Political Animal


November 09, 2011 8:00 AM Voters deliver major setbacks to the right

By Steve Benen

Going into Election Day 2011, the conventional wisdom said that voters would offer some clues about prevailing political attitudes and what’s to come in 2012. As the dust settles on last night’s results, if the conventional wisdom is right, Republican optimism about next year is badly misplaced.

From coast to coast, Democrats and progressive goals not only won, but in most instances, won big. Some of the highlights:


Despite the aggressive efforts of the Republican Party, Gov. John Kasich, and anti-labor forces, voters easily overturned restrictions on collective bargaining. With nearly every precinct reporting, Issue 2 got crushed, 61% to 39%, handing unions a major victory with national implications.


In a terrific surprise, voters soundly rejected the proposed “Personhood” amendment that would have banned abortions, birth control, in-vitro fertilization, stem-cell research, and treatment of ectopic pregnancies. Opponents of the right-wing effort appear to have won about 57% of the vote.


Republicans recently ended Election Day voter registration. Yesterday, voters brought it back, 61% to 39%.

Republicans did not end the day completely empty handed. Phil Bryant (R) was elected governor in Mississippi, and it looks like the GOP gained just enough seats to split Virginia’s state Senate, though Republicans came up short of their goal of reclaiming a majority.

But the good news for the right was easily overwhelmed by good news for the left. In Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) cruised to an easy victory and Dems won nearly every statewide race; in Arizona, Democrats successfully recalled radical state Senate President Russell Pearce (R); Dems won a key state Senate special election in Iowa and will maintain control of the chamber; voters ignored Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) efforts in New Jersey and kept Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature; and voters in Michigan recalled a far-right Republican state representative, the first-ever successful recall in state history.

Republicans, who thought they had the winds at their backs after the 2010 midterms, expected success in 2011 to generate some momentum going into 2012. Instead, they received the opposite, with voters nationwide rejecting GOP candidates and conservative causes.

If recent history is any guide, Republicans will respond to the setbacks by changing nothing and forging ahead with the exact same agenda and far-right ideology.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • berttheclock on November 09, 2011 8:02 AM:

    A little sound of "Happy Days are here again" in the background, eh?

  • c u n d gulag on November 09, 2011 8:03 AM:

    Good for Ohio!!!
    And Maine!!!
    And Mississippi – who rejected “personhood”!!!

    However, two of the Democratic candidates I supported and made calls for here in Upstate NY lost to their Republican counterparts.
    Republicans continue to do pretty well here in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
    But then, they usually do. All politics is local, and our politics suck.

    Oh well - onwards to 2012!!!

  • berttheclock on November 09, 2011 8:08 AM:

    Romney's aides have been very busy, this AM, sending out Congratulatory cards and letters to the various state groups.

  • hells littlest angel on November 09, 2011 8:10 AM:

    Not bad. Here's hoping that next year the Republicans will compel us to retire H.L. Mencken's cynical aphorism: "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."

  • steve-oh on November 09, 2011 8:11 AM:

    Slight correction: In Michigan, two Democratic state senators were recalled in 1983. But first successful recall since then.

  • Danp on November 09, 2011 8:18 AM:

    Republicans will respond to the setbacks by changing nothing...

    ...but their talking points.

    And good for Arizona. This was all about the immigration law he introduced.

    Meanwhile, you can bet that Squishy Mitt will remind voters that he did not take a position on the Ohio referendum. By the way, what happened with the mandate referendum there?

  • berttheclock on November 09, 2011 8:21 AM:

    Meanwhile, in Oregon, there will be a very expensive contest between now and January 31st in the 1st Congressional District. Wu had stepped down due to multiple self inflicted shooting of his feet events. Yesterday, the RepuG Rob Cornilles, who is trying to run as an "Independent" and "Moderate" won the Repug primary with 70% of the vote. Suzane Bonamici took about 2/3rds of the Democratic side. This district runs from the western burbs of Portland, westward to the coast. The January 31st election will be a Special with nothing else on the ballot. It could prove to be crucial for the Democrats to prevail. If elected, Cornilles will swerve to the right.

  • Blue Galangal on November 09, 2011 8:24 AM:

    "It's a mandate from the PEEPULL!"

  • Danp on November 09, 2011 8:26 AM:

    By the way, what happened with the mandate referendum there?

    Never mind. I see Ohio voted to reject the mandate. And while some insist that it is largely irrelevant because federal law trumps state law, I would argue that Ohio is now obligated to come up with a health care system that earns an exemption of the ACA law. Good luck with that, Ohio.

  • BrklynLibrul on November 09, 2011 8:28 AM:

    A great night for Team Blue. I'll take it.

