Setbacks All Over: Bad Election Day for the Far Right
I tell you, I wonder sometimes if it’s a sickness.
Election night 2011, an off-year election, no less, and I’m up till all hours, flipping back and forth from website to website, channel to channel, checking the results from races all over the country.
But politics is my football. Where some guys obsessively follow the stats of the Giants or the Panthers, searching for news on the health of their favorite quarterback’s throwing arm and trying to pick next Sunday’s winners, I amuse myself by pondering the broader implications for 2012 of city council elections in Cincinnati. OK, I’m exaggerating, but not by much.
So what can we glean from the results of this week’s voting? Well, mostly, it was a bad day for the far right.
One big story was a referendum in Ohio to repeal a law that stripped public employees of many of their collective bargaining rights. The embattled law was championed by conservatives, including Republican Gov. John Kasich. It was repealed by a margin of 62 to 38 percent.
In Mississippi, voters considered a so-called “personhood” law, which would have declared that human life begins at the moment of conception and which would have outlawed abortions in all cases, even of rape or incest. Anti-abortion forces had high hopes that the measure would pass in conservative Mississippi, setting the stage for a march to the Supreme Court and an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade. Republican gubernatorial nominee Phil Bryant told a rape victim who questioned him at a rally that if the law failed, “Satan wins.”
The people of Mississippi didn’t buy it. The measure lost in a landslide vote, 57 to 43 percent. The Prince of Darkness could not be reached for comment.
In Arizona, the man who wrote and championed one of the nation’s most controversial and Draconian immigration laws became the first sitting Senate president in the nation and the first Arizona legislator ever to lose a recall election, according to The Arizona Republic.
The right did have a couple of small victories. In Ohio, they passed a law stating no citizen of the state will be required to buy health insurance, which would essentially nullify the individual insurance mandate in the federal Affordable Care Act.
Unfortunately for the supporters of the bill, the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution (you know, the document the wingnuts claim to love but seem to know next to nothing about) is pretty clear that you can’t just nullify federal law like that, and the measure will almost certainly be overturned.
In Virginia, the election left the state Senate divided 50-50, with ties to be broken by the Republican lieutenant governor. Face it: When the victories you have to crow over are a symbolic measure sure to be thrown out and a tie, you had a bad night.
So what does it all mean? The key word is “overreaching.” The Republicans in these states got in power based on anger about the economy and the jobless rate, but instead of doing something about that, they went right to the radical union-busting and culture wars.
That may have played to the Teahadists who have the Republican Party in thrall, but the majority of the people were having none of it. On the other side, the vote against the individual mandate could be seen as a reaction against what the people see as overreaching by the federal government.
So the candidates who do well in 2012 general election will be the ones seen as moderates. Only Romney and Huntsman seem to have a chance at this on the Republican side. But they infuriate the tea party “base,” just as Obama’s mostly moderate stances infuriate the actual left (as opposed to the Obama-loving left that exists only in the imagination of the demented right).
The key to victory will be for a candidate to convince the center that he or she is the reasonable one, with reasonable policies aimed at benefiting them, while getting enough of the party’s far-right or far-left wings to put aside their distaste for moderation long enough to get out and vote.
So far, the person best positioned to do that is Barack Obama, because Romney’s still trying to pander to the True Believers who hate his guts, and Huntsman’s practically invisible.
But please, Republicans, as an Obama supporter, I urge you: Keep up with the overreach and the radicalism. Double down on the crazy.
In fact, I think I’ll go send a donation to the Cain campaign.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story