Skip to main content

Note: Use the comments section to tell us what your bellweather list is, and what races/initiatives you are watching. - D

So how will we know the shape, size and depth of whatever mandate comes out of this, the most ideologically polarized election since 1980? Top-line numbers from the presidential contest are only going to give us a snapshot of what really happened. We're going to have to look at specific bellweather races and ballot initiatives to really know what happened at a structural level. Here are the bellweathers I'll be watching, beyond the state-by-state results in the presidential race:


- Proposition 8: Relegated to seemingly permanent minority status, Golden State conservatives are resorting to a social/cultural message with this anti-gay-marriage initiative. Its success or failure will either embolden or crush these kind of wedge tactics both in California and in similar  blue states where conservatives are looking for a foothold.


- The Udall-Schaffer Senate race: This election will tell us if an aggressively pro-environment Democrat can win against a movement conservative in a state once considered off-limits for pro-environment Democrats.

- Amendment 46: Sponsored by the infamous Ward Connerly, this disgusting initiative aims to stoke the old Angry White Man backlash against minorities and women with a measure to essentially ban affirmative action and equal opportunity programs. The latest Denver Post poll suggests this is going to be a close one - if progressives defeat it, they will show that even here in the heart of the Mountain West, we can defeat race/gender-based wedge politics.

- Amendment 47: This is the anti-union right-to-work measure, aimed at destroying Colorado's labor movement. This state has a long history of anti-union politics - if right-to-work is defeated, it will signal that unions are starting to figure out how to fight off the worst anti-union measures in some of the most virulently anti-union states.


- African American Turnout: Will African American turnout be significantly higher in these southern states in 2008, and will that increased turnout be enough to swing both contested presidential and key down-ballot races blue? If yes, it will dent political scientist Tom Schaller's theory that progressive efforts to compete in the South are futile.


- Question 1: Massachusetts voters face a Grover Norquist-type ballot initiative to repeal its income tax. Though the Northeast has been dominated by Democrats in recent years, this initiative represents an attempt by conservatives to start moving their right-wing economic populism into blue-state strongholds. How this fares will suggest how similar initiatives and legislative bills fare in this Democratic region.


- State Senate: If Democrats take back the State Senate for the first time in almost 4 decades, they will have full control of the legislature that governs one of the largest and most financially powerful states in the nation. With that control comes the possibility of serious progressive policy reform.

- Working Families Party Turnout: As the New York Times recently reported, the Working Families Party has been building itself into a statewide force for the last decade, playing an integral role in trying to turn the New York legislature blue. If the state senate goes Democrat, and if the WFP receives an upswing of votes on its ballot line for Obama, it will boost this increasingly powerful party both in New York, and perhaps boost the fusion model for expansion into other states.


- The Smith-Merkley Senate Race: As I wrote in a  newspaper column in October, the senate race between incumbent Sen. Gordon Smith (R) and challenger Jeff Merkley (D) provides arguably the starkest economic contrast on key issues like trade and globalization - and in a state where populist Democrats are supposedly unable to run on such issues. Should Merkley win with his anti-NAFTA, anti-Wall-Street-bailout campaign, it will prove that even in a state like Oregon with a significant export economy, Democrats can compete and win with a populist economic message.


- The Trauner-Lummis House Race: In 2006, Democrat Gary Trauner came within a few hundred votes of winning Dick Cheney's old House seat in not only the most Republican state in the nation, but a state acutely affected by many of the most pressing energy, environmental and infrastructural challenges. If he wins his 2008 race against State Treasurer Cynthia Lummis, it will indicate that progressives can compete on such previously difficult political and issue terrain.

* * *

We all have our own lists of races we'll be watching, and mine is by no means a comprehensive list - but it does focus in on campaigns that pivot less on individual candidates (like, say, the Coleman-Franken race in Minnesota or the Markey-Musgrave race in Colorado) and more on ideology, issue themes and archetypes.

The outcomes of these races, combined with the presidential resuts, will give us a lot more detail about what kind of mandate - if any - comes out of the 2008 election. With that detail we will have a better idea of what comprises both majority policy that the nation is ready to embrace, as well as what good, election-winning politics looks like in the 21st century.

Originally posted to davidsirota on Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 10:41 AM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site