What do the off, off year elections tell us? That is the question that is being asked by party officials, politicians, pollsters, and political pundits across the nation. How will the results of the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and in Virginia impact on the Republican Party? Is the fact that an establishment Republican candidate in a special legislative primary election in Alabama beat a Tea Party candidate of significance? Is the overwhelming win of a Democratic Mayoral candidate in New York for the first time in 28 years a telling sign? On the face of it, all things seem to point to an electorate that is moving to the left. However are they really simply moving away from the far right? Is it a move to reassert the mainstream in the GOP, or is it simply a move away from the extremes?
While there will be many who will tell you that they know the answer to these questions, in fact, it is much too early to come to any hard and fast conclusions. First, it is important to remember that all politics are local. In New Jersey, Christie had worked hard to develop a variety of alliances and coalitions across party lines that impacted on his great success at reelection. But does the fact that he achieved this in New Jersey indicate that he can he replicate these kinds of coalitions on a national level? Who knows? McAuliffe was able to rally the Obama Democrats in Northern Virginia comprised heavily of women, minorities, and government employees to win his close race. The three-point victory, because of its demographic and geographic decisiveness, only reinforced the reality of the divisions seen across the country.
Right now it would seem that there are two competing narratives vying for dominance as we move toward 2014. The first is the troubling rollout of the Affordable Care Act and the opportunity it has given the already virulently negative GOP to once again do everything possible to block its success. They hope this narrative will carry them successfully through the 2014 elections and enable them to not only retain their majority in the House, but win one in the Senate as well. The Democrats, on the other hand, see the irresponsible actions of the Tea Party resulting in the government shutdown and their stand on social issues including abortion, gay marriage, gun control, and immigration as well as their attitudes toward science and education as the focus of their narrative. While they represent only a small portion of the GOP, it is clear that they are currently in control of the GOP agenda and the Democrats will brand the entire GOP in this way.
Again, what do the off off-year elections tell us about 2014? Which narrative will carry the day? Is there movement within the electorate that will shift things in one direction or another? Anyone who tells you that they can read the tea leaves of the 2013 election results and predict what it means for 2014 will also try to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. A year from now we will know the answers to all of these questions. But as anyone will tell you, a year in politics is an awfully long time.
The danger for Democrats is that they view this election as a sign of future success. The goal must be to retake the majority in the House and maintain and grow the majority in the Senate. Only then can we hope for a functional and functioning government. We need two viable parties for our two-party system of government to work. The Tea Party has made the GOP impetent and unable to serve its constituents or our nation. That must change in 2014.
- Election round-up: Christie, McAuliffe, winners in slate of elections (jacksonville.com)
- Election 2013: Decision time (politico.com)
- AP: ‘Ideology And Purity Lost’ On Election Night (washington.cbslocal.com)
- 6 takeaways from Election Night 2013 (washingtonpost.com)
- Christie Easily Re-Elected NJ Governor (abcnews.go.com)
- Voters to decide elections coast to coast… (bigstory.ap.org)
- 2013 Election Results: Republican Establishment and RINOS aren’t dead (themoderatevoice.com)