I had the privilege last week of helping my brother in the final days of his successful campaign for House District 96 in Missoula. He won the race by 120 votes, and while the Democratic Party considered the district slightly blue, given the results of most of the elections Tuesday night, it's notable he won. The performance of the Democratic state senate candidate in Andrew's district bears that out. Had her district only covered the part of Missoula county covered by Andrew's district, she would have handedly lost the seat. However, thanks to a good chunk of deep blue neighborhoods in her district that are not in Andrew's (each Senate district encompasses two House districts), she was able to win. Put another way, Andrew convinced a lot of voters who were disposed to voting against Democrats--and indeed did vote against the D senate candidate right above his name -- to vote for him anyway. How? He worked his ass off. While not nearly as sprawling as some Montana legislative districts, it takes about 30 minutes on I-90 to get from one end of it to the other, and Andrew canvassed it constantly from April till election night. Last week, I spent most of my time in the Frenchtown area, which is rural and reeling from a paper pulp mill plant closure five years ago. The culture there is fundamentally different from that in Missoula, which I felt deeply as I snaked my Prius down long dirt drives to homes surrounded by ranchland. While there are plenty of reasons this shouldn't be so, the fact of the matter is the Dems have trouble with this class of voter. I hazard a serious generalization when I say they have less formal education and are more religious. There is a feeling that the Democrats put up barriers to people like them getting good jobs. (I think they have a point to an extent, though it was rich Republicans who shut down the Frenchtown Mill despite it being profitable.) What Andrew proved, though, is that by going out and looking these people in the eye and hearing what they have to say, a politician can cut through all the talking points they are fed on cable TV and AM radio. I don't think Andrew would object to me saying that now that he's elected, he'll be on probation with these rural voters till he starts voting on policy. How he'll do in their view won't be known for a while, but the fact that he put so much work into meeting every voter gives me hope that they'll feel they've been done right by.
A few more thoughts on election night 2014:
--This was Andrew's observations first, but it should be repeated: The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Amanda Curtis, received an F from the NRA this year. The D candidate for U.S. House, John Lewis, got an A. Both only got about 40 percent of the vote. Which raises a major question about how much good it does Democrats who bend over to appease groups that almost by definition repel their base. There's plenty of post-mortem talk about whether in hopes of capturing the middle the Democrats abandoned their base this year, and paid dearly for it. I think the Curtis/Lewis races show that at very least the base is as valuable as the center, in terms of votes. And they'll be with you longer if you capture their hearts, meaning Curtis' political future in the state is far brighter than Lewis'.
-- In their ecstasy, the Republicans need to remember that a majority of this nation voted Obama into office, twice, well aware of his stance immigration. For every argument that Obama pursuing his immigration agenda would equate to ignoring Tuesday's voters, I would submit that Obama not pursuing his agenda by whatever means he can in his capacity as the federal executive would be ignoring the voters who put him there in 2012. Really, the Republicans are trying to use a wild misreading of a low-turnout midterm election to essentially dictate the Oval Office agenda. (I made this post originally to On Point's website. It got 4 up-votes so definitely should be repeated here!).