On the 100th anniversary of the publication of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," a discussion about why the poem and poet are well-loved but misunderstood.
Last night Republicans held on to their majority in the House. Democrats retained a slim lead in the Senate by winning a series of high profile races. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren unseated Scott Brown. In Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly took the seat once held by Richard Lugar and considered a Republican stronghold. At the statehouse level, North Carolina Republican Pat McCrory will be the first GOP governor since 1988. Maine and Maryland became the first states in the country to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. Washington state and colorado voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. A panel of journalists joins Diane to discuss highlights of state elections and what they portend for the nation.
- Susan Davis chief congressional reporter for USA Today.
- Greg Giroux political reporter for Bloomberg News.
- Nathan Gonzales deputy editor of The Rothenberg Political Report.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The 2012 election left the balance of power in the 113th Congress basically unchanged. Republicans will retain control of the House and Democrats the Senate, but there will be several high-profile new faces.
MS. DIANE REHMThe GOP added to its governor edge and state ballot measures passed legalizing recreational marijuana and same-sex marriage. Joining me in the studio to talk about these results, Nathan Gonzales of The Rothenberg Political Report, Susan Davis of USA Today and Greg Giroux of Bloomberg News.
MS. DIANE REHMYou are always an important part of the program. Call us today, 800-433-8850. Send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, everybody.
MS. SUSAN DAVISGood morning, Diane.
MR. NATHAN GONZALESGood morning, Diane.
MR. GREG GIROUXGood morning.
REHMGood to have you all here. Are you awake?
REHMBarely, that's what I would have thought. Nathan Gonzales, with the balance of power in Congress remaining pretty much the same, what could change?
GONZALESWell, there isn't going to be a change in the majorities. We know that even though there is -- there could be up to -- there's close to a dozen House races that are still too close to call. We're waiting those out. But the majority isn't in question anymore in the Senate or the House.
GONZALESAnd so what we're left with is after $6 billion spent on this campaign, we have roughly the same government that we had before and both parties are going to have to decide how they're going to come together. I know you talked about that a little bit in the last hour, but they're going to have to make some tough decisions on how -- where and how they want to come together, if they want to do it at all.
REHMAnd Susan Davis, they're going to have to deal with the fiscal cliff, big question whether the two sides can find a way to come together considering the presidential election.
DAVISAbsolutely. I think you did see last night coming from the losing side of Senate Republicans from Mitch McConnell, from John Cornyn. I think initially they seemed to strike sort of a conciliatory tone. Mitch McConnell said, if President Obama comes halfway, we'll meet him in the middle.
DAVISNow whether this is going to play out, we'll see. I think we're already seeing from Harry Reid in the Senate who feels really good about his position. Democrats picked up two seats. I think it's -- we can't really underscore enough how emboldened Senate Democrats are going to feel on their position, particularly on things like the Bush tax cuts and raising taxes on the highest earners.
DAVISAlready John Boehner, who is going to be the Speaker in the House again, has already laid out a marker saying, this is not a mandate. There is no mandate to raise taxes. So the battle lines have not really changed and in some ways, Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate both feel more emboldened going into the lame duck session.
REHMMore emboldened, Greg?
GIROUXYeah, the House Republicans, they had some big gains in the 2010 election. They didn't lose that many of their seats. They're going to wind up after all of the, you know, ballot counts and recounts where necessary, with only, you know, only fewer seats than they have right now.
GIROUXAnd the Senate, as Susan mentioned, is probably plus one or plus two for the Democrats and will slightly increase, strengthen their negotiating hand there. So I can see some evidence why both sides would be emboldened. I think House Republicans would say that, yeah, we defended our majority, even after these big gains in 2010. And Senate Democrats are emboldened because they had an unfavorable -- they had to defend more than twice as many seats as the Republicans and they wound up with gains themselves.
REHMBut isn't there some message, some takeaway that both sides get from the overall election to the extent that the American people want to see change? They want these people to work together, not to proclaim, this is the line in the sand, but rather to say, we've got to work this out.
DAVISI think that's true, but I do think we've seen, at least rhetorically, some of that. I think Mitch McConnell saying, I'm willing to meet you halfway is a tremendous turnaround from the statement he made after Barack Obama won and said, my single objective is to make sure he's a one-term president.
