Friday, November 14, 2014


By Dominique Paul Noth

This columnist has been surveying a range of unnoticed results from the Nov. 4 election including how the Democrats lost but Obama’s values seem to have won even in red states. I know this flies in the face of the harrumphing of John Boehner, but the facts support the president’s caution that, while the election in a few states cost his party Congress, it does not reflect the policy direction of the people.

But one  conclusion from Nov. 4 stands out so boldly that both major parties must admit it.
Bad action was clearly preferred to no action. Or the interpretation of inaction.

The GOP had a Teflon shield in the form of attacking the White House.  From the Democratic side that was strange.  For instance, when Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House, she sure acted, running the chamber to good effect and not always along partisan lines.  In fact, when Boehner took over, he only got things done when he turned to Pelosi for action with her votes.

Not recently. His sense of being torn between traditional Republicans and Tea Party members became a Beltway joke. But the Democrats had the Senate. And while Democrats interpreted their own failure to act as the Boehner blockade, the voters took it out on the Senate.

Staying with existing action seemed the way to go in state races. In Wisconsin Mary Burke lost even getting about as many votes as Scott Walker did the first time around, so this is still a split state.  But there was no relief for the many citizens  who fear that inept management was rewarded because of his familiarity to voters and his more established political machinery pumping up the popular myth of cutting taxes without explaining the profound cuts in basic services such as education and safety. Temporary pocketbook gains won over job stagnation and warnings about the economic disaster in the near future. 

But Scott Walker did act and while it may turn out silly action, it seemed appreciated by the voters over taking a risk on even  intelligent sounding unknowns led by a lesser known.

In states like Ohio and Michigan, the devil on hand was preferred to the potential unknown – even where there was good evidence that the economic, social care  and human rights record of the incumbents was  mixed or generally wrong for the future. But those governors are  not that hard to swallow if you are not directly affected –- such as living in Detroit --  and don’t look around the corner. Few were peeking around that corner to the point of changing their votes. 

Brownback of Kansas may be proof of
bad action surviving.
Nowhere was this stubborn clinging to forgiving “them good ole boys you growed up with” clearer than in Kansas.  It was 10 years ago in his best-seller that Thomas Frank outlined chapter and verse how voters rejected their own economic benefits to keep electing leaders with harmful fiscal visions.  This year it finally looked like even the Dorothys in Kansas were ready to surrender to the lessons of “What's the Matter With Kansas?” Polls indicated that the devastating tax disasters of GOP Gov. Sam Brownback had outraged Republicans and independents and were going to cost him his office.  But even Brownback won, proving that Kansas was still  not ready to abandon its audacious inept hero, much like Wisconsin won’t abandon Scott Walker despite growing evidence.

Citizens in all these states now  have to cross their fingers for the next four years and hope the benefits outweigh the damage.  It is also likely that new GOP majorities may feel overly emboldened to engage in worse practices while even many of their supporters hope they cool it.

The third of America who voted Nov. 4 didn’t seem concerned if it was local GOP misbehavior that made their family income  squeal like pigs – to borrow the horrible phrasing of successful GOP senate candidate Joni Ernst, the hog castration queen of TV ads in Iowa (who soon will face her own duplicity on Obamacare, which she opposes while supporting the popular Obamacare expansion of Medicaid in her state). 

The voters decided in many races that economic misbehavior can’t be caused by their friendly local GOP.  They agreed with those pounding television ads and the subtler tilt of media coverage over the years.  It’s like FOX keeps telling us.  It all had to come from higher up, right? All the failure, echoed the big money boys and the hedge fund paranoids, stemmed from that guy in the White House, not anything those nice Republicans did in your community. It worked even better if the Democrat on the other side tried to defend himself by stepping way off from the president since the voters seemed to dislike him.

Obama refused a joint but accepted a beer with Hickenlooper .
But Democratic candidates who openly ran away from Obama – Grimes in Kentucky, Tennant in South Carolina, Pryor in Arkansas, Nunn in George, Hagen in North Carolina – went down, and those who relied on social ideology rather than action, such as Colorado Sen. Mark Udall,  lost.  Yet in Colorado, the larger issues of women’s rights were supported and the NRA attack on a Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, not only didn’t stop his victory, but cost them the seats of two rabid NRA GOP supporters.   Indeed, Hickenlooper (who won by larger margins that many expected) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire demonstrated that standing up for the president was a winning course. Local issues predominated in races where those who stood by Obama lost, mainly newcomers like Burke or party changers like Florida’s Charlie Crist. But local issues worked against Republicans in surprising House races.

Another lesson is reflected in those  completely mistaken predictions in Kansas – the polls were askew everywhere. It was flat screwy given the amount of space and air time devoted to these polls.  Races called close weren’t, some called close were but not in the ways anticipated. Some races conceded by pollsters to the GOP proved rare bright spots for the Democrats (Hickenlooper and Gov. Dan Malloy in Connecticut, who both clung to Obama policies), and some races  thought no contest at all became squeakers (Democrat Sen. John Warner in Virginia). It was like looking at a Google map on a fading flickering smart phone.

In a nonpresidential year local politics are hard to measure.  But it sure made the media blather both left and right look foolish and maybe will wake up journalists to more caution about off-year polls in the future. 

Running against Obama worked in Senate and House races to a ludicrous degree of rhetorical excess.  By my count of TV ads, some 70 sitting Democrats were attacked for being the “deciding vote for Obamacare,” an impossibility except for those who do not believe in either science or math.

But what is wrong with the Affordable Care Act? That is the formal name for Obamacare and scores much higher in the polls as ACA  than Obamacare, which also tells us something.  If you ask voters who oppose it, they don’t know why, except that it is complicated.  In fact it is supported in most states where the GOP won including Kentucky.  And the complications of the law, history tells us, were mainly to win Republican votes in Congress.

Even on TV, McConnell pretended it wasn't Obamacare.
If you ask candidates they deepen the ridiculous. It’s not just Ernst in Iowa attacking Obamacare while quietly supporting its Medicaid expansion.  Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in an otherwise gracious and politically savvy victory speech, espoused some nonsense even for his supporters –- that the voters clearly rejected the excise tax on medical devices. Huh? Did anyone know they were voting on that?  
Despite Mitch at full croak the small tax  doesn’t cost jobs and the ACA has increased volume for medical devices and should bring in $29 billion over nine years that otherwise would have to be offset by other federal revenue. So this is yet another backdoor way of attacking the careful balance of paying for health care.

And then Mitch threw in another left-fielder --- claiming his GOP majority was universally pushing to lower the highest corporate tax rates. You know, the one no business is paying. That also sidestepped that Obama had been pleading with him to reform the tax code (though Obama wants to lift the free tax ride for oil and gas companies as well, and they are Mitch’s big money machine).  This reminded observers that the heart and soul of Kentucky’s Obamacare is the very successful Kynect, and Mitch tries to pretend it’s just a website, knowing full well it would collapse without the ACA.

McConnell simply interpreted GOP victories to fit the pet projects he had promised his financial supporters.  It is a wallow in Mitch hollow, not a citizen need.

Frankly, I have asked voters, and they are hard-pressed to explain, what is so offensive about the ACA, unless they believe the hysteria over pending job losses, and the fabrications around higher costs to health care even though realities are moving the other way.  I am coming to the conclusion that these GOP voters are simply like helmet-opposing motorcycle riders who don’t want any regulation telling them to  do something because it’s  better for themselves and the people driving alongside them.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its famous entertainment Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with its still operative archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as pieces at his Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for 

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