malaise out there, one which affects many, maybe most Americans, and is taken advantage of by a minority of folks who are riding high and are energized to support conservatives to keep it that way.
What malaise? After all, the stock market is way up, GDP is growing, the fiscal deficit is down, and unemployment is down a bit. So, what is wrong? I’ll tell you what! All the gains made in recent years have gone to a tiny minority at the top of the income pyramid. Middle America and those below have actually taken hits in jobs lost, replaced by lower paying ones or not replaced. Overall, working Americans are worse off than they were in 2008 at the onset of the Bush Recession. Meanwhile, the wealthy and near wealthy have experienced huge income increases from investments in bonds and real estate—not in job creation investment which accounts for barely 1 percent of their gains. Furthermore, there is some scary stuff going on—e.g., Ebola, in reality a non-issue in the U.S, but hyped by some polls and right-wing media folks blaming it on the Obama administration along with conflicts in the Ukraine, Syria, the ISIS zone, and, of course, Palestine.
Republicans did a good job taking advantage of the malaise blaming all ills on the party in the White House. And, they ran effective, well-funded campaigns around the country while studiously avoiding discussion of any specific solutions. Obviously, there were localized issues at work in some places as well—as in Maryland where the well-funded Democrat for Governor ran a terrible campaign against a slick Republican.
Looking at Virginia -- incumbent Mark Warner, a Democrat in Name Only in my book, did not live up to the media hype about how popular he was. What happened? He ran a well-funded but empty message campaign, unable to point to any accomplishments; and Democrats, young, progressives and minorities failed to show up for him in droves. He won only because of the presence of anti-government Libertarian Robert Sarvis, the third party candidate who got about 54,000 votes, the vast majority of which came out of the Gillespie column. Warner won by a measly 16,000 or so votes. Without Sarvis in the race, Warner loses! From my vantage point, the bad news in this is two-fold. First, we still have Senator Warner who seems much like a Republican—very conservative on matters of equity, on climate change action and guns. Secondly, a strong performance by the sleazy Enronesque Gillespie sets him up as the frontrunner for Governor.
Don Beyer is the best news. He, Gerry Connolly, and Barbara Comstock won handily by similar large margins of nearly 60-40 in their parties’ custom-drawn districts. Don Beyer, a solid progressive, ran a positive ideas campaign and stands up for action on climate change, greater equity and sensible gun laws. Connolly, a pro-business moderate, avoided debates with Republican Scholte and strolled to victory in his Gerry-mandered district. Barbara Comstock, a conservative clamoring for tea party votes won a battle of the spit-ballers. She is definitely not Frank Wolf. His constituent service and concern for the oppressed overseas will be missed, if not his dreadful party line voting. On to 2016!