Wednesday, November 4, 2015

2015 Election Results So Far: Right on the Rise; Left Holding Steady in Pockets of Progressivism

The morning after election day in the United States the early results seem to be a status quo election. The U.S. status quo is drifting to the right, with pockets of progressive sentiment in those places where the economy is waxing. For instance, here in Seattle, much to my surprise, a vague, nearly $1 billion transportation levy is headed for victory. My sense, based on a steady diet of negative local press and word-of-mouth hostility, was that the proposition would lose by a super-majority. Also encouraging, though not unexpected, a progressive county-wide initiative on early-childhood education is headed for approval. Plus, there is socialist Sawant's solid showing. She leads her corporate challenger 53% to 47%. The way ballots are tallied in King County, which votes entirely by mail, it takes a week to finalize the count. By that time, Sawant's total, if her last election is any guide, should be closer to 60%. Quite a statement.

One disappointment is West Seattle's District 1. Progressive Lisa Herbold is running six points behind the corporate stooge. It is not impossible, as the late ballots are counted, for Herbold to mount a comeback, but it a real long shot. Maybe if the margin were three points she could pull it off. But six is daunting.

Nationwide, the Gray Lady is trumpeting two elections, both conservative victories. In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Republican Tea Party candidate, Matt Bevins, easily bested his Establishment Democrat opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, 52.5% to 43.8%.

Two passages in the frontpage story by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Alan Blinder, "Matt Bevin, Republican, Wins Governor’s Race in Kentucky," both persuasively argue for a rightward electoral drift.

In the first, the reporters mention that there is only one statehouse in the South that is now under Democrat control -- one! -- and that is looking shaky:
For Democrats, more than the governorship was at stake. Kentucky is the last state in the South where Democrats hold a legislative chamber — the Kentucky House — and without the governor’s mansion, their hold on that chamber is in danger. 
“This changes the dynamics,” State Senator Robert Stivers, a Republican and the Senate president, said. “Instead of having one leg of the stool, we now have two legs of the stool — and the third leg is very weak.” Later, Mr. Stivers and Mr. Bevin appeared together onstage after Mr. Bevin’s victory speech, leading supporters in a chant of “Flip the House! Flip the House!”
Second, Democrat Conway ran to no avail on all the issues that Democrats consider their "Aces High":
The son of a prominent lawyer in Louisville, Mr. Conway hews mostly to traditional Democratic positions. He favors increasing the minimum wage (Mr. Bevin is opposed); is a strong backer of unions (Mr. Bevin favored “right-to-work” laws that would limit union organizing); and made early childhood education a centerpiece of his election campaign. (Mr. Bevin emphasized school vouchers.)
Not a good sign. Also not a good sign is the other election that The New York Times national edition highlights this morning, the defeat of Houston's anti-discrimination ordinance. One positive trend over the last few election cycles has been the increasing social tolerance of the American voter. Willing to countenance non-traditional sexual preferences, gender roles and substance consumption, citizens in some spots of the Western world have shown a progressive, open-mindedness that points in the direction of a more egalitarian society. If one were willing to engage in some "pie-in-the-sky" hopefulness, one might say all we need to do is crack the plutocratic, oligarchic stranglehold on the our politics and we'll be ready to solve some of big, unresolved issues.

But the old, negative divide-and-conquer logic is hard to overcome. In Houston, the opponents of the anti-discrimination ordinance were able to conjure up a lurid, pulpy image of men stalking women into public restrooms, ravishing our fertile daughters, and the law helpless to do anything but stand by and watch.

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