  • stevio on November 09, 2011 8:29 AM:

    And here in Erie County we launched a Conservative, anti-Cultural, anti poor, anti union County Executive who, among many delusional practices, took 72 million dollars of Obama Stimulus money earmarked for job creation and put it into a bank to claim he had, by running the county as a CEO, created a surplus budget.

    At his concession speech he said: "the People had spoken, I just don't know what that means"

    Honest. You can't make this stuff up. What an idiot.

    We are dancing in the streets here.

    Man this is starting to look more like the 60's with each election...

  • FlipYrWhig on November 09, 2011 8:31 AM:

    I'm in Virginia -- sorry we fucked up in our statehouse.

  • rrk1 on November 09, 2011 8:31 AM:

    A little bit of dawning breaking. Arizona is particularly sweet, as is Ohio.

    I expect we'll hear from the Rethugs that the turnout was low, that the results aren't predictive, that basically the candidates who lost weren't conservative enough, blah, blah, blah. The only sign of a beam of light creeping into their caverns comes from the Norquist anti-tax signers who are repudiating their pledges as outdated, or "meaningless."

    "Squishy Mitt" may not have opposed the Ohio pro-union referendum, but he came out against unions the day after he was there. He's a rich guy who hates unions, no matter what he says or how often he's on both sides of an issue, all issues, come to think of it.

  • Michael Benton on November 09, 2011 8:34 AM:

    The re-election of Steve Beshear in KY was not a victory for the left? More like a victory for neoliberalism or centrist-accomadationists.

    Of course, sadly, the entire slate was a bad choice (Beshear, Republican Williams and Liberatrian Galbraith)

  • Daniel Kim on November 09, 2011 8:45 AM:

    "Republicans will respond to the setbacks by changing nothing and forging ahead with the exact same agenda and far-right ideology."

    Man, I hope so. The last thing we need if for Republicans to ease up on their rhetoric. From now until next November, I want to see more Right Wing clownishness. More Tea Party congressmen complaining that they don't make enough money. More nonbinding resolutions on Mom and Apple Pie. More GOP support for lower taxes for the wealthy. More attempts to marginalize women. I want to see a year-long spectacle of crazy eyes and spittle from the Republican party.

    . . . oh, and I'd like to hear Herman Cain(e) saying:
    "Ahh, but the strawberries that's... that's where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with... geometric logic...

  • berttheclock on November 09, 2011 8:47 AM:

    Yeah, Michael Benton, I would have, probably, written in Drosselmeyer. It could have been another win-win for WinStar

  • Danp on November 09, 2011 8:49 AM:

    "Squishy Mitt" may not have opposed the Ohio pro-union referendum, but he came out against unions the day after he was there.

    That's the beauty of taking all sides of all issues. You can always claim that you were with the majority (at one time or another).

  • berttheclock on November 09, 2011 8:54 AM:

    Yes, there is that element of paranoia between Cain and the Skipper of the Caine, but, that skipper had been a long time combat veteran of the North Atlantic. Cain comes across more of an African-American gutless blowhard such as Lt Keefer. Where, oh where, is a gentleman with a glass of champagne in his hand to greet Cain at his next press conference and salute him?

  • POed Lib on November 09, 2011 8:56 AM:

    Call your senator TODAY, esp if they are Dem or B Sanders. Tell them that this result means "NO CONCESSIONS TO REPUBLICANS". Also, tell them to MOVE THE GOALPOSTS TO THE LEFT. RAISE THE CAPITAL GAINS TAX TO 30% and NO EXEMPTIONS FOR HEDGE FUND OPERATORS.

    Call your Senator TODAY!!! We need to MAKE 2012 a DEMOCRATIC VICTORY.

  • g on November 09, 2011 9:05 AM:

    Sanity prevails.

  • Steve P on November 09, 2011 9:12 AM:

    "voters in Michigan recalled a far-right Republican state representative,"

    That actually imputes a degree of conviction otherwise not apparent in a not-yet-thirty egoist who eagerly became face man for teacher union-busting legislation, and with one certain and another possible out-of-wedlock child with staffers. It was a bit much, even for republicans.
    He was heavily bankrolled by the state Chamber of Commerce and Michelle Rhee's bunch, all the while complaining about out-of-district and public employee (Teacher) union money supporting the recall.

    "the first-ever successful recall in state history."

    As noted, the current GOP management engineered the ouster of two Dem state senators in a "anti-tax" campaign that just happened to win them control of the state senate.

  • ComradeAnon on November 09, 2011 9:24 AM:

    Now we get to listen to the Fourth Estate try to spin it based on how the corporate board tells them.

