Post-Election Roundup

It’s been a long and disheartening election season.  Before the race to the presidency begins, let us reflect on some of the more significant aspects of yesterday’s vote and how the candidates got there.

RACISM

Not a term to be tossed around lightly.  Sadly, when it comes down to many Republican candidates this year, this term represents their campaign strategies all too accurately.

ColorLines: The Most Racist Campaign in Decades and What It Demands of Us by Rinku Sen

During the California primary, three Republican gubernatorial candidates pinned all their hopes on vilifying Latino immigrants as criminals. Republican congressional candidates forced the nation into weeks of silly debate about the Park 51 project. They equated Islam with violence and questioned the patriotism of all Muslim Americans, helping to fuel a rash of attacks on mosques nationwide and a threatened Quran burning that spiraled into an international crisis. South Asian Americans Leading Together released a report this week documenting dozens of horrible statements attacking South Asian candidates. South Carolina State Sen. Jake Knotts called Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley “[a] fucking raghead,” adding, “[w]e got a raghead in Washington; we don’t need one in South Carolina.”

Salon: Presenting the Baitys by Alex Pareene

Are you scared of gang-banging Mexican illegals? Islamic sleeper cell jihadists? Chinese people? Then this was the election cycle for you! From the primaries through the week before election day, America’s been blanketed with race-baiting political campaign ads from insufficiently guarded border to shining sea. Today’s the day when those countless hours spent by soulless political consultants poring over stock images of young Latino men looking for the shot that screams “about to kidnap your daughter” pays off. (Election day, historically, is also that day.) We’re proud to present the first annual Salon Baity Awards for Excellence in the Field of Race-baiting.

The Rachel Maddow Show: The Southern Strategy: “Us Against Them”

Conservative Democrats

President Obama and Congressional Democrats may see this election as a sign to move towards the center with policy.  Yet as Ari Melber argues for The Nation, most Blue Dog Democrats—those who voted against health care legislation and tend to be more conservative—didn’t fair so well on Election Day:

The Blue Dog caucus was literally cut in half yesterday, from 54 to 26 members. Now people can argue whether that is good or bad—but no serious political observer can say the strategy worked.

Loudly breaking with Obama on health care was not a winner, either. “Of the 34 Democrats who voted against the health care bill in March—24 of them were Blue Dogs—only 12 won reelection,” notes reporter Jon Ward.

With such a strong current for the GOP, of course, there are few signs of what does work for Democrats right now. Yet ruling out the Blue Dog dance is a fine start.

Republican Women & the Strength of the Tea Party

Tea Party-endorsed candidates had a good showing this year.  They picked up a few Senate seats and quite a bit more in the House. But is this a fleeting moment or a movement here to stay?  The fact that some of the most conservative candidates such as Sharron Angle (NV) and Christine O’Donnell (DE) lost is reassuring. Yet other extremist candidates such as Pat Toomey (PA) and Rand Paul (KY) were victorious.  Defeating an incumbent tends to be much more difficult and can partially explain the Angle loss.  O’Donnell’s loss may have been the result of a moderate to left-leaning electorate, although it is also fair to say that sexism probably played a role in her defeat.

Jon Weiner at the Nation argued today that this election does not show the strength of the Tea Party. He shows that “Barbara Boxer Got More Votes Than Ten Tea Party Candidates Combined”:

The point is that, while the Tea Party was portrayed by the media as a big favorite among voters on Tuesday, in fact the vote total among their Senate candidates was small compared to the Democrats’ biggest vote-getter.

The Tea Party itself was not responsible for a single Republican pickup in the Senate. And they were responsible for the Republicans’ failure to pick up at least two Democratic seats: if they had not run Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Linda McMahon in Connecticut, Republicans probably would have won those two seats.

Sharron Angle and the Tea Party in 2010 was the best thing that ever happened to Harry Reid—and Sarah Palin in 2012 would be the best thing that could happen to Barack Obama.

We’ve also heard much this season about Sarah Palin’s potential to be “kingmaker.”  Is there weight behind this claim?  Meredith Shiner of Politico is skeptical:

Sarah Palin endorsed 60 candidates this year, but when dust settled Wednesday morning, the biggest beneficiary of the “Sarah Palin effect” was not necessarily the candidates themselves, but the Palin brand.

Of the 34 candidates Palin endorsed for the House, only 15 won, a less-than-stellar average for someone vying to be the difference-maker in Republican politics.

What benefits then does Palin gain from these endorsements? Shiner continues:

GOP strategists and observers, however, emphasize that Palin didn’t necessarily choose whom to support based on electability – rather, she backed candidates who aligned with her philosophically. In doing so, she continued to boost the brand that has made her a star among conservatives and raised her name identification with everyone else, regardless of the final scorecard.
A Conservative Wave
Two setbacks in civil rights:

and
I don’t believe that the Democratic Party has a stellar record when it comes to promoting candidates of color, women, Muslims and other religious minorities, or LGBTQ candidates.  Yet the Republicans have been exceptionally worse, and this ‘conservative wave’—as nearly every mainstream outlet has termed it— inarguably contributes to less diversity in Congress.
–Rosamund Hunter

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