DAVISI mean, that's a notable tonal shift. I just don't believe that no matter what happened yesterday, Republicans, particularly in the House, are going to change their position on taxes. I don't think the party...
REHMThey're going to have to.
DAVISAnd this is where the question comes in when we talk about the fiscal cliff. Are we going to go over it? And I talked to people, particularly Republicans on Capitol Hill, that said the re-election of Barack Obama pretty much guarantees that they're going to go over the cliff and that the only way they're going to get around it is that if you can send back another tax cut bill that doesn't include the top earners, but that they won't proactively vote to raise taxes.
REHMDo you agree, Nathan?
GONZALESWell, I think what we have to remember about the House is that in virtually every competitive House race, Democrats attack Republicans for the Paul Ryan budget for wanting to dismantle social security and Medicare so we're talking about 70 races where this was the Democratic message and Republicans won, you know, they held up under that attack.
GONZALESAnd so that's not an incentive for Republicans. You know, they say, well, we stood up for our beliefs and we're still standing. You know, we're a few -- there's a little bit of a smaller caucus, but we're still standing and so I actually think, you know, I picked up a little bit from a couple of Republicans that there may be some compromise on taxes specifically to the million-dollar -- to millionaires.
GONZALESBecause at least a couple of people that I talked to, they're concerned that they're just tired of the party being branded as the party of millionaires and so if they give a little, maybe there's a way to come together.
REHMLet's talk about some of the Congressional races, and most prominently Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts. Susan?
DAVISIt's not a surprise that Elizabeth Warren won. I think going into this, I think it was pretty clear that she had the edge and that just the sheer Democratic lean of that state was too much for Scott Brown to overcome. I think Elizabeth Warren is a good example of what a good night it was for women last night.
DAVISIn 1996, it was historically known as the year of the woman because it sent four non-incumbent first-timers in, including Patty Murray who is the Senate Democratic campaign chief, who sort of orchestrated all these races last night. This year, we sent five and not including the incumbents like Claire McCaskill won re-election, new women.
DAVISSo women in the Senate will be -- they'll have 20 senators in the next Congress, the highest number of women that have ever served in the United States Senate. So I think that that was sort of a tremendous -- one of the cultural tonal shifts that we saw last night that was one of these great undercurrents of 2012.
REHMWhy do you think that came about, Greg?
GIROUXWhy so many women were elected? Well, we're starting to see more women run for the House Representatives and the Senate. I believe we had a record number of women who were nominees for federal office this year, over 180 if I'm not mistaken.
GIROUXAnd when you have more women running for office, fielding more candidates, you're going to have greater opportunities to win those seats. And as Susan mentioned, 20 is a high-water mark. The story of female representation in Congress has usually been that of steady gains. Twenty is still just 20 percent out of 100, of course, but still well below their numbers in the population, but still a steady gain nonetheless and a high-water mark.
REHMAnd what about Tea Party candidates, Nathan?
GONZALESWell, the Tea Party candidates continue to be a story on the Republican side. If you look at -- there are five seats over the last two cycles. This cycle, it was Indiana and Missouri. In 2010, it was Nevada, Colorado and Delaware that if those primaries had turned out differently, if there hadn't been a Tea Party conservative as the nominee, those could have very easily been Republican seats.
GONZALESAnd five seats right now is the difference between Republicans being in the majority and the minority. And so it's a problem. I know that John Cornyn, you know, addressed it in his statement. And I think Republicans are -- they've taken a hands-off approach to their Senate primaries because they don't want to risk a backlash against a candidate. But I think they're going to have to look at trying to get involved and getting a better nominee in competitive races.
REHMAnd how much of what happened to Republicans on the House and Senate side was because of Mitt Romney and his candidacy at the top of the ticket. Greg?
GIROUXWell, in some of the Senate races, Mitt Romney did quite well in some of these races where some Republican Senate candidates actually lost. Mitt Romney, for example, won by double digits in Missouri. He won by double digits in Indiana and I believe he's up by double digits, around there, in Montana.
GIROUXAnd the Democratic candidates in all three of those contests of which only one was an incumbent defending his office, wound up winning so, you know, I don't know if Romney was a drag on these candidates. I think it just showed that some of these candidates either were pretty weak or that the Democratic candidates were of high quality.
