After a couple of days to read and reflect upon the elections, I’ve come to some conclusions about why the Republicans did so well. The primary reason was extremely low voter turnout nationwide. In the last two presidential elections approximately 130,000,000 Americans voted. This year, only 83 million voters bothered to show up. That is only 36% of eligible voters which is lower than the previous record of 38% in 1942, which, of course, was in the middle of World War II.
Here in Montana, while Republicans turned out in great numbers, Democrats didn’t, especially in their traditional urban strongholds. So, the question is why? I think there are two primary reasons. The first is that the Republican base was highly motivated to vote while Democrats weren’t. We have to remember that Republicans have their own 24/7 propaganda television channel, Fox News. Republicans also have their own super dark money network funded by the likes of the Koch brothers. So, for six years they’ve been fed crap about how President Obama has been destroying America every day. Steve Daines and Ryan Zinke didn’t run against Curtis and Lewis, they ran against Obama.
Quite frankly, there is a significant portion of Montana that just hates President Obama. Remember when Obama was first elected and gun stores in Montana ran out of ammunition and semi automatic rifles because folks believed Obama was coming to their houses to take their guns? And, let’s face reality, in Montana as well as the rest of the country, there are plenty of folks like the guy who called into C-Span and said, “Republicans hate that ni***r Obama”
The other problem in Montana was the candidates for the Senate and the House. On the senate side, the disaster of the implosion of John Walsh killed whatever chance the Democrats had of keeping that seat. Considering Amanda Curtis only got into the race less than 2 months before the election, she did pretty darn well. She received no money from the national Democratic Party as it had already written the race off. But, I think she really appealed to a lot of voters and it will be interesting to see what she does in the future. On the House side, John Lewis was never going to win. Lewis is a good guy, but as a campaigner he’s so low key that it was impossible to get anyone excited. Plus, he had no chance of overcoming the stigma of being an aide for Max Baucus. Nobody liked Baucus.
I think it is very important to realize that although Republicans won a lot of seats, there is no conservative mandate. Remember that voter initiatives to raise the minimum wage passed in red states like Arkansas, Nebraska, and Alaska. There is no chance that Republicans will raise the national minimum wage. Pot legalization passed in Oregon and Alaska and gun control passed in Washington state, not D.C. Polls consistently show that significant majorities favor same sex marriage, reasonable gun control, health care, abortion availability, and raising the minimum wage.
So, why didn’t these people show up at the polls? My theory is that most people are satisfied with the way things are going. It is pretty hard to motivate folks to get out and vote if they aren’t angry. I think that is certainly going to change over he next two years of Republican control of the Senate and House.