What do the tea leaves from Tuesday’s off-year elections tell us about next year’s? Perhaps the main message is that the voters are angry but not crazy.
Citizens have only a blunt instrument to express their will: their vote. Their choices are limited; they don’t get to design their candidate. Voting is a little like a crude eye exam where the doctor doesn’t bother to fine tune the correction. They are given blurry and blurrier, and asked to choose.
So in the last wave election, they chose to punish Obama specifically and Democrats generally. Some of the victors, as they always do, misinterpreted the results as a mandate — a very dangerous word in politics — and tried to do some crazy things.
Ohio tried to restrict collective bargaining and Mississippi tried to redefine a fertilized egg as a person, criminalizing all abortions under any circumstances and banning some popular forms of contraception.
The voters, in their wisdom, said these measures were too much and defeated them. In other races, the results were mildly encouraging for Democrats, although that is a pretty low bar. The incumbent governor won in Kentucky and Republicans did less well than they hoped in Virginia legislative races.
Off-year elections are usually over analyzed, but I think it is fair to say that this one shows voters will still use their ballot as punishment for those who would build their own private ideological love bubble. These elections proved, once again, that the voters are often smarter and more discriminating than the people and agendas put before them.