  • berttheclock on November 09, 2011 9:25 AM:

    Even though Democratic Gov Gregoire opposed the initiative, the voters of Washington overturned the since Prohibition control of booze by the State of Washington. Yes, as of next July, the shoppers in Washington will be able to purchase LCDs along with Jack Daniels at Costco. The state controlled board in Salem, Oregon has become very nervous.

  • zandru on November 09, 2011 9:48 AM:

    I'm with POed Lib. In fact, the message was so important that, if you don't mind, I'd like to repeat it (in bold font, no less):

    Call your senator TODAY, esp if they are Dem or B Sanders. Tell them that this result means "NO CONCESSIONS TO REPUBLICANS". Also, tell them to MOVE THE GOALPOSTS TO THE LEFT. RAISE THE CAPITAL GAINS TAX TO 30% and NO EXEMPTIONS FOR HEDGE FUND OPERATORS.

    Call your Senator TODAY!!! We need to MAKE 2012 a DEMOCRATIC VICTORY."

  • June on November 09, 2011 10:06 AM:

    Benen's round-up is the best morning read I've had all year - awesome results for our Dems last night. Now where are all the front-page headlines claiming the GOP is "rudderless," and that their policies have suffered "sobering defeats" -- as no doubt would be the case all over the local news if the reverse had happened.

  • Matt on November 09, 2011 10:16 AM:

    Iowa is BIG NEWS because the Democratic majority in the state senate if the only thing preventing a move to amend Iowa's constitution to ban same-sex marriage. NOM and other out of state forces put a lot of money into state Senate district 18 and still came up short. It's a big, big win for marriage equality in Iowa.

  • Wyatt on November 09, 2011 10:24 AM:

    Us Virginians seem to be about the only black eye on an otherwise fantastic election day. With the state senate split, Lt. Gov. Boling (super-R) casts the tie-breaking vote. Springtime for Hitler here, folks.

  • SYSPROG on November 09, 2011 10:32 AM:

    berttheclock...yes, up here in Seattle we are conceding that COSTCO won with all their money. We were hoping after voting it down just last year that we would prevail. Nope.

    On the SPIN MACHINE, I already heard this morning that Michigan is now calling the bailout of the auto industry the BRIDGE LOAN and that Bush was the one for it...not Obama. This from the Romney spokesman. Yes indeedy!

  • berttheclock on November 09, 2011 10:48 AM:

    SYSPROG, any word on the Toll initiative by Eyman? The Oregonian, both PI and Times in Seattle, still call it close. Really sick and tired of seeing his initiative gatherers set up in Esther Short Park in Vancouver, WA during the Farmers Market weekends trying to hide the fact they are working for Tim. Just "concerned citizens all" types.

  • exlibra on November 09, 2011 11:24 AM:

    With the state senate split, Lt. Gov. Boling (super-R) casts the tie-breaking vote. -- Wyatt, @10:24

    There's always some hope that the lazy bum will find it too much effort to show up to break those tie votes :) And it could have been much worse; some predictions were of as much as 5-7 seat loss.

    My own Senator (I'm in newly-redistricted 25th) held, handily. Turnout was surprisingly good, for an off-off election year (not presidential and not gubernatorial), at least in my immediate area (over 35% in my town and similar in the county).

    Since I'm also of the "I'll take what I can get" persuasion and easily amused, I took especial pleasure in seeing Aldous (the Repub challenger) crash and burn. His main "accomplishment" (at least the one he bragged most about), was friendship with and support of our (R) Governor, Lil Bobby McD. Also, at the last minute, he and the R party of VA blanketed the Charlottesville (his home town) market with "negative" advertising -- showing a photo of Deeds in an embrace with Obama (captioned: "too close?"). So... how did Ch-ville respond to this scarifying? Handed 81+% of its vote to Deeds :)

  • Jess on November 09, 2011 11:33 AM:

    c u n d gulag,
    We are apparently neighbors. And you are right about the Mid-Hudson Valley. Remember, FDR didn't even carry Dutchess County, where his Hyde Park home was located.

  • Cactus Jack on November 09, 2011 12:02 PM:

    As an Arizona resident I applaud Pearce's recall. But the guy who replaces him is another conservative Republican who is simply less combative. To call it a Democratic victory is a stretch.

    And we still have America's most incompetent sheriff on the job.

    Hope it makes the state I love look less like Alabama circa 1964.

  • c u n d gulag on November 09, 2011 1:12 PM:

    Yup, I live in Dutchess Co, and know that sad history.

    My greatest shock was 5 years ago when they elected Hall as the Congressman - I was in NC back then.

    Now, we've got Nan Hayworth(less), and I can't wait to help out the campaign of whoever decides to run against that Teabagging POS.