Republicans Are Alarmingly Unconcerned About the Loss of Governorships to the Blue Wave

Entering the week, Republicans had two-thirds of the nation’s governorships.  Now, they’re barely holding on to a simple majority. 

 

If you knew nothing about this past election other than what was being put forth by the White House, Republican congressional leaders, and reliably conservative news and social media warriors / propagandists, you would think Republicans secured a historic victory this past Tuesday.  After all, the congressional district map of the United States is still mostly red (if you look the two-dimensional version, anyway, as Republicans are fond of doing[1]), and Republicans even managed to pick up a few seats in the Senate, thanks to a favorable schedule where the Democrats had to defend far more seats than the Republicans.  Even some Democrats are griping that their expected blue wave was less a tsunami than it was a severe deluge (oh well), and are openly complaining about the electoral process, the anti-democratic nature of every state having the same number of senators, and the general unfairness of the American constitutional system, as they always do when they do not get to control everything and everyone, even though they just won more seats in a single election than they had since Watergate.

What nonsense.

Republicans managed to lose nearly forty congressional seats.  Five million more people voted for the Democrat candidates than the Republicans (53 million to 48 million),[2]which represents a ten million vote swing from the last off-year election in 2014, when Republicans won by five million votes (40 million to 35 million).  What’s worse, is that the raw numbers show that Democrats secured a fifty percent increase in the popular vote total compared to just four years ago!

This cannot simply be chalked up to historic norms.  Republicans, anticipating this disaster (while simultaneously pretending it would not happen and, in the face of all evidence, predicting that a “red wave” was coming), have been saying for months that presidents always lose congressional seats the year after an election.  Aside from that simply not being true — Coolidge increased his delegation in an off-year election, as did Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and George W. Bush (twice) — those presidents who saw their party lose seats were either compromised by a national crisis such as a scandal, economic depression, or a war, or they were victims of their own success.  Presidents tend to have coattails when they run for office, bringing many congressional candidates to victory during presidential election years who otherwise would not win, simply because they share a ticket with a popular candidate at the top.  These gains are liable to be given back in the subsequent off-year elections when the president is not on the ballot.  When Barack Obama won in 2008, he benefited from both of these phenomenon: a Democrat wave election in the previous cycle that was a reaction to the interminable and terribly prosecuted War in Iraq, and a combination of his personal popularity and a moribund Republican party when he ran for the presidency.  So his party was greatly overrepresented in Congress by the time his first off-year election came around in 2010, when Republicans made “historic gains,” almost all of which was simply recapturing seats that had been lost in the previous two elections due to their own incompetence.

None of that applies to Trump.  Trump’s presidential election had no coattails — in fact, he lost six congressional seats when he ran — and the country is actually doing pretty well.  The stock market is up, unemployment is down, and we are not entangled in any major foreign conflicts.

So this election disaster — and that’s what it is — cannot be chalked up to some combination of Democrats simply recapturing seats that were theirs in the first place, and/or capitalizing on some national catastrophe.  Rather, this wave represents a dramatic rebuke by the electorate, attributable only to one thing: the historically galvanizing and deliberately polarizing effect of this Commander-in-Chief.

The wave hit some places more acutely than others.  New Jersey, which as recently as four years ago had six Republican congressmen out of twelve, now only has one, even though the top of that ticket featured a Senate race pitting an ineffectual Democrat who had been indicted on corruption charges (and who was credibly rumored to have an affinity for underaged prostitutes), against a moderate Republican who poured over $30 million into the race.  New Mexico is now entirely blue, as is half of Arizona, and though it’s been there for a few cycles, it’s impossible not to notice that ominous southern flange of Texas, waiting to bleed its deep blue into the rest of our single largest store of electoral votes.

But this wave crashed most portentously at the statehouse level, where Republicans started the week controlling two-thirds of the governorships (thirty-three out of fifty; and it was thirty-four a year ago).  Today, after losing seven seats, Republicans have barely over half, with Republicans holding on to twenty-seven seats and the Democrats twenty-three, and that’s if the results in Florida and Georgia survive Democrat recount shenanigans.  Additionally, we lost over three hundred state legislative seats, seven state legislative chambers, and Democrats now control a majority of the state attorney general offices.

This could not have come at a worse time.  We are only four years away from having new congressional maps drawn for every state, as a result of the forthcoming 2020 census, and it goes without saying (at least, it should) that we’d have been in a much better position to have more favorable maps make it through the various legislatures if we controlled more governorships.  And that doesn’t even speak to the ability of these states to pass much needed voter-identification laws to even have secure elections in the first place.  Controlling the state governments was not just our greatest political advantage, it was our greatest political necessity, and we blew it in one disastrous election cycle.  Heads should be rolling, instead of smiling imbecilically.

And we are lucky to have as many governorships as we still do.  Of those twenty-seven governorships, Republicans prevailed on Tuesday in the deep blue states of Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont, none of which have voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 2000 (when New Hampshire endured an usually vigorous Republican primary season and went red by 1%).  Voters in those states are comfortable voting for Republican managerial competence, as long as it does not support Trumpism, whatever that is at any given moment.

That’s about the only good news to come from this election.  But whether we learn anything from it will depend on whether we can first accept the reality that losing slightly less catastrophically than predicted, is not the same as winning, and winning is essential if we hope to be something other than a regional opposition party two years from now.

 

[1] Please, for the love of all that is holy, stop posting pictures of the United States with its election districts colored almost entirely red, in order to show that this country is overwhelmingly Republican.  It really calls into question one’s intelligence.  Obviously, Democrat areas are more densely concentrated, and if you were to use a three-dimensional map instead of a two-dimensional one, you’d see towering blue spires over just about every major city.  So all you’re really showing is that Republican votes are spread out over more acreage.  Well, that, and that you do not know how to read data.

[2] Republicans also had nine million fewer votes for their Senate candidates for Senate, though the Senate vote is skewed because almost all of the Southeast did not have a Senate election (Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas), and neither did Oklahoma or Kansas or Idaho, and those tend to be red(ish) states.

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