Midterm elections don't come with the same sort of intensity and attention as, say, presidential campaigns. But this year's midterms, in which Republicans retook the Senate in an absolute bloodbath for Democrats, are a bit of a headscratcher. This excellent tweet from FiveThirtyEight's Ben Casselman perfectly captures this.
Casselman's right. Let's recap:
- In Colorado, voters rejected Amendment 67, a proposal to add "unborn human beings" to the state's criminal code, a measure that some feared could ban abortion. Colorado's "personhood" amendment, along with similar measures in Tennessee and North Dakota, are seen as major threats to legal abortion in the United States. As of this writing, Tennessee's ballot initative has passed, while the fate of North Dakota's remains uncertain.
- Washington D.C. and Oregon both legalized recreational marijuana. Marijuana legalization is something of a new gay marriage, a litmus test for the divide between older voters and younger, more socially liberal voters. In Oregon, young voters drove the push for legalization, while the decidedly older electorate of Florida rejected the state ballot initiative, despite polling showing 90% in support of medical marijuana use.
- Minimum wage advocates eked out major wins in Nebraska and Arkansas when both states passed initiatives to raise the minimum wage on Tuesday night. The ballot measures had well over 60% of the votes in both states, according to early results.
Abortion, minimum wage and marijuana are all generally considered pet issues for liberals and Democrats. But despite this, America's voters opted for a Republican majority in the legislature.
Slate's William Saletan offers an interesting theory — the Republicans who captured the Senate aren't the Republicans you'd expect:
Republicans won big in the 2014 elections. They captured the Senate and gained seats in the House. But they didn't do it by running to the right. They did it, to a surprising extent, by embracing ideas and standards that came from the Left. I'm not talking about gay marriage, on which Republicans have caved, or birth control, on which they've made over-the-counter access a national talking point. I'm talking about the core of the liberal agenda.
Voters: They move in mysterious ways.