(By Andrew MacKie-Mason)
Yesterday was one of my favorite days of year year--election day. That means that today we have results, and of course everyone's weighing in on what they mean. I might as well join in, so here's my 2009 Election Analysis.
Virginia Governor's Race
In this race, Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds was facing Republican Bob McDonnell. It was their second contest against each other, the first being for the state Attorney General's seat. Virginia doesn't allow its incumbent governors to run, so neither had the incumbent advantage.
McDonnell is a relatively extreme social conservative and a financial conservative. Deeds is a moderate or even conservative Democrat, especially in terms of economics. McDonnell has been steadily ahead in the polls, but there's always been some hope that Deeds would pull back yesterday.
In the end, however, McDonnell won, up by a bit more than 17 percentage points. So what does this mean? Before the election, a lot of people were saying it would be an early referendum on Obama and the Democrats in Congress. Virginia was one of the states that switched from red to blue last year to carry Obama to victory, and the worry is that if it went back to the GOP it would signal that the Democrats will be in trouble in 2010. However, there's no denying that McDonnell ran a better campaign, and had more fleshed out plans on various important state issues, like transportation. While it's a bit worrying for Democrats, they shouldn't read too much into it.
New Jersey Governor's Race
In New Jersey, Chris Christie (R) was up against incumbent Jon Corzine (D). In this election, Corzine spent a lot more money than Christie did, but Christie ended up winning 49%-45%. (Christopher Daggett, an independent, garnered 6% of the vote.)
This race doesn't really say much about the national parties, however. Corzine had a lot of personal issues and was all in all a very sketchy character with questionable connections. He was unpopular with the people of Jersey, and the results probably say more about his popularity in Jersey than the Democrats' popularity.
New York's 23rd Congressional District
This part of upstate New York has been in GOP hands since the Civil War era. The Republican elected there last fall resigned when President Obama appointed him as Secretary of the Army. The Republican leadership picked Dede Scozzofava to run for the seat, running against Democrat Bill Owens. Certain members of the Republican party, however, thought that Scozzofava wasn't conservative enough (she's pro-choice and pro-homosexual equality). They then ran their own candidate, Doug Hoffman, as a member of the Conservative Party. Hoffman was endorsed by members of the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party, like Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty. Over the weekend, fed up with the attacks from within her own party, Scozzofava dropped out and endorsed Owens (the Democrat).
In general, this race was seen as a test of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. The Republican Party is in the middle of an identity crisis (Sarah Palin Conservatives vs. Ron Paul Libertarians vs. H.W. Bush Republicans) and this race could be a sign to the party about whether to swing moderate or extreme. When the New York results came back, Owens beat out Hoffman 49%-45%. What's the significance? Well, it's pretty clear that the ultra-conservatives aren't winners for the Republicans. But will they get the message? One might think that they would, but they should have gotten the same message a year ago when Sarah Palin lost the election for McCain, but they apparently haven't.
So, either the Republican party will shift back towards center and prove a serious challenger to the Democrats in 2010, or else they'll continue to shift towards the right and repeat their defeats of 2008.
Maine Question 1
Earlier this year, Maine's governor signed a bill legalizing gay marriage equality in the state. Immediately, conservative Christian groups started gathering signatures to put the question on the ballot. Marriage equality groups spent a lot of money fighting to make Maine the first state to vote for gay marriage. On Tuesday, however, the voters disappointed us. The measure passed 53%-47%, which means that the bill was vetoed and gay couples will not be treated equally in Maine.
Washington State Referendum 71
In Washington, an "everything but marriage" proposal was on the ballot. In effect, it would make civil unions identical to marriages...just without calling them marriages. It passed, at approximately 52%-48%.
So, looking at these two referenda together, what can we say? Well, it seems that America is making progress in becoming more accepting of different types of people, but there's a way to go. This irrational distinction between "gay marriage" and "civil unions" seems to be staying strong, but maybe it's a distinction that gay activists should play off. If Washington's next referendum were to remove "marriage" as an institution entirely, wouldn't that accomplish the goals? Everyone would have the same thing. Everyone would be "unionized(?)" (we really need a better adjective for that) and no one would be married unless they chose to use that term.
That's your election analysis for the year! Feel free to comment with questions or suggestions.