A Tuesday like that doesn’t come very often. Elections come regularly, but not like that. This one’s got Republicans asking what hit them and the Democrats asking how to do it again. Though, for all the explanations that you heard about impeachment, incumbency and inactivity in Congress, there was something far more important. The fact is that those who weren’t supposed to vote did, and those who were, didn’t.
Blacks, union members and Hispanics turned out in droves to support the Democrats and create this situation. These are the people who everyone expects to stay home. You’ve heard it before; the poorer people are, the less likely they are to vote. Trust me, blacks, union members and Hispanics aren’t among the wealthiest groups in this country. They defied the pundits however. They were the kingmakers in California, North Carolina and New York. In contrast, it looks like the staunchly conservative base of the Republican Party didn’t overwhelm the liberal base as it usually does. This is a bit of a problem for the GOP. It looks like they have somewhat alienated their base conservative supporters while at the same time alienating everyone else.
A couple of races deserve special mention for either their significance or entertainment value. In Wisconsin, Democratic Senator Russell Feingold was able to get himself re-elected despite the enormous financial restriction he placed on his own campaign.
Senator Feingold, one of the authors of campaign finance reform legislation known, pledged to run his campaign under the same restrictions that bill would place on all campaigns. As a result, the senator accepted no soft money contributions from the national party and was severely limited in his own funds. In contrast, the Republican challenger Mark Neumann was flush with cash supplied mostly by his own national party, led by Senator Mitch McConnell(R-Ky). Senator McConnell, the foremost opponent of campaign finance reform, poured about $10 million into this campaign to defeat Senator Feingold. Maybe it wasn’t enough. Or possibly it couldn’t be bought. Either way, sometimes, even in real life, the good guy does win.
In Minnesota, we had perhaps the most bizarre upset of all time. Running on the ticket of Ross Perot’s Reform party, Jesse “The Mind” Ventura, formerly Jesse “The Body” Ventura, defeated his Republican and Democratic opponents. Ventura created only two commercials, one with him posing as Rodin’s “The Thinker” and the other with his action figure battling an evil special interest man. His campaign song was adapted from the theme song from “Shaft.” Right now, all over the country everybody is having a pretty good laugh. Even in Minnesota, I bet they think it’s pretty funny right now. In a year or two however, they may not be laughing so hard.
Last, in Hawaii, the ballot measure mentioned last week passed by an overwhelming majority 2-1. Now, Hawaii voters have given their state legislators the right to outlaw same-sex marriages and they probably will. Fear and ignorance won this one. There’s no other way to put it. I don’t know what the moral is here, but I do know this: a lot of good things happened Tuesday, but on this one we’ve got a long way to go.