My take on these off-year election results and what they mean is not what this political writer over at the Huffington Post declared last night. The idea that disparate ballot measures and elections across the country adds up to a conservative bounce-back and repudiation of progressivism is a sad, lazy and wrongheaded conclusion to draw.
Let’s take a look at the examples of this alleged conservative trouncing and why liberal pundits ought to to rethink these quickie conclusions about What It All Means before sharing them with the world.
Unfortunately for the Huffington Post, Election Day 2015 might not mean anything, or not much, anyway—an unimaginable concept to the website, which reflexively gins up “who’s up/who’s down” set piece reports after every Election Day and then goes hunting, when necessary, for evidence to back up the dramatic declaration that, in this case, It’s All Gone Bad.
But this year, the evidence of a conservative comeback is paper-thin and most of the conservative victories can instead be described more fairly as weak push-backs to progressive-driven campaigns and victories that have dominated domestic politics this year.
1. Ohioans defeat cannabis legalization initiative. Ohioans defeated a cannabis legalization initiative that would have created a pot monopoly in the Buckeye by giving all the bud business to a few select capitalists. If anything, this is a victory for the progressive value that says a proper legalization effort must emerge from the grass-roots and must strive to be inclusive. The Ohio vote is only a victory for conservatives if conservatism has suddenly rejected its previous embrace of a Koch-driven descent into the American oligarchical moment.
2. Houston rejects LGBT protections. Houston is a state in Texas, yet Texas is only nominally a part of America anymore. Yes, it’s bad news that one city in the most militantly anti-American state in the country didn’t extend civil rights protections to variously gendered and identified people—but the battle over Prop 1 only served to highlight that many Texas Republicans simply cannot deal with the mystery that presently lies between Caitlyn Jenner’s legs. Whatever’s down there, it makes them angry, and so the battle for LGBT rights in Houston devolved into a ridiculous scrum over transgendered dudes using the ladies’ loo. As the debate over LGBT rights is debased by conservatives into a series of indignant potty jokes, progressives should be able to do better than weep openly on the pages of the Huffington Post about it, given that 2015 is, among other things, the “transgender tipping point” year. It was right there on the cover of Time, for crying out loud.
3. Kentucky elects Tea Party Governor. Kentucky’s one of the few red states that expanded its healthcare coverage to the lesser and uninsured by accepting Obamacare and the Medicaid dollars that went along with it. The state created its own state exchange, known as Kynect, which has been reported to be quite a success story. But now there are 400,000 Kentuckians in the crosshairs who might lose their insurance if the new governor, some weirdo named Bevin, follows through on his implied promise to kill the poor. If he does, conservatives can at last take a victory lap and celebrate that their inhumanely aggressive hatred of Obamacare has finally yielded a few scalps. That’s not a victory for conservatives, but it is a victory if you happen to be a sociopath or a fascist, or both.
4. Virginia GOP holds state-Senate majority and defies Democratic heavyweight Gov. Terry McCauliffe in the process. This one’s a real stretch—it stretches right into 2016 presidential politics. The idea here is that it’s a conservative “victory” that the GOP held on to a slight advantage in the state Senate because it will make it difficult for McCauliffe to enact progressive legislation. Which will in turn make it difficult for McCauliffe to effectively shill for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is a huge win for online slingers of speculative journalism, and no one else.
5. Portland, Maine pushes back against Fight For $15. Just as 2015 is the Transgender Tipping Point, it’s also the year that saw a big push, oftentimes successful, to get state and local government to kick their minimum wages up to a point where it’s actually a living wage. There have been numerous such initiatives across the country that have gained traction with policymakers this year—big movement in big cities like San Francisco, New York and Seattle. At best, Portland can lay claim to a small victory in the fight against the Fight for $15, which was orchestrated by business leaders there. Yet the Portland City Council had already voted in September to raise the minimum wage from $7.50 to $10.10. That’s called a small victory, aka progress.
5. San Francisco rejects AirBnB regulations. Now wait a minute. How come none of these smarty-pants political analysts have declared a conservative victory in San Francisco, where voters—with the help of an estimated $6-$8 million AirBnB push—defeated a measure that would have put the popular home-share site under the watchful eye of communist regulators by the Bay. Conservatives tend to hate regulations, not to mention San Francisco, and love it when the capitalism gets all unfettered in the name of servicing the leisure class. AirBnB’s victory is also a victory for conservatives, but given the hipster aura that surrounds AirBnB and the sharing economy generally, it’s no surprise that the SF-based HuffPost blew it on that one, too.