The election is over and I've decided that my state may not ready for self-government. I’m reasonably happy with the voting results but the process seems crazy. I live, and vote, in Missouri, at one time considered to be a bellwether state for elections. Years ago, Missouri usually picked the winner in presidential races. Some experts argued that the state actually was a follower...waiting until it was reasonably clear who the winner would be and then piling on. Whatever. Those days are long gone.
This year we had the amazing spectacle of Todd Akin running for senator against the incumbent, Claire McCaskill. Todd Akin faced two other potential candidates in the state's GOP primary election and was, arguably, the weakest Republican in the primary. The run up to the primary election was filled with TV ads from the GOP candidates as well as pro-Akin ads run by Claire McCaskill. Polls showed that she would have a better chance running against Akin so she spent some money trying to have him win the primary. I admit that I'm a liberal Democrat and I followed the polls and decided to cross over to vote for Akin in the GOP primary so he would be the candidate. I've met Claire a few times and I'm not a big fan but she is better than the other candidates. I knew Akin would self-destruct but I thought he would do it later in the race and not is such an amazing fashion. I don't think he lasted ten days before going over the edge into wingnut-land. He wouldn't quit and kept running his mouth until he damaged the image of the entire Republican Party and probably had a bearing on Romney’s defeat.
In the end, Claire's strategy was a success and she turned a probable loss into a strong win. I don't recall this type of strategy being used in Missouri in the past. Maybe I was just not aware of it. Missouri's presidential vote went overwhelmingly for Romney while the senatorial vote went for Claire. Tens of thousands of Republicans crossed over to keep Akin from winning...a fact that seems lost on Akin and his supporters and most of the Republican Party leadership. Senatorial elections are always interesting in Missouri...we once elected a dead candidate to keep John Ashcroft from getting a second term.
Ballot measures were interesting as well. The City of St. Louis finally gained control over its own police force after almost 150 years of the police being controlled by a state appointed board. After the Civil War the radical Republican state government decided that St. Louis couldn't be trusted to run its own police and it has stayed that way all these years. There was also a Republican attempt to overturn the state's model nonpartisan process of selecting Supreme Court and appellate judges. Luckily, that failed...but stay tuned, they are not finished yet and they gained full control of the legislature.
There were two proposals that exhibit the most voter irrationality. One was a proposed increase in the tobacco tax from the current level of 17-cents per pack of cigarettes to 90-cents. Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the country and the proposal would raise it to somewhere in the middle of the states' rates...nothing extreme. That measure failed, in part because of the argument that voters couldn't trust those shifty, lying, two-faced politicians in the state legislature to spend the money on education as it was intended. They would spend it on pet projects. Okay, but those shifty, lying, two-faced legislators are the ones voters put in office. So the voters’ remedy is to not increase revenue for education as punishment or as a safeguard against the politicians that they sent to the legislature in the first place. Clearly we need to spend more on education.
The other crazy proposal was a measure to prohibit the Governor or a state agency from "establishing or operating state-based health insurance exchanges unless authorized by a vote of the people or by the legislature." This was an attempt to undermine Obamacare and it will eventually be in conflict with federal law and be thrown out. But, of course, it passed. Thousands of voters who voted for Obama turned around and voted in favor of the proposal to undercut Obamacare. I don't recall seeing any ads for or against this proposal so it may be something that was decided once the voter had the ballot in hand. The Secretary of State tried to word the ballot language so it was clearer but that was challenged in court by the Republicans. Oh well, it looks like it won't matter much anyway.
Then there is the issue of redistricting or…Gerrymandering. The state was redistricted after the 2010 census and the various plans were debated until finally the court stepped in. I think that is the usual process for redistricting in Missouri. We should just call it the Gerrymandering Commission and be done with it. Anyway, only a few weeks before the election I had a candidate show up at my door…somebody I had never heard of. Surprise, surprise…I live in an area that is part of a house district that is almost entirely in a different county across the Missouri River but swims across somehow and sneaks through some soybean and corn fields to pick up my house and about fifty of my neighbors. I had been following the wrong election for weeks. I had been getting phone calls from the other candidates urging me to vote for them so they didn’t know where the district line was either. The county across the river is more likely to vote Democratic sometimes than my own county. The candidate at my door was the Democratic candidate and she lost. I must assume that my neighbors voted Republican, as they do on everything else. So, was that new district line drawn to include more Republican voters into a district that might sometime lean Democratic? Probably the answer is “yes”, but there is no way to be sure.
Such is life in the Show-me State.
Causes Ken Hartke Supports
Save the Children, public broadcasting