With about a week for the voters and the pundits to pause and reflect after Election Day 2012, I just cannot hold back: “You wanna get into this?!” In fact, we all should “get into this”, taking into account the aftermath of the contentious 30th Congressional district race, one of the most expensive elections in the country.
Junior Congressman Brad Sherman has taken the new 30th District, despite the line-up of the entire Democratic Congressional Delegation, plus a few Republican Senators thrown in, which supported the elder statesman Howard Berman. Sherman won by twenty points, a greater margin than a number of polls had originally projected.
Howard Berman had time, energy, experience, authority, reason, and even some passion behind his run for reelection. Fellow political machine partner Henry Waxman lambasted the editors in the Jewish Journal for equivocating Berman’s and Sherman’s records in Congress. The two bald, Democrat Jewish Congressmen in the new 30th sparred over who first authorized a provisional version of the DREAM Act. They begged for votes, Democrats and Republicans, to get the edge. Minute differences, exaggerated by personal attacks and petty attacking points, seemed to have had but a minor impact. I met Republican and undecided voters from the district, many of whom remained undecided within the last week before the election.
What happened? Geography and local legacy happened, and both were against Berman from the beginning. The new 30th District contained more than half of Sherman’s old district, yet less than one fourth of Berman’s previous constituency. The numbers and the connections alone strongly suggested that Sherman would take the seat.
However, even if you were a Berman supporter, even if you were a conservative who is convinced that Leftist Tom Hayden’s connections with Brad Sherman will cause more problems and create another political machine that supports illiberally liberal Congressmen, even if you think that Brad Sherman is a corrupt bully, there is more reason to rejoice and more to reflect upon than a half-full glass of milk spilled with nothing but tears for fears remaining.
First of all, the power of national party incumbency as a reason for or against a candidate has been wiped out for good. The residents of the 30th Congressional district could not be swayed, even if President Barack Obama had stepped in to cast his support for either candidate. Obama supported Waxman, an unusual move considering that for 38 years Waxman did not even need endorsements, let alone a campaign, but the demographics in the new 33rd strongly signaled a Democratic edge.
Second, the growing role of the Hispanic vote is coming into full force. Some pundits early on pointed out that Sherman’s more Latino constituency maintained a larger representation in the district than the predominant Valley Jewish vote. Local and national elections in the future must pay attention to this growing voting bloc, a conservative constituency which feels alienated by Republicans because of “harsh” or “ inconsiderate” stances on immigration. If Republicans pay more attention to streamlining the welfare programs and the naturalization process, the Democratic Party will lose its one line of criticism that has disillusioned Hispanics away from the GOP.
Third, the role and the character of Congressional races have been manifested and validated fully. The intended purpose of the Framers, their expectations about the outcomes of the popular vote, has been maintained once again. Congressmen respond to and depend on the direct popular vote of their districts, not outside influence, as it should be. Perhaps instead of flipping House Seats across the country, national party leaders need to focus on preparing a simple, comprehensive platforms, and let the local candidates take care of the rest, letting them press the pressing issues in their districts on their own terms.
On another note, national party leaders should pay more attention to the election of US Senators, whose representation is crucial to the integrity of the states and the country. Senators who vote on confirmations to Executive Cabinet positions and federal judges should not be elected in so popular a franchise as direct election. The carping and infighting of Congressional races, exposed in the intensity of the 30th district race, does not belong among Senatorial candidates. Two qualified candidates in Indiana and Missouri lost their elections in part because of stray remarks, in part because the voters viewed their views on austerity as too severe. The state legislatures better understand the fiscal impact of a federal government which refuses to pass a budget, which refuses to invest state tax funds and return dollars to the states. Legislatures can guard the integrity and authority of their states better, just as individual voters will best articulate their interests to their Congressional representatives.
Following the highlighted 30th Congressional District race, Republicans can retool their message to reach out to minorities and offer a positive vision reaching out to every other voter still feeling the pinch of spend-thrift government still unchecked. The next two years will be Democratic infighting on a statewide scale, with nothing but opportunities for a transformed Republican Party to take back the state.