2010 Election Gifts
By now we're all familiar with the fact that Republican victories on Election Day led to massive gains in Congress. Of course this puts the GOP in a much stronger position to advance its agenda - or at least thwart the Obama agenda for the next two years. Both are crucially important to be sure, but as most of us spend the weekend exchanging gifts, we should stop and consider a few of the other 2010 election "gifts" that are just as important for the long term.
Conservatives are more excited
The election validated over a year's worth of polls suggesting that conservatives were much more excited about casting their ballots than liberals or even independents were. The result was not only an overwhelming victory for Republicans, but an eight percent increase in voter turnout over the last midterm election in 2006.
This excitement demonstrated itself not only in results and turnout, but also in the candidates that were on the ballot to begin with. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there were 6,115 state legislative seats up for grabs, and over 11,000 candidates running. Of those, Republicans ran 822 more than in 2008, while Democrats ran 50 less. In other words, excited conservatives translated into more Republican candidates.
The State House Revolutions
Despite all of the national attention that was focused on the battle for control of Congress, another (and perhaps more important) battle was playing out down the ballot all across the country. Specifically, the battle to control state legislatures. The result was the biggest win for Republicans since 1928.
The GOP had a net gain of approximately six-hundred and eighty seats, and took control of an additional twenty legislative chambers, giving the party unified control of twenty-five state legislatures, (fourteen more than before Election Day). Add to that a net pickup of six governor's mansions and there are now twenty states with complete Republican control of state government.
As the old saying goes, you can't beat somebody with nobody, and this election took out a large portion of the bench from which Democrats can draw candidates for higher office. The GOP bench got a lot deeper.
Impact on policy
Another impact of this revolution down the ballot is that we should see increased Republican success in implementing more conservative policy ideas. It's hard to demonstrate alternatives in governing philosophy if you don't have the power to enact your ideas into law and then be judged on the merits, rather than on the misinformation of your opposition. State level Republicans will now have a greater chance to do just that.
This brings us to that other all important byproduct of state government: redistricting.
The difference between the "wave" elections of 1994 and 2010 is timing. This election came at the most opportune time to increase a party's influence over the political maps that elections will be fought over for the next decade. Republicans now control the drawing of more legislative seats than at any time since the 1920's.
All told, Republicans will have total control over the new boundaries of approximately one-hundred and ninety-five congressional districts, while the Democrats will have total control over forty-nine, (ten years ago, their positions were essentially reversed). Also, the GOP holds control in most of the states that will either gain or lose congressional districts as a result of the reapportionment caused by the 2010 Census.
Keep in mind that when it comes to redistricting, state legislatures will not only be redrawing boundaries for congressional districts, but also for themselves, which means that the election maps for state house and senate races over the next decade will be more favorable to the GOP. This increases the odds that they will be in a similarly strong position ten years from now.
More than ever before, Republicans will be able to pick the political and demographic ground that they will fight on.
An excited conservative base, more control over policy, and more control over district lines certainly increases the chances of future Republican success, but there is an additional reason for optimism. Political geography. Republicans are more effectively scattered across more congressional districts, while Democrats tend to be in large numbers in overwhelmingly Democrat (but far fewer) districts. The result is that Republicans don't need to win in Democrat territory so much as Democrats need to win in Republican territory.
Of course any hopes for the future are accompanied by the standard caveat that congressional Republicans don't do something stupid, like return to drunken sailor on payday tendencies.
Hope springs eternal.
(cross posted at DrewMcKissick.com)