Election Day 2011 is in the books. You may think it lacked fireworks, considering how big the prize will be in 2012, but here are some choice political headlines from yesterday’s votes across the U.S.:
- Ohio voters repealed a controversial labor law limiting union rights.
- Early results show a political newcomer ousted an entrenched and polarizing Republican in the Arizona state Senate, and Democrats in the swing state of Virginia saw their majority in the Commonwealth’s upper house erode.
- Voters in Mississippi rejected a controversial ballot measure that would have defined human life as beginning at fertilization.
These are all weighty developments. Political junkies are probably already chewing on the juicy details, and a host of other outlets will be dissecting these and other specific issues at length over the next few days as results are finalized.
But the most important thing about Tuesday’s vote is, of course, what it means for the White House race in 2012.
And unfortunately, it means things are about to get very, very ugly.
Look Out Incumbents!
The Ohio vote is interesting not just because it’s the latest in a long line of collective bargaining measures, but because it’s the result of a popular vote to repeal legislation enacted by incumbents.
The whopping 62% to 38% margin reported late Tuesday night shows just how out of touch legislators are with their constituents. Of course, you can cite low turnout or tout the legislature’s obligation to do what’s right even if it’s unpopular, but you can’t deny the loud voice of protest heard in this vote.
The anti-incumbent backlash and quick change of sentiment seems to be a theme nationwide. Take the first-ever recall vote in the conservative border state of Arizona to replace a controversial anti-immigration legislator after 10 years as an incumbent. Even more interesting is that a GOP governor initiated the recall against the sitting lawmaker.
Also of note is a very competitive race in the swing-state of Virginia to oust incumbent Democrats. Considering President Obama was the first Democratic presidential candidate in 44 years to win Virginia, this is certainly noteworthy.
And it goes without saying that since Obama is also an incumbent, he has a tough hill to climb a year from now.
It Will Only Get More Polarizing
The fierce debate over labor laws in Ohio — and in Wisconsin and elsewhere previously — pales compared to the divisiveness in Mississippi, where the hottest of hot-button issues was rolled out at the ballot box.
It’s hard to have a “moderate” conversation even among friends about abortion. Just imagine what the scene was for voters in Mississippi as pro-life and pro-choice forces turned the state into a battleground over their agendas.
For those of you who are sick of the polarizing political atmosphere, expect issues like this to pop up again in a year. And worse, with the Supreme Court having eased restrictions on corporate election spending and the prospect of a big voter turnout, you’ll be suffering the tug-of-war of hyperbolic campaign ads very, very soon.
Jobs Remain Elusive
Perhaps most disconcerting is that all of the candidates appearing on the ballot yesterday touted how important it is to jump-start the economy and put Americans back to work. But the sad reality is that legislation at the local, state and federal level remains either a misguided or ineffective way to stimulate growth.
Consider that, according to a Challenger, Gray & Christmas report, government layoffs were the primary source of job losses in the economy for the first six months of this year! How are our lawmakers part of the solution with a statistic like that?
Admittedly, it’s a tall order to dig out of this deep hole — and some free-market purists would argue that it’s not even the government’s job to consider digging us out.
However, politicians across the nation ran on the notion of job creation. Voter polls continue to show that the economy is the top concern. Everyone is talking a great deal about government’s role in spurring economic growth.
But talk is cheap. Thus far, lawmakers on every level continue to fail their constituents and fail on their promises of meaningful changes that can draw down unemployment. Those failures led to the ousting of many incumbents, but voters may be disappointed if they expect the new names will mean better results.