My 5 Thoughts Heading Into Election Day: VOTE (!) and 4 Others

Thought #1: Vote!

If you live in a white community, you are in luck. Voting is easy and takes almost no time. If you are a person of color living in a less affluent community, voting is a lot harder, but I still would beg you to vote. Seriously though. If you are white, you have no excuse.

Thought #2: I will likely never live through a national election less important than this one.

Every year you can count on pundits declaring this the most important election in our lifetime. It’s done by both sides, particularly in presidential election years. As I have stated in the past, I firmly believe 2000 was the most important election that will occur in my lifetime. In stark contrast, I hereby declare 2014 to be the least important of my lifetime.

The White House is not changing hands. The U.S. House of Representatives, a body of 435 people, is not changing hands and is predicted to only shift anywhere from 6 to 12 seats (hardly a sea change). Remember in 2012 when Democrats received 1.2 million more votes than Republicans for the U.S. House, but Republicans not only won the House, but won their third-largest majority in 90 years. Yah, that’s probably gonna happen again. And the Democratic/Republican split between governors and state legislatures is not expected to change much.

The only change that may come about (OK, probably), is Republicans retaking control of the Senate. While a slight annoyance for Democrats. Is it really going to be that big of a deal? I say no for the following reasons.

  • First, what legislation did the Democrats hope to get to President Obama’s desk in 2015 and 2016 that it won’t be able to because the Democrats lost the Senate? None.
  • Second, some are saying it now will be too hard to have federal judges approved by the Senate. That is true, but seeing what kinds of judges Obama is nominating, I don’t really mind so much a few more federal judge seats sitting empty, and rolling the dice that the next president will nominate some real liberals. That isn’t too pie-in-the-sky. There is reason to be optimistic Democrats will retain the White House. Republicans have a crazy bench of front runners and Democrats have won the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections. Republicans continue to have a demographics problem when people actually show up to vote (as they do in presidential elections). If we look to the Supreme Court, it makes almost no difference because what is the difference if Democrats have 53 votes or 49 votes. They need 60 to overcome a guaranteed Republican filibuster of any decent Supreme Court nominee.
  • And third, Democrats are almost certainly going to retake the Senate in two years. Remember, the seeds for this electoral debacle were laid in 2008 when the current crop of Democrats were elected at a time with huge voter turnout and high distrust for Republicans. That is why in 2014, Democrats have a ton more seats to defend and they are largely in red and purple states (e.g., Alaska, North Carolina, Louisiana, Colorado). Well in 2016, Republicans will face the inverse problem. Because 2010 was such a boon year for Republicans (as are most elections when everyone stays at home except for old, white people), Democrats will be defending just 10 senate seats and Republicans will be defending 24! Yes, 24. The only concerns for Democrats are Harry Reid in Nevada (toss-up) and Michael Bennet in Colorado (lead Dem). On the Republican side, there is a slew of possible pick-ups, including Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Even if Republicans win the Senate this year, it will only be by one to three seats. Democrats will very likely get back to, and over, 50 seats in 2014.

In summation, assuming Republicans take the Senate, it will likely be a very temporary control that affects very little in the way of public policy.

Thought #3: I am amazed any human being could vote to re-elect Mitch McConnell in 2014.

When I worked on Capitol Hill back in 1999, I remember meeting members of Congress and thinking to myself, “How on Earth did this person ever get elected?” I remember having this thought in particular when meeting Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Bill Roth (R-DE).

Mitch McConnell is like that. He is hard on the eyes and seems to have no people skills. Yet, here he is—ahead in most polls against a credible and well-funded challenger.

I assume many of these politicians get elected out of party loyalty and many voters have no clue what the politician has or has not done. McConnell is not like that though. He is incredibly well known as has been the Senate minority leader for seven years, and with the Republicans out of the White House, he is often times the national face of his party. With a spotlight so squarely on him, it is hard to imagine a politician doing so much to risk his political future by saying outlandish things, opposing policies supported by most Kentuckians, and in general, being a first-class prick.

