Thursday, November 23, 2006

Things to be Grateful For

The 2006 election:

U.S. House
D 231 Gain +29
R 200

U.S. Senate
D 51 Gain +5
R 49

State Governments:
• Democrat 28 Gain +6
• Republican 22

Legislative control: 24D, 16R, 9 split, 1 nonpartisan.

Chambers controlled: 56D, 41R, 1 nonpartisan.

Total control, legislature and governor: 16D, 10R, 23 divided, 1 nonpartisan.

Net gains of legislative seats: +321D (+148D East, +107D Midwest, +21D South, +73D West).

Ballot Measure Results: A Bad Night for Many, A Great Night for a Few
November 8, 2006 6:12 am MST

Ballot measure results are in for most races. One of the most striking features of this year’s results is the unusually low number of initiatives approved by voters. Between 1990 and 2004, an average number of 48 percent of citizen initiatives passed. This year it’s looking like it’ll be more like 35 – 40 percent. It’s likely that voter fatigue from long ballots contributed to this – there were more initiatives on the ballot this year than in any other year besides 1996 and 1914. In both of those years, there were 87 initiatives on the ballot; this year, there were 76.

Reducing the Power of Government

Another remarkable trend this year is the nearly complete failure of a spate of initiatives that sought to limit the power of government. These included

  • the broader, more controversial property rights measures called regulatory takings (the narrower, more straightforward eminent domain measures are not included in this group),
  • term limits,
  • efforts to expand the initiative process,
  • limits on the judiciary,
  • tax and spending limitations (aka TABOR), and
  • major tax and revenue cuts.

Of the 17 measures in this vein, just one passed – a combined regulatory takings/eminent domain initiative in Arizona. Similar measures in California and Idaho failed, as well as a simple regulatory takings initiative in Washington. Legislative term limits failed to pass in Oregon, which will almost certainly prove to be the nail in the coffin of the term limits movement. Measures to rein in the judiciary failed in three states, including South Dakota’s sweeping “judicial accountability” measure. This would have let a panel of volunteers draft rules for how judges, juries, prosecutors and certain local officials must make decisions. The panel would also be empowered to decide who followed the rules, and to punish those who didn’t with fines, jail time, and the loss of public pension and insurance benefits. The three TABOR proposals on the ballot all failed to pass as well.

This might seem like a surprising result, given the obvious anti-incumbent sentiment and frustration with government that were expressed in candidate election results. So why did they fail? These were faux-populist measures. Rather than arising from a grassroots movement and popular demand for these policy changes, the initiatives owe much to out-of-state supporters. Most petitions were circulated by out-of-state circulators, paid by out-of-state groups. Campaigns were also largely financed by out-of-state money. This fact was widely criticized in the media. Out-of-state influence in initiative campaigns is certainly not a new tendency, but has been growing steadily over the past decade. Perhaps voters finally said “enough is enough.” Another negative influence affecting the vote in these campaigns may have been the large number of measures in this vein that were blocked from the ballot by the courts for irregularities or outright fraud in the petition process (there were at least eight TABOR and regulatory takings measures blocked in five states). Again, this was widely reported in the media, and contributed to negative voter attitudes toward these issues this year. ...(more)

From Hotline... the Democratic trend continues even after the election
How Many Others Will Flip?

More proof that New England Republicans are in danger of taking up permanent residence at the margins comes this morning when a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives switches from Republican to Democrat. North Stonington Republican Diana Urban, elected to a fourth term two weeks ago, often voted with Democrats in the legislature. Her departure from the ranks of the GOP reduces their number to 44 of 151. ...(more)

And the BIG reason behind Democrats winning:

Published on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Populism's Revival
by James Lardner

Now that the Democratic victory has sunk partway in, maybe we can begin to process another result of this remarkable election: After a quarter-century of growing economic inequality, America decided to talk about it.

It's "the main issue that drove me to run," said James Webb at one of the 12 churches he visited a couple of Sundays before his squeaker victory over Virginia Sen. George Allen.

In Montana, Jon Tester ran as an old-fashioned populist -- a species long considered extinct in his part of the country. When the incumbent, Sen. Conrad Burns, accused him of fomenting class warfare, Tester delivered one of the more pungent putdowns of the political year. "I'm about the middle class, Sen. Burns," he replied. "You're about your rich crony lobbyist friends on K Street."

While few candidates talked as tough as the two underdogs who finally put their party in charge of the Senate, the home stretch of the campaign saw Democrats across the country picking up where John Edwards left off in early 2004 (before party strategists advised him that his "two Americas" message was too harsh)... (more)

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