|Big winner: Sen. Mitch "The Turtle" McConnell & wife Elaina Chao|
As many of you know, I’m a moderate Democrat with some rather conservative beliefs compared to my more liberal friends. Maybe that’s why about half of my closest pals are Republican. Actually, come to think of it, perhaps a little more than half of my friends are Republican. Now before you start psychoanalyzing me, I bring this up only because of what happened last night. You know, the election? Not surprisingly, my Republican friends are dizzily happily today about the results.
It was a big night for the Grand Old Party, obviously. Some people I know are calling it a “tidal wave," and some are even calling it a "mandate." They note the net pickup of nine seats in the Senate and the larger majority now in the House. And they keep reminding me about the several states that replaced Democratic governors last night with Republicans.
That’s a story, for sure. It's huge. There is certainly a palpable rebuke of President Obama here, regardless of whether it is based on anything substantive or fair. But while I'm perfectly happy to congratulate my buddies and their party for the big victory, y'all need to turn down the giddy just a bit.
Here's the cold fact: only one-third of the country’s eligible voters cast a ballot last night. You can’t call an election a national mandate when two-thirds of eligible voters stayed home. Young Americans and Latino Americans, specifically, sat this one out.
Overall, last night was a fairly typical midterm election for a president in his second term. There were a lot of angry voters who don't like this President, and there were huge chunks of the American electorate that didn’t vote at all. Now I’m not defending that by any means. I wish everyone would vote in these midterms. But let’s talk after the 2016 election. We’ll see then how much of a national mandate last night really was.
Republicans will still control the Senate after 2016, probably, but they will not win back the White House. And Democrats will still have a hard time winning midterms. These two facts will likely not change any time in the near future.
The key point my Republican friends should remind themselves while they jump for joy today is that when more Americans vote, more Democrats win (except, of course, in those preposterously gerrymandered House districts). Generally speaking, the fewer the voters, the more successful the Republicans. That is antithetical to anything resembling a "mandate." And it's certainly not something of which any of my Republican friends should be proud.
Just as a quick reminder: President Obama is just slightly more popular right now than was George W. Bush in his sixth year in office. Obama’s approval rate is about 41, while W’s was 37. Which is to say, neither guy was much beloved their last two years in Washington.
The crushing blow to those who think this election shows that the Republican Party is the Party of America's Future is the fact that young people barely showed up last night, and the ones who did voted mostly for Democrats.
According to CIRCLE, a nonpartisan academic research center at Tufts University that studies young people in politics, just 21.3 percent of voters ages 18-29 cast a ballot Tuesday across the country. “In terms of both youth turnout and vote choice, 2014 looks like a typical midterm election year as far as youth are concerned," said Peter Levine, Associate Dean of the Tisch College at Tufts. "Young people made up a similar proportion of voters in 2010."
In the national exit poll data on House races, 18-29 year-olds preferred Democratic candidates by 54 percent to 43 percent. In many close senatorial and gubernatorial races, too, young Americans preferred Democrats.
And then there's the Hispanic vote. NBC News reported this morning that Latinos made up only eight percent of voters last night. In Florida, Hispanics made up only 13 percent of the electorate, which helped keep the state seeing red.
Before the election, NBC reporter Sandra Lilley noted, voter groups were hoping the growing numbers of Latino voters in Florida - especially Puerto Rican voters who are U.S. citizens - would boost the numbers. But turnout was not as big as expected.
But virtually every observer of this election agrees that young Americans and Latino Americans will vote in far greater numbers in the next presidential election in two years. That's likely when most of my good Republican friends will stop dancing.