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Why the 2014 Midterms Were Bad News for Republicans

Wait a minute, didn’t the Republicans just sweep the midterm elections in their largest wave in modern history? Didn’t they increase their majority in the House and take over the Senate? Isn’t the GOP now boasting that the American people repudiated the entire Democratic agenda? Isn’t Obama so unpopular that even Democratic candidates were distancing themselves from him and his achievements?

Maybe so, but none of that matters. In reality, the midterm elections were very bad news for the GOP. Let’s look at the facts, starting with why this election doesn’t really matter:

  • This was a midterm election, when voter turnout is traditionally low. And in fact, this election had the lowest turnout of any election cycle since World War II. That favors the Republicans, just like it did the last time we had a midterm election.
  • The Republicans successfully used voter suppression tactics to keep Democrats away from the polls, but that won’t last. The Republicans might have gained an advantage for a couple of elections, but they have also permanently angered minority voters (our fastest growing demographic). The Democratic party will improve their formidable get-out-the-vote machine and help voters with the documentation they need to meet the ridiculous and confusing new voting requirements.
  • In this midterm the Democrats were defending 13 Senate seats in states that are red or purple. Republicans only had to win six (less than half) of them to take over the Senate.
  • The Republicans themselves have changed the Senate so that it takes a filibuster-proof 60 votes to get much of anything through it. They may have a majority now, but by their own hand a majority doesn’t mean so much anymore.
  • Besides, what has a majority in both houses of Congress given the GOP? Open warfare inside their own party about what to do about immigration reform.
  • What are we seeing from our new Republican legislative leaders? Lawsuits, calls for impeachment and government shutdowns, climate denial, theocracy, thinly veiled racism, paranoia, and even more Benghazi hearings.

But wait, there is even worse news for Republicans from the midterm elections:

  • Republican candidates might have won, but Republican issues lost. Big time. Every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful. And remember this was in an election largely attended by Republicans. Who would have believed that solidly Red states would raise the minimum wage? But they did. And legalizing marijuana did well too.
  • Republican initiatives lost. Every last “personhood” amendment failed. Remember when Republicans were the party promising to preserve the sanctity of heterosexual marriage? They failed at that too. Gay marriage is now legal in 35 states + DC and 9 more are in the process of legalizing it.
  • Democrats won the Senate race in Virginia, which was supposed to be a Red state in an election that strongly favored Republicans, and without even doing much campaigning. Virginia has crossed the tipping point in its move to the left. The Republicans also lost Georgia as a solidly Red state in this election. Those are two southern states (albeit increasingly urban ones) – the heart of the GOP.
  • Republicans failed to pick up any Senate seats in blue states. So while two red states went blue in this election, no blue states went red. The only GOP Senator from a Blue state after this election is Susan Collins of Maine, who is the party’s last moderate (a dying breed).
  • There are some new Republican governors, but none of them ran on social issues, Obama, or opposition to the ACA. Their main advantage came from Citizens United opening up the floodgates of soft money. This was the most expensive election in history (even more expensive than the 2012 election, which included a presidential election). But the money situation might be changing.
  • Democrats have consolidated their power in states that generate almost all of America’s wealth – with the exception of the energy industry, which is controlled by Texas. Texas alone accounts for 10% of the GOP majority in the House. Ironically, Texas has had the lowest voter turnout in the country for decades.
  • In addition, the Texas economy is based almost entirely on oil. Texas weathered the economic collapse because it is largely disconnected from the US economy. But with oil prices falling and non-fossil-fuel energy surging, look for their economy to wane (the same way it has in every economy limited to a single resource). As happened in the rust belt, their population will decline except for minorities, and then Texas too will become a Blue state (like Virginia and Georgia).

Finally let’s look at the 2016 election:

  • It is a presidential election so turnout will be much higher, which favors the Democrats.
  • The Democrats firmly control 257 electoral votes. The Republicans firmly control 149 electoral votes. It only takes 270 votes to win the presidential election. You do the math.
  • And that’s not even counting Virginia, which is considered a blue state now. If the Dems take only Virginia, they win 270 electoral votes and win the presidential election.
  • In order for Republicans to win the presidential election, they will have to win every single state that is considered competitive, and they will also have to flip one firmly Democratic state. And, of course, they will have to find a candidate who can make it through the Republican primary and then appeal to mainstream voters. Good luck with that.
  • Things are just as bad in the Congressional elections, where Republicans will be defending 24 senate seats (almost a quarter of the Senate) and 18 of them look to be competitive. The chance of the GOP holding on to the Senate is precisely zero.

The bottom line is that because they (think they) won the 2014 election, there is no reason for the right wing-nuts to change, and there is no reason for the Republican party to change. The 2014 election was a perfect storm, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. By every measure, the Republican party is still going down, and they are gaining speed.

After all, a freak snowstorm doesn’t mean that long-term climate change isn’t happening. And the GOP doesn’t seem to understand that either.



  1. Ralph wrote:

    IK – thanks for that breakdown analysis, all good points at the national level. But as I and others have pointed out recently in this forum, the GOP strategy of Federalism, to shift as much power as possible to the states and comparable paralysis to the extent possible in DC, appears to be working, gay marriage and pot legalization notwithstanding. According to Real Clear Politics, the recent election further consolidated their hold on power at the state level.

    >>Last Tuesday, Republicans made historic gains in the nation’s state legislatures. The GOP now controls 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers — the highest number in the history of the party. Republicans currently hold the governorship and both houses of the legislature in 23 states (24 if Sean Parnell wins re-election in Alaska), while Democrats have that level of control in only seven.

    Democrats dominated these elections for most of the postwar era, often controlling between 60 and 80 chambers. Three specific factors — the increasing strength of Southern Republicans, recent strategic efforts to gain state chambers, and the national political conditions of 2014 — together explain how the GOP has turned the tide in recent years and built a massive advantage in the state capitals on Tuesday.<<

    Read more:

    Unless and until that trend reverses, expect more of the same gridlock in DC and the White House as whipping post (excuse the historic metaphor from the Old South). This translates to less and less effective policy at the national level (infrastructure, healthcare, education) and more parochialism at the state level (de facto repeal of Roe v. Wade, weak environmental regs, race to the bottom tax rates, etc.).

    The GOP – the party that keeps on giving (you the finger).

    Thanks for all the food for thought and Happy Thanksgiving!

    Tuesday, November 25, 2014 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  2. just me wrote:

    But wait…. with the GOP’s backing, all of those “job creators” will soon be creating millions of new jobs & all will be right in the USA again!

    I’m not going to hold my breath though.

    Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink