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Thursday
December 13, 2018

Reflections on an election

By Bradley R. Gitz
This article was published November 26, 2018 at 3:00 a.m.

Enough time has now passed to better assess what happened on Nov. 6; hence the following thoughts:

• That it was a good day for Democrats, taking the House with room to spare and picking up seven governorships. Probably not quite a "wave" (however defined), particularly given the loss of two Senate seats, but a good showing nonetheless.

Overall, anti-Trump sentiment appears to have helped Democrats more than a strong economy helped Republicans, particularly in the suburbs usually crucial to GOP prospects.

As electoral analyst Jay Cost notes, "[I]t is not a good sign that Republicans are losing these voters. Historically speaking, suburbanites are the beating heart of the post-war GOP coalition, and given that they are largely educated and prosperous, they should be drawn to the party's platform of low taxes and economic growth. Something is clearly wrong."

• That "Beto" O'Rourke won by narrowly losing to Ted Cruz in Texas' Senate race, to the point where he now might be considered the front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Given the Democrats' identity politics obsessions, the nominee will probably still be either female or black (or both, as in Kamala Harris), but if any white guy has a chance it's probably "Beto," who at least has the virtue of youth (46) compared to 76-year-old Joe Biden, 77-year-old Bernie Sanders, and 76-year-old Michael Bloomberg.

So expect to hear all kinds of silly talk in coming months about a certain candidate who once lost a Senate race and ended up president just two years later and on Mount Rushmore after that.

The only hitch is that O'Rourke isn't so much "honest Abe" as merely a puffed-up creation of fawning media liberals and Democratic red state fantasies. That he couldn't beat an oleaginous boor like Cruz, even with all the media cheerleading and a 2-1 money advantage, should tell Democrats something.

• That Trump's re-election prospects now depend, post-Nov. 6, on an additional variable: Along with the state of the economy (which tends to figure more prominently in presidential years than midterms) and whomever the Democrats offer up as an opponent will be whether House Democrats play into his hands by using their control to make asses of themselves (no pun intended).

The early signs are hardly reassuring on this point, with the unsightly battle over the House speakership suggesting growing ideological divisions between radical-left insurgents (the Ocasio-Cortez crowd, growing in power), cookie-cutter liberal establishment types like Nancy Pelosi, and more moderate House Democrats in pro-Trump red states hoping against hope for party movement toward the sane center.

Within this context, anti-Trump sentiment was enough to unite Democrats when they were out of power, but control over the House will now force them to actually agree upon a concrete program going forward, a step likely to magnify ideological divisions and alienate the vast majority of American who aren't "woke" social justice warriors.

• Democrats are acquiring a well-deserved reputation for being sore losers--our democratic process apparently works when they win, but any close election in which they don't is somehow "stolen." It's always something denying them victory or as big a victory as should have been--Russian collusion, racism and sexism, the electoral college, voter "suppression" ... whatever.

Along these lines, the contrast between the graceful concession of Republican Martha McSally after her close loss in Arizona's Senate race and the disgraceful non-concession of Democrat Stacey Abrams after her close loss in Georgia's governor's race could not be more instructive.

At the heart of Democratic challenges to the legitimacy of any elections they don't win is usually some mythology designed to reinforce both their sense of moral superiority and victimhood; in this case the claim that Abrams lost only because Republicans unfairly removed Georgians (presumably mostly Democrats) from the voting rolls.

This is mythology because it conveniently ignores certain facts: that Georgia's "Use It or Lose It" law was passed in 1997 by a Democratic-controlled state legislature and signed into law with widespread public support by a Democratic governor; that the law provides all kinds of opportunities and notices for voters who have failed to vote in three consecutive years to update their registration information and be kept on the rolls (or be reinstated to them); that similar laws in other states have been ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court; and that voter turnout in Georgia was, contra claims of "vote suppression," significantly higher this time around than in the past (3.9 million, compared to 2.5 million in the 2014 midterms).

All states have fairly routine means for updating voter rolls because people die or move elsewhere. The alternative (apparently favored by Democrats) is to have what we had in Boss Daley's Chicago when I was growing up--voters who voted early and often because they lived in graveyards.

Bottom line: Anybody who really wanted to vote in Georgia could have and did.

In the end, faith in the democratic process, as reflected in ballot integrity and the taking of all possible steps to minimize electoral fraud, is vastly more important than making voter registration always easier.

And when a party relies upon incompetent or apathetic voters, it deserves to lose.

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

Editorial on 11/26/2018
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