REHMCertainly some interesting issues out there. Tammy Baldwin became the first openly-gay person in the Senate defeating former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson. That's pretty big.
DAVISIt is pretty big. I think, broadly speaking, I think Democrats found a lot to be encouraged by last night in terms of liberal victories. I think that they saw it in ballot initiatives, in candidate victories, and I think Barack Obama exceeded expectations even among the most true-blue Democrats who were watching this.
DAVISSo I think that there is a tremendous amount of energy that we're going to see coming out of this election coming from the Left.
REHMHow much more energy do you believe there could be?
DAVISWell, and that's a good question. I think part of the -- one of the questions that we're going to start dealing with now that the election is over is, what does a Barack Obama second term mean? And does he try to become the liberal icon president that a lot of the Left wanted him to be to begin with or does he become a compromiser who spends his second term negotiating with the likes of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell to get things like grand bargains and come to the middle versus play to the left.
REHMWell, but he's got to have somebody to compromise with?
DAVISWell, that's right.
GONZALESWell, that's the fundamental -- talking on the way here, talking with another Republican saying if President Obama chooses to try to be a Rushmore president, in the legacy he's going to have to come to the table. And if he comes to the table with some compromises, I think there will be enough Republicans if it's reasonable in their mind.
GONZALESBut, you know, he could go a different route and take some of these victories, these, you know, liberal victories that we're talking about, if the Democrats take that as a sign to push more liberal, a more liberal agenda, then that's not going to happen.
REHMNathan Gonzales, he's with The Rothenberg Political Report. We'll take a short break here. We'll talk more when we come back and take your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here's a first email from Liz who says, "I believe we, here in New Hampshire, may have made history with an all female delegation. Is this true? Two senators, two congress women and a female governor."
DAVISI would have to concur with my friend Nathan over here who studies these kinds of thing but I believe that is accurate. I don't believe that any other state has had an entirely female delegation in history to the best of my memory.
GONZALESRight. I'll even defer to Greg, but I can't think of one.
GIROUXI mean, I could count on one hand the number of states that have two women as their U.S. Senators, but I don't think their delegations even have remotely close to an all female delegation.
REHMIt's really remarkable.
GIROUXIt really is and last night, New Hampshire elected a woman governor. They have two female senators, Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat and Kelly Ayotte, a Republican. And two women, both Democrats unseated Republican incumbents in the two New Hampshire Congressional districts last night.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, Nathan.
GONZALESYeah, Tammy Duckworth I think was a good moment for Democrats. Remember she ran in 2006 and there was a lot of -- she announced her candidacy on George Stephanopoulos' show. She was on the front page of the national newspapers. Big democratic wave in '06 and she lost. And that was quite a surprise to many Democrats. But then she went into the Blagojevich Administration, the Obama Administration. They drew a district for her and she won and she defeated Joe Walsh. And it really wasn't a surprise but I think there are a lot of Democrats that are happy about her coming to Congress.
REHMYou raise a good point, Nathan, and that is gerrymandering and how much gerrymandering has played in this Congressional Election overall?
GONZALESWell, we saw the power of redistricting in Illinois. It wasn't just Tammy Duckworth but Democrats were in control of the redistricting process in Illinois and they made the most of it. And they maximized -- they defeated what, three Republican incumbents, another one Judy Biggert who was facing Bill Foster, a former incumbent. And that was one of the best Democratic states last night because they were in control of the map. And they redrew it in a way that they maximized the president's coattails at the top of the ticket.
REHMAre we getting down to slicing and dicing each of these districts in such a way that, you know, it's hardly going to make sense, Greg.
GIROUXWell, these computers are very fast today and the political strategist just use surgical precision to draw hundreds, thousands of maps. They have all this data at their disposal. And it's amazing what they can do with computers that they couldn't do ten or twenty years ago. And House Republicans defended their majority in no small part because of some advantages in redistricting.
GIROUXMy favorite example is North Carolina where there are 13 districts. Republicans were in control of the line drawing process. And last night Democrats cumulatively won more votes than the 13 Republican candidates, except Republicans won nine districts, Democrats three and there's actually one where a Democrat is slightly ahead.
