2010 Election Results Bring More Questions Than Answers
What did last week’s election mean, really?
Was it a seismic shift, a permanent one, to long-term Republican/tea party dominance? Or was it merely a tidal movement, part of a regular predictable ebb and flow, shifting temporary control from one group to another?
As I sought answers to these questions last week, I got only a few cautious observations and lots more questions.
I will share a few of them with you.
The question I hear most often is: How were North Carolina Democrats able to protect all but one of their congressional representatives and at the same time get clobbered in the state legislative races — all this when the election was supposed to be about national issues and anger at Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama?
The answer? The best I have is, North Carolina is different.
Is there any good news for the Democrats on the national level? Noted presidential historian William Leuchtenburg told me that Democrats should take cheer from their statewide victories in the big states of California and New York. Assuming those states are “in the fold” for 2012, the Democrats have a head start in the presidential election of about 85 electoral votes.
Is there any good news for the Democrats at the state level? In the short run, maybe they can be happy to shift to Republicans the responsibility of making the drastic cuts that have to be made next year. In the long run, population growth in the state’s urban areas might give a glimmer of hope.
Although Sen. Richard Burr won a solid statewide victory in his re-election campaign, Elaine Marshall would have won the election if it had been held only in the major urban areas like Mecklenburg, Guilford and the Research Triangle counties, the parts of the state that are experiencing most of the state’s population growth.
What will be the result of the Republicans’ taking complete charge of the post-2010 census redistricting? Will they be able to gerrymander the congressional and legislative seats to lock in their victory for another 10 years?
The power to redraw these district lines may be the sweetest reward for state Republicans. When they can, they will shift Democratic voters from “toss-up” districts to solid Republican districts, giving assurance of more safe Republican seats. For instance, look for movement of Democratic voters from Reps. Kissell’s, Schuler’s, Miller’s and Etheridge’s (Ellmer’s) districts to adjoining safe Republican districts.
In redistricting state legislative districts, Republicans will be constrained by a court decision that requires respect for county lines when practical. Look for a lawsuit before it is all over.
Will there be a rush of new legislation on social issues? At the polls on Election Day, a woman who was working for Republican legislative candidates told me she was angry because a bill to permit “right to life” auto license plates had been “stuck” in committee under Democratic leadership. That bill will be reintroduced, get a prompt hearing, and will almost certainly pass under the new Republican leadership.
Will that bill just be one of many that will attempt to enact a conservative social agenda by adding restrictions on abortions and family planning efforts?
How will the universities do under a Republican-controlled legislature? Democratic Senate leaders Marc Basnight and Tony Rand were soldiers for the universities, especially UNC-Chapel Hill. Without their powerful support, state universities will be in trouble. Cuts required to balance the budget will be painful and could be devastating, but universities may face even more fundamental challenges.
Some conservative Republicans view the universities as “left-wing bastions” where liberal faculty members indoctrinate their students and punish dissent in the classroom. These attitudes could translate into efforts to control or balance the ideology of the faculty and curriculum.
More questions in a future column.
D.G. Martin hosts UNC-TV’s “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Fridays at 9:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. This week’s (Friday, Nov. 12, and Sunday, Nov. 14) guest is Gary Pearce, author of “Jim Hunt: A Biography.”
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