Post-Election Thoughts

November 07, 2012

I spent yesterday morning at my polling place in Wethersfield and then after work I headed down to Waterbury to help pull votes for Elizabeth Esty and Chris Murphy. There was a noticeable difference in the turnout at the poll in the morning. I do not have official numbers and statistics yet, but I think that initial reports suggesting more young people and minorities voted are correct. Never before had I seen so many younger couples vote in my town. As a town committee member I think that involving this demographic is going to be crucial if the committee has any interest in recapturing the Town Council and expanding its membership on the Board of Education.

Linda McMahon has proven once and for all that there is an upper-limit on the value of campaign spending. In spite of all the warnings about the impact of Citizens’ United it is clear that you cannot buy an election. Once a candidate has spent a certain amount of money to make their case, the value of additional spending appears to not be helpful. We saw this when McMahon ran against Dick Blumenthal and when Tom Foley ran against Ned Lamont. This is not to say we do not need to do anything about campaign finance reform, but when faced with the choice maybe candidates will choose to watch a movie instead of attending that extra fundraiser.

Fundamentals still matter in Connecticut. Linda McMahon, like Foley and Ned Lamont ran as outsiders. This strategy might work in places where people distrust their government, but it does not work in Connecticut. Our voters overwhelming choose experienced politicians over outsiders. McMahon could have run for state senate and done quite well. Again I think it is unfortunate that these smart and hardworking people overlook the state legislature as a place where they can apply their talents before moving on to bigger things. Based on what I know about the votes, I think voters agree.

Republicans no longer have the luxury of winning elections by pandering to a conservative base and then moving to the center. Democrats have done a masterful job of giving them the rope to hang themselves and then tying any stragglers to the crazy positions or statements made by more extreme candidates or conservative activists. Over the next few months the GOP will have to decide if they want to move to the right or the middle. They can no longer have their cake and eat it too.

Finally I feel the need to respond to this editorial in the Hartford Courant on ideas for a better voting system. A shorter campaign season would probably violate the First Amendment and it is doubtful that anyone would benefit from discussing the important issues facing our country less. I know people are tired of it, but participation is generally optional. I think the idea for a nonpartisan agency to run the elections has merit. I think the third idea already exists: the news media. Newspapers, blogs, television, and radio all provide impartial analysis of the issues of the day. We do not have an information deficit, these sources merely have to figure out how to be more effective or how to get people to actually read them. Early voting is definitely something that the legislature should look at. Finally I do not think eliminating the electoral college will have as big of an impact as some believe. Instead of campaigning in Ohio and Virginia the campaigns would merely move their focus to places like New York City and Chicago.

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