DAVISRepublicans didn't win control of the House last night. They won it in the redistricting process. And this was cooked. This was baked in. I don't think that -- I think we all knew -- anyone who's paid any attention to the House race this cycle and the redistricting process knew going into election day, barring the type of national way we saw in '08 or '10 that they have drawn the lines, that they are not advantaged. Not only in 2012 but they have the edge over the course of the next decade until the next redrawing of the lines. They just -- they ran the system really smart.
REHMHow do the American people come out in all of this fooling around with lines? Is it fairness or is it, we want to create this district so this candidate will win, Nathan?
GONZALESI think we're almost in the experimental stage and California is a good example. California went to -- there were two changes in California before this election. One was a citizen legislative redistricting commission that redrew the lines. They didn't take incumbents into account. And so instead of really only watching one or two competitive races we were watching almost a dozen competitive races. But they also had a top two primary.
GONZALESAnd I think we'll have to wait and see what the reaction is because, because of that top two primary some people got their ballot and there were two Democrats running against each other or two Republicans running against each other. And I think that may have been an unintended consequence that people didn't think about when they were pushing that reform through.
GIROUXIt's said about redistricting that it's the process under which the politicians pick the voters and not the other way around. And I think if you asked a lot of people generically about line drawing of districts they may say, you know, maybe generically they ought to be more competitive. But one reason why it hasn't kind of rallied the masses so much is that's an issue of political process and it's kind of hard to capture their attention. But still I think in a generic sense they would like to see more competitive districts. They'd like to see their members of congress actually work to win their votes more than they are.
REHMAnd in an off election year, maybe that's precisely the time to focus the attention of the public on what they're in for. Kennedy is going to be back in the Congress.
DAVISIt was only a matter of time, right?
DAVISThere's enough Kennedy's that, you know, we couldn't go too many election cycles without electing one, even if we didn't realize it. Yeah, Joe -- is it Junior? Am I getting...
DAVIS...the third is coming to Congress. I think he's probably going to -- and it's not a...
REHMAnd we should say he takes the seat that Barney Frank had.
DAVISCorrect, Barney Frank who is retiring. He will be definitely immediately a member to watch. People are going to look to him to see if he is going to be a star in the House. Does he have a political future brighter and outside the House of Representatives? He's immediately someone that they're going to talk about, maybe a potential senate contender, maybe a potential presidential contender. And I think, you know, in a year that was not particularly bright for House Democrats I think he's the type of candidate that they're looking toward that sort of will buoy their spirits a little bit.
REHMAnd another candidate that people are looking at with some question marks who did in fact gain reelection was Jesse Jackson, Junior. How do you figure?
GONZALESWell, I mean, part of it is redistricting. And so there just wasn't a competitive race. And he had already made it through the primary when, you know, his issues...
REHM...before he got sick, yeah.
GONZALES...when his issues came up. And so I guess, you know, like what he said in his statement when the doctors -- I think when the doctors allow him to come back he'll come back. But I don't know how long -- you know, I don't know how long -- I don't know how much time he has to just say wait, wait, wait until something happens.
REHMRight. So that's going to be literally an empty seat until he gets there.
GONZALESI mean, he'll have a -- there's a staff, there's an office but he --it doesn't sound like he's physically going to be back in the near future.
GIROUXJess Jackson, Junior won, I think, in the low 60s as far as a vote percentage yesterday. And that's a little bit of a warning sign because the district he represents is overwhelming Democratic, I'd say 80 percent Democratic or more. And Illinois does have early congressional primaries. And not that I'm already looking ahead to the next election the day after this one, but Illinois has early enough primaries that he has to be mindful of a primary challenger. He -- I think the district is so Democratic he couldn't lose it in a general election but a Democratic primary's another story.
DAVISAnd he hasn't voted since June.
REHMHas not cast a vote since June. North Carolina's governor went Republican for the first time, Susan.
DAVISYeah, this is -- I think this was another race that was pretty easy to predict going into it. I do think that Mitt Romney won in North Carolina. I do think this is part of -- one of the -- just in terms of regions the South is just becoming a very difficult place for Democrats. And the incumbent Democratic governor was very unpopular in North Carolina and that was certainly a part of it. But there is just a lot of hostile territory in the South to be a Democrat, particularly a white Democrat.