If anyone wants to get a flavor of Mitch McConnell, I encourage you to listen to this 2-minute radio interview. In it, Mr. McConnell reveals the following things: (1) he wants to strip 500,000 Kentuckians of their health insurance; (2) he wants to void thousands of marriages and prohibit millions more from getting married; (3) he is against doing anything about global warming or even acknowledging its existence; and (4) is unwilling to explain the rational for any of his conclusions. On top of all that, he manages to say all of this in the nastiest and most arrogant tone imaginable. How can anyone vote for this guy? I don’t care if the Democrats ran Kim Kardashian. Who could be worse than Mitch McConnell?

There is also the well-known fact that Mitch McConnell stated in 2010 that his number one goal was not to accomplish anything for the American people, but to make sure President Obama only served one term. Mr. McConnell stated, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

There is also the fact that Mitch McConnell has shattered the previous filibuster record by invoking it 413 times since President Obama became president. No one is more responsible for the least-effective Congress in American history than Mitch McConnell. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone. How can anything get done between two competing factions when one faction begins talks by stating, “Our number one goal is a political one—to strip our opponents of power”? Again, how can anyone vote for Mitch McConnell—a man who puts personal power over country and all else.

Thought #4: Shame on Democrats for not having the courage to campaign on their successes.

For all their warts, there is no denying that Obama and the Democrats have put the United States in a significantly better place now than it was in January 2009. By virtually any measure, this country is so, so much better off now than when President Obama took over. Look to the unemployment rate, job creation, the national deficit, civil rights for gays and lesbians, percent of people with health insurance, cost of healthcare, consumer confidence, and on and on. I don’t hear Democrats running on these things? Why? Instead we have Democrats falling over themselves to convince people who will never vote for them that they love guns and hate taxes.

While I would have loved to see Mitch McConnell gone, it will not break my heart to see Alison Lundergan Grimes remain in Kentucky. This is a Democratic candidate who was too cowardly to admit she voted for President Obama. She apparently thought her constituents were so dumb they could not figure out who she voted for in 2012 for president even though she served as an Obama delegate to the Democratic Convention. Ugh. It makes you wonder how many Grimes and Mark Priors and Blanche Lincolns we need before Democrats learn to behave like Democrats. As Harry Truman said, “When given the choice between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, the voters will choose the Republican every time.”

Lesson #5: I continue to underestimate just how irrational the American electorate tends to be.

Remember when Democrats controlled the House, the Senate and the White House in that 2-year period from 2009 through 2010? Even though we had constant GOP threats of filibuster, traitors like Joe Lieberman, and cowards like Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson, Democrats got a significant amount of positive and important things done, including: the Affordable Care Act; expanded the GI Bill; enacted student loan reform, credit card reform, and Wall Street reform; passed the Fair Pay Act; enacted the 9/11 First Responders bill into law; expanded national service programs and health care for kids; ratified the START treaty with Russia to reduce nuclear warheads; repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; passed a ton of stimulus including huge tax cuts for the middle class and Cash for Clunkers; and saved America’s auto industry. Americans supported these things in huge numbers. And what did the American people do to reward President Obama and the Democrats for this? They stayed home on Election Day in 2010, or worse, voted Republican because the changes they supported didn’t create an instantaneous turn-around in the economy.

Four years later, what have the Republicans done with their post-2010 power? They have done nothing of value in the House (unless you consider a government shutdown or 46 attempts at repealing the ACA meaningful) and have effectively shut the Senate down for four years.

One of my biggest complaints in politics is that the parties do not do an effective of enough job showing the differences between the parties. Over the past six years, however, we have been given a very accurate and compelling portrait of what these two parties stand for. I am in complete awe when people see the same things I see, compare 2009-2010 with 2011-2014, and come back with, “Yah, I think I need to vote for Joni Ernst.” You may as well be telling me that 2+2=turtles. Does…not…compute.

So those are my five thoughts heading into Election Day. What are yours?

– Dylan


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