Four vast ironies that occurred to me today when thinking about yesterday’s elections.
- In 2010, California voters passed an Open Primary initiative that means that the top two finishers in any primary, regardless of party, go into the general election. The intention of backers was that more moderates would run and be elected. Both the Republican and Democratic parties here fought it, but it became the law. One of the proponents was then-Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado, a Republican sometimes on the outs with his own party. Net result in yesterday’s election: Instead of a more balanced Legislature, Democrats picked up seats, leading to a 2/3 majority in both the state Senate and Assembly. That 2/3 majority gives Democrats enormous power and renders Republicans completely superfluous. And Maldonado, who was running for Congress, lost. “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.
- Proposition 30, which raises taxes to help balance the state budget, was put on the ballot by Governor Jerry Brown expressly because Republicans won’t vote for any tax increase, and passing a tax increase requires a 2/3 majority. Democrats now have that majority, ironically, which the lack thereof necessitated the proposition. Also, the proposition, which was positioned largely as “save our schools,” returns little money to schools — it just eliminates further cuts.
- On a national level, the one thing we were all led to believe about Mitt Romney was that he was a dispassionate numbers guy — a guy who could read the data and make sound decisions. That was his story at Bain, and at the Olympics, and in Massachusetts. Here’s what we found out today: That his internal polling — and his internal polling alone; nothing objective — consistently showed him ahead, that he and his campaign team absolutely believed that all the polling to the contrary was undercounting Republicans, and that he was 100% going to win. (Indeed, today’s Wall Street Journal reports that Romney never wrote a concession speech because he never believed he’d need one.) In other words: He completely misread the data, and was operating from bad data clouded by emotions. So… he wasn’t even good at the one thing he was theoretically really good at.
- On a similar note, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson and all their money couldn’t buy any love. Much as Meg Whitman found out when she ran for governor in California, you can buy ad space, but you can’t always buy votes. But that’s not the surprise. The surprise is how thoroughly revealed Rove is as someone completely out of touch with the electorate. The svengali behind the Bush near-win in 2000 and the Bush probably-won in 2004 does not understand 2012 at all. In advance, he is sure that young people are going to stay home, that Obama supporters are disenchanted, and that Romney is going to thread together an electoral victory out of key battleground states in some complicated 3-4-2 formula (or whatever it was) that he talks about a lot on air and in print. Instead: young people turn out in large numbers (numbers consistent with 2008, showing that that year wasn’t a fluke), Obama voters are charged up (by the prospect of Romney/Ryan), and Romney takes all of… one of those battleground states. (North Carolina, the only state to switch sides from 2008.) Which means that Rove was wrong, wrong, wrong, and some of us don’t have to worry about his “genius” any more.
Like everyone else, I’m glad it’s over, and like about half of us, I’m delighted with the outcome. If you’re among the other half and you’re not so delighted: I understand. Believe me. I have been over there many times, and it doesn’t feel good. I will say that I was glad to hear the president say he’d like to meet with Mitt Romney to discuss ways to bring people together, I was glad to hear Romney’s gracious concession, and I was also glad that John Boehner has, in words at least, offered to work with Democrats to avoid the fiscal cliff. There are all sorts of budget cuts I’d like to see put in place, as well as tax loopholes closed and tax changes made, so I’m hopeful a deal can be made — because I’d rather this work were done with a scalpel than with a chainsaw. And I’m reminded that surgery is performed by a team of professionals working together.