Few off-year elections have drawn as much attention as the one which took place yesterday. I spent the whole day working the polls as an election judge — 14 hours of relative boredom interspersed with occasional bursts of activity. Voter turnout here in Texas actually exceeded my expectations considering that we only had constitutional amendments on the ballot, but it was still low and consisted mostly of the most politically active elements of our community — the few people who actually care whether a handful of hurricane damaged beach houses get condemned or given rights to land which erosion has put in the public right of way.
During the day I used my iPhone to keep in contact with my network of political informants around the country where much more exciting things were happening and elections for major local and state offices were being viewed as a harbinger of the political climate for 2010. If that theory is right that these elections tell us something about the Spring primaries and Fall general election next year, then the news for America may be very positive.
The real news from the Empire State is not about CD-23 despite the ridiculous level of attention which it has received. Hoffman lost. The Democrat won. It's likely that the infighting in the GOP angered enough people that they voted for Owens out of protest giving him a narrow victory over the most uncharismatic candidate since Hubert Humphrey. The truth is that there was never a good choice in this race. Scozzafava was politically aberrant and more liberal than Owens and Hoffman was unqualified, unappealing and just too conservative for the district. He came off as a complete boob in his interview with Glenn Beck and I wouldn’t have voted for him as dog catcher. GOP leaders threw this election away by not choosing someone who could appeal to both fiscally conservative Republicans and moderate independents. End of story. It means nothing at all for the future, except that the NRCC and RNC need to do their jobs better.
The real news comes from New York City and it's not mayor Bloomberg's reelection. It's the victory of two Republicans from Queens in the race for City Council, especially the election of New York Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Dan Halloran in a race which drew national attention because of the relentless racial and religion based attacks on Halloran by his opponents and also by the Village Voice. Halloran's win proved once again that if you have the right message — individual liberty and fiscal responsibility — you can win elections on a base of Republicans and liberty-minded independents in a Democrat dominated environment. Halloran proved that you can even do it while being a neopagan, and special congratulations go to the leaders of the New York GOP for standing by him and keeping religion out of politics. They set an example for the nation.
Less interesting, but more impressive than New York, the Republican Party of Virginia proved definitively that if you nominate fiscally conservative candidates you can win. In fact, with the right slate you can roll over the Democrats like a steamroller, handing them a statewide defeat which can only be interpreted as devastating. If it's a sign of what's to come in 2010 the news is very bad for the Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate.
What stood out in the Virginia election was that although Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli are all Republicans, they fit a very specific model. They are fiscally consservative, somewhat socially moderate and in the case of Cuccinelli close enough to libertarian beliefs that he was endorsed by the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia.
The magnitude of their victory cannot be ignored. McDonnell won by over 18% of the vote, carrying all but a handful of the counties in Virginia. In a state which recently elected two Democrat Senators that signals a very significant shift in political perspective.
In many ways the win for Chris Christie over Jon Corzine in the New Jersey governor's race is the most significant. It's actually the race where the Democrats deployed their most powerful assets. Thugs from the SEIU and even local street gangs were at the polls intimidating voters. ACORN is suspected of engaging in widespread fraud with absentee ballots. And the Corzine campaign ran one of the most hateful ad campaigns of any election, making personal attacks on Christie for being overweight.
Going into the election things were so bad in New Jersey that John Fund wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal predicting the election would be stolen. My sources informed me that on Tuesday afternoon the DNC sent out the call for observers to come in and manage a recount, planning to carry out the same kind of manipulation with which they stole the Senatorial election in Minnesota and the gubernatorial election in Washington state.
Despite all of this, Christie won and did it by a large enough margin that it made a fraudulent recount too difficult to attempt. And again, Christie fits that profile which seems to be working for the GOP. He's a strong fiscal conservative, yet open minded on social issues. Certainly he has some shortcomings, like his position on gun control, but overall he's a pretty good example of a fiscally conservative, socially pragmatic Republican.
The results were also very good for liberty in some of the other races, despite a Democrat victory in a special election for a House seat in California.
Maine's gay marriage law was narrowly overturned with approval of Proposition 1, but this is more than balanced by the approval of Referendum 71 in Washington state, which deals with the issue in a much more pracical way, approving gay marriage in all but name and guaranteeing equal rights to domestic partners. If Maine's law had been framed that way it likely would have been upheld. At the same time Maine's Proposition 5, legalizing medicinal marijuana passed with a strong 60% majority vote. Overall that's a victory for gay rights and a victory againt the War on Drugs, and for lawmakers in Maine it's an opportunity to frame a better policy on gay unions.
Finally, there is a curious story out of Texas which suggests very grim things for the future of the Democratic Party. Supposedly as many as 70 elected Democrat officials in Texas are going to change parties and become Republicans before the 2010 election, apparently because they are afraid their party association with President Obama and the current direction the Democrat leadership is going makes them unelectable in their conservative districts. This seems to fit with the trend reported in elections nationwide, of independents voting strongly Republican, and exit polls showing strong rejection of Democrat policies despite continued personal popularity for President Obama.
For the first time in years things are looking up. We may really be seeing a rising tide for responsible government and individual liberty.