The great Will Rogers observed that “Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.” I get this feeling whenever I watch Jon Stewart’s Daily Show or John Oliver’s This Week Tonight and compare the depressing realities of American politics that they astutely cover with the purposeless banalities offered up by just about every major candidate running for a seat in Congress this year.
Regardless of whether you are elated or deflated by the outcome of most of the year’s races, it is difficult to imagine that many people seriously found the 2014 election cycle to be uplifting or inspiring. In fact, just the opposite is true. Personally, I can’t recall a single election cycle that has reinforced our already high levels of cynicism regarding the political process and loathing towards politicians in general.
One certainty is that the newly minted Republican congressional majority is either going to have to put up or shut up. The days of sitting back heckling from the balcony like Statler and Waldorf—the two cranky old guys who jeered everyone on the Muppets—is over. No longer will the GOP have the luxury of opposing everything, proposing nothing, shutting down the government, and taking the nation to the brink of default if they want to hang onto their majorities in both chambers and take back the White House in 2016.
Beyond this angle of the story, the press and punditry have missed perhaps the most significant outcome of Tuesday’s elections. The fixation on the races for the U.S. Senate has been excessive and unnecessary since GOP Senate candidates mainly won seats in GOP states while Democrats chiefly won seats in Democratic states. The table that I created below demonstrates this point. Red shading indicates that Republicans won that particular race in 2008, 2012, or 2014 while blue shading indicates that Obama or whoever the Democratic senatorial nominee emerged victorious. The percentages reflect the GOP share of the vote in each race.
Nine of the 14 supposed “battleground” Senate races were held in states that the Republican presidential nominee captured by considerable margins in both 2008 and 2012. One of the other five—North Carolina—has long been friendly to the GOP. The two states where the Democrats held on—New Hampshire and Virginia—are states that Obama won twice and which have been trending Democrat in statewide races to begin with. In short, only Keep reading...