For Republicans looking for ways that the party can once again take the lead in building a nationally relevant governing agenda, there is one vital takeaway from this year’s election. It starts with a graphic.
Behold the Blue Wall:
The Blue Wall is block of states in which no Republican Presidential candidate can realistically hope to win. Tuesday that block finally extended to New Hampshire, meaning that at the outset of any Presidential campaign, a minimally effective Democratic candidate can expect to win 257 electoral votes without even really trying. That’s 257 out of the 270 needed to win.
Arguably Virginia now sits behind that wall as well. Democrats won the Senate seat there essentially without campaigning in a year when hardly anyone but Republicans showed up to vote and the GOP enjoyed its largest wave in modern history. Virginia would take that tally to 270. Again, that’s 270 out of 270.
This means that the next Presidential election, and all subsequent ones until a future party realignment, will be decided in the Democratic primary. Only by sweeping all nine of the states that remain in contention AND also flipping one very solidly Democratic state can a Republican candidate win the White House.
By contrast, Republicans control a far more modest Red Fortress, which currently amounts to 149 electoral votes. This election saw Georgia fall out of that shrinking and increasingly brittle base, after losing our previous lock on North Carolina and Virginia in recent years.
A few other items of interest from the 2014 election results:
– Republican’s failed to pick up a single Senate seat behind the Blue Wall. Not one. The only GOP candidate to win a Senate seat behind the Blue Wall was the party’s last moderate, Susan Collins of Maine.
– Behind the Blue Wall there were some new Republican Governors, but their success was very specific and did not translate down the ballot at all. None of these candidates ran on social issues, Obama, or opposition the ACA. Rauner stands out as a particular bright spot in Illinois, but Democrats in Illinois retained their supermajority in the State Assembly, similar to other northern states, without losing a single seat.
– Republicans in 2014 were the most popular girl at a party no one attended. Voter turnout was awful.
– Democrats have consolidated their power behind the sections of the country that generate the overwhelming bulk of America’s wealth outside the energy industry. That’s only ironic if you buy into far-right propaganda, but it’s interesting none the less.
– Vote suppression is working, but that won’t last. Eventually Democrats will help people get the documentation they need to meet the ridiculous and confusing new requirements. The whole “voter integrity” sham may have given Republicans a one or maybe two-election boost in low-turnout races, while kissing off minority votes more or less permanently.
– Across the country, every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful, including every minimum wage increase, even in the red states.
– Every personhood amendment failed.
– Almost half of the Republican Congressional delegation now comes from the former Confederacy. Total coincidence, just pointing that out.
– Democrats in 2014 were up against a particularly tough climate because they had to defend 13 Senate seats in red or purple states. In 2016 Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats and at least 18 of them are likely to be competitive based on geography and demographics.
– Republican support grew deeper in 2014, not broader. For example, new Texas Governor Greg Abbott won a whopping victory in the Republic of Baptistan. That’s great, but this is a race no one ever thought would be competitive and hardly anyone showed up to vote in. Texas not only had the lowest voter turnout in the country, a position it has consistently held across decades, but that electorate is more militantly out of step with every national trend then any other major Republican bloc. Texas holds a tenth of the GOP majority in the House.
– Keep an eye on oil prices. Texas, which is at the core of GOP dysfunction, is a petro state with an economy roughly as diverse, modern and complex as Nigeria, Iran or Venezuela. It was been relatively untouched by the economic collapse because it is relatively dislocated from the US economy in general. Watch what happens if the decline in oil prices lasts more than a year.
– For all the talk about economic problems, for the past year the US economy has been running at ’90’s levels. Watch Republicans start touting a booming economy as the result of their 2014 “mandate.”
– McConnell’s conciliatory statements are encouraging, but he’s about to discover that he cannot persuade Republican Senators and Congressmen to cooperate on anything constructive. We’re about to get two years of intense, horrifying stupidity. If you thought Benghazi was a legitimate scandal that reveals Obama’s real plans for America then you’re an idiot, but these next two years will be a (briefly) happy period for you.
This is an age built for Republican solutions. The global economy is undergoing a massive, accelerating transformation that promises massive new wealth and staggering challenges. We need heads-up, intelligent adaptations to capitalize on those challenges. Republicans, with their traditional leadership on commercial issues should be at the leading edge of planning to capitalize on this emerging environment.
What are we getting from Republicans? Climate denial, theocracy, thinly veiled racism, paranoia, and Benghazi hearings. Lots and lots of hearings on Benghazi.
It is almost too late for Republicans to participate in shaping the next wave of our economic and political transformation. The opportunities we inherited coming out of the Reagan Era are blinking out of existence one by one while we chase so-called “issues” so stupid, so blindingly disconnected from our emerging needs that our grandchildren will look back on our performance in much the same way that we see the failures of the generation that fought desegregation.
Something, some force, some gathering of sane, rational, authentically concerned human beings generally at peace with reality must emerge in the next four to six years from the right, or our opportunity will be lost for a long generation. Needless to say, Greg Abbott and Jodi Ernst are not that force.
“Winning” this election did not help that force emerge. This was a dark week for Republicans, and for everyone who wants to see America remain the world’s most vibrant, most powerful nation.
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