Friday, November 05, 2010

Devaluing the Vote?

Iowans dismiss three justices:

Three Iowa Supreme Court justices lost their seats Tuesday in a historic upset…

Wow. Must have been because of rulings they made that impacted jobs and the economy in Iowa. Because almost everyone--from President Obama during his news conference on Wednesday to Tom Emmer during his entire campaign for governor of Minnesota--has been telling us that this election was all about jobs and the economy.

…fueled by their 2009 decision that allowed same-sex couples to marry.

Vote totals from 96 percent of Iowa's 1,774 precincts showed Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit with less than the simple majority needed to stay on the bench.

Their removal marked the first time an Iowa Supreme Court justice has not been retained since 1962, when the merit selection and retention system for judges was adopted.

The decision is expected to echo to courts throughout the country, as conservative activists had hoped. "It appears we're headed for a resounding victory tonight and a historic moment in the state of Iowa," said Bob Vander Plaats, the Sioux City businessman who led a campaign to remove the justices because of the 2009 gay marriage ruling. "The people of Iowa stood up in record numbers and sent a message ... that it is 'We the people,' not 'We the courts.' "

Wait a second. You mean to tell me that social issues still matter? That people are motivated to vote for particular candidates because of their stands on these issues and that these issues can make the difference in the election's outcome? Who would have thunk it?

Certainly not Tom Emmer. Just a few short weeks ago, the Republican candidate for governor appeared on a local weekend conservative talk radio show. When the brash young host dared raise a question about one of these issues, Emmer immediately slapped the whippersnapper down by retorting, "We're not going to talk about that. We're only going to talk about jobs and the economy."

And what has all that talk about jobs and the economy gotten Emmer? A nine-thousand vote deficit and looming recount that he will almost assuredly lose. To Mark bleepin' Dayton. A commenter named rpworldwide1 has an excellent summary of why Emmer's refusal to discuss social issues may have cost him the race at Shot in the Dark:

Answer: Well, I sensed there was trouble with Emmer when I talked to my mom the day before the election. She is a loyal Republican but cares deeply about the “values” issues. She was not thrilled with Emmer. Said she was tired of his almost “bullheaded” insistence that the campaign was about “jobs and the economy.”

She said “I’ll vote for him of course, but I’m not thrilled about it.” Of course, this is one piece of anecdotal evidence, but I think you need to acknowledge the obvious elephant in the room here. Emmer ran a bad campaign.

MN is a pro-life, pro-family state with lots of Christians who care much about these issues. All Emmer had to do was just acknowledge that these things were important to a lot of people and that he stood with them on these issues. It doesn’t appear that he did that sufficiently, although I’m praying for a turnaround in the recount.

Amen. And it wasn't as if there weren't some glorious opportunities to do so. You may remember that a certain rather prominent Christian denomination here in the Twin Cities sent out a DVD to its members explaining the church's teaching on gay marriage. At the time, liberals were outraged and speculated that there was likely collusion between the church leaders and the Emmer campaign on the timing of the DVD mailing. Hah. Turns out they had nothing to fret about as Emmer made sure that he would do nothing that in any way might have played the matter to his advantage.

And there is at least some evidence that suggests that members of this particular church were open to being influenced by social issues. Religion in the 2010 Election: A Preliminary Look - Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life:

Among all Catholic voters, 54% voted for Republican congressional candidates in 2010, up 12 points compared with 2008. Among white Catholics, nearly six-in-ten (59%) voted Republican in 2010, compared with 39% who voted Democratic. By comparison, 52% of white Catholics voted for Republican congressional candidates in 2008, and 49% voted Republican in 2006.

It's hard to say why there was such a large switch among Catholic voters and the economy may indeed have been the determining factor. But it's also quite possible that gay marriage and ObamaCare--in particularly the abortion provisions--were influential as well.

Consider what happened in Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District. Why was longtime incumbent Jim Oberstar chased from office by Chip Cravaack this year? It wasn't like this was the first time Oberstar has ever ran for reelection in a difficult economy. And the period between 2008 and 2010 wasn't the first time that Oberstar voted to spend more money or expand the scale and scope of the federal government.

What was different this time around was that the voters in the Eighth were finally able to understand that when it came to abortion, Oberstar was pro-life in name only. His decision to set aside his supposedly staunch pro-life principles to vote for ObamaCare showed where he really stood when the rubber was introduced to the road. And people noticed. SBA List Defeats 15 of 20 Votes Have Consequences Targets:

Today, the Susan B. Anthony List announced that it successfully defeated 15 of its 20 targeted self-described “pro-life” Democrats who voted for the pro-abortion health care bill as part of its “Votes Have Consequences” project.

“Last night, the SBA List accomplished its overall goal and delivered on our promise that votes have consequences,” SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said. “In these races, the abortion issue was a determining factor. We flexed the muscles of the pro-life movement. Our project started more than a year ago when we targeted these districts to strengthen pro-life Democrats' resolve to vote against abortion funding in health care reform. When the so-called ‘pro-life’ Democrats caved, our mission had to change. By defeating 15 of 20 these self-described pro-life Democrats, we have sent a clear message to Washington that voting against the deeply held pro-life views of your constituency has serious political consequences.”

Targets defeated included: Rep. Brad Ellsworth (IN-SEN); Rep. Steve Driehaus (OH-01); Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (PA-03); Bart Stupak (Retired, MI-01); Alan Mollohan (Primary defeat, WV-01); Baron Hill (IN-09); Paul Kanjorski (PA-11); John Salazar (CO-03); Jim Oberstar (MN-08); Bob Etheridge (NC-02); John Boccieri (OH-16); Chris Carney (PA-10); John Spratt (SC-05); Ciro Rodriguez (TX-23); and Charlie Wilson (OH-06). The SBA List also supported the re-election campaign of Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-03), the lone member of the Stupak Coalition to vote against the health care bill because of its abortion funding problems.

Had Oberstar voted against ObamaCare he almost certainly would have been reelected as his Democratic colleague Collin Peterson--who had the courage to follow his pro-life convictions in voting against it--was in Minnesota's Seventh District. Social issues did matter in the Eighth District. Tom Emmer's refusal to talk about them may help explain why while Chip Cravaack beat Oberstar by 4,402 votes, Emmer lost the Eighth District to Dayton by around 20,000 (rough estimate) and why he ran behind Cravaack in every single county in the district.

Jobs and the economy were probably the most important issues in the 2010 election. But they weren't the only issues and candidates who focused like a laser beam on them while ignoring other issues that mattered to voters did so at their own peril. Just ask Tom Emmer.