The hidden election

Today’s Bloomberg has an analysis of what voters were trying to say this election. (Most likely: Stop. Talking. Both of you.) This part was, to me, the most striking:

Any resolution of the negotiations is likely to have more of a Democratic stamp, with the party’s victories this year extending beyond Obama’s re-election.

Democrats expanded their majority in the Senate by two members in a year in which 23 of the 33 Senate seats up for election were held by the party, meaning it was vulnerable to significant losses.

While Republicans maintained a majority in the House, Democrats picked up seats. And as of yesterday, Associated Press tallies showed Democratic House candidates got about 900,000 more votes nationally than Republican contenders. Republicans are able to keep control of the chamber because the geography of House district boundaries favors the party.

I’d read earlier that the popular vote differential had been somewhere around 500,000 votes, but apparently now it’s almost one million. It’s pretty incredible that our weird gerrymandering-happy electoral system produces a House of Representatives in which there are now approximately 36 more Republicans than Democrats — when voters actually cast almost one million more ballots for Democrats than for the GOP.

Similarly, the note about the Senate — that of the 33 seats, 23 were held by Democrats, and the Dems actually managed to pick up two seats — puts in perspective just how good a night November 6th was for Team Blue.


Not quite the shellacking they needed?

The Economist wonders if it would have been better, in the long run, for the Republicans to have been defeated more soundly on November 6th:

Republican pessimism is more than a PR headache. Put simply, it is hard for a party to win national elections in a country that it seems to dislike. Mr Romney’s campaign slogan was “Believe in America”. But too many on his side believe in a version of America from which displeasing facts or arguments are ruthlessly excluded. Todd Akin did not implode as a Senate candidate because of his stern opposition to abortion even in cases of rape or incest: many Republicans in Congress share those views. His downfall came because in trying to deny that his principles involved a trade-off with compassion for rape victims he came up with the unscientific myth that the bodies of women subjected to rape can shut down a pregnancy.

It was a telling moment of denial, much like the comforting myth that there is no such thing as climate change or, if there is, that humans are not involved. Ensconced in a parallel world of conservative news sources and conservative arguments, all manner of comforting alternative visions of reality surfaced during the 2012 election. Many, like Mr Akin’s outburst, involved avoiding having to think about unwelcome things (often basic science or economics). It became a nostrum among rank-and-file Republicans that mainstream opinion polls are biased and should be ignored, for instance, and that voter fraud is rampant and explains much of the Democrats’ inner-city support. Both conspiracies sounded a lot like ways of wishing the other side away.

Thoughtful Republicans are not oblivious to the dangers that they face. Optimists hope that new leaders will emerge to lead their movement rapidly towards greater realism, and greater cheeriness. If not, electoral defeats far more severe than those inflicted this time will surely impose such changes. Republicans may look back and wish the reckoning had started sooner.