DAVISAnd there's not a lot of -- even looking forward there's just not a lot of -- even after redistricting in North Carolina, if you look at it that way, if you look at the Democrats that lost in the South, there is not a lot of room for Democrats to move or see places for gains in the South in this future as far as we can see it.
REHMWere there any surprises among the three of you on issues like gay marriage, legalizing marijuana for example, Nathan?
GONZALESWell, I guess I've been doing this long enough that they're -- it's tough to surprise me completely. But, no, I think if you look at the states, I mean, some of those were close. I mean, Minnesota was close when it's probably one of the more competitive states of the states that push some of these ballot initiatives. Some I guess I'm not particularly surprised but the question will be whether Democrats take those state victories as a sign that the country wants more of this and pushing more of this agenda national. And I'm not sure that that's what it tells us. I mean, there are victories in these states but I don't -- if they take that as a national agenda I think it could have some problems.
REHMYou mentioned Democrats, but how about Republicans. How might they react to legalizing or approving gay marriage in Maryland and Maine, Greg?
GIROUXWell, those states are -- already lean pretty strongly Democratic. And while the same-sex marriage referenda there didn't pass overwhelmingly, I guess I'm not sure if there was a surprise by that. I knew it wouldn't match the typical Democratic party percentages there. I thought there'd be some sort of drop off. But it does, I think, show that, you know, people's views are evolving and changing on that issue.
GIROUXHow Republicans will react to it? I'm not sure. I don't think they'll change their platform or their views on it. But clearly they tried to -- you know, I mean, they'll emphasize cultural issues when it benefits them in certain constituencies. But they definitely try to run this election on the economy.
REHMAnd legalizing marijuana in Washington State and Colorado, what is that going to mean going forward, Susan?
DAVISThat's a great question. I do think more broadly these are the sort of victories last night that I talk about where I talk about the liberal sort of world view feels good about what happened last night, that in terms of the gay marriage victories, the legalization of marijuana, sort of the issues that have trended at least recently. There used to be a sort of Libertarian Republican element to sort of this, but they've shifted a little bit more in favor of liberals in the liberal Democratic view.
DAVISAnd I think if you look at collectively, not just who won but the ideas that won yesterday, I think that there is reason for liberals to feel very encouraged about what 2012 meant.
REHMDo you agree with that, Nathan?
GONZALESI think we're still sorting it out. I mean, not that I disagree with Susan, but I think we're going to have to sort out -- I mean, the exit polls are still valuable -- and find out, you know, what is the message. Because like Stu my colleague and boss wrote, I think there's a tendency for both parties to learn the wrong lessons from these elections -- from any election. And so we'll have to see what the parties start pushing and if that's really the right conclusion to draw from last night.
GIROUXYeah, I agree with that. I think the Western states tend to have a more Libertarian streak than other parts of the country but to what extent this issue is of -- it probably wouldn't rank very high on the core issues of most voters. So I think both parties have to, you know, take it with a grain of salt and realize that it's not the most pressing issue out there that the economy's still gonna drive...
REHMYeah, it's going to be interesting to see whether other states follow suit and begin to move in those directions a bit more.
DAVISEspecially because Obama's not going to fight any states that move those ways.
REHMNo, of course not. Yeah.
DAVISTo that extent they're very much advantaged to do so.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. To Joe in Detroit, Mich. Good morning, you're on the air.
JOEThank you, Diane. Happy to be calling. Big fan.
JOEMy question and comment has to do with the complex of accountability and collectivism. I think, you know, with these groundbreaking achievements on behalf of the Democratic Party and all these states and the House of Representatives still being controlled by Democrats, it should be important that while the country's striving to be more collective, it's very important that they still approach it from accountability stance and that they have to own up to what they're saying.
JOEAnd I think that's what conservatives are most concerned about is that there's a lack of accountability on behalf of the federal government and liberals.
REHMNathan, do you want to respond?
GONZALESWell, I think it's important to remember that even though the electoral college isn't close that we still had a 50 to 48, 50 to 49 election and we still have a divided country. And so there is going to have to be some -- there are people that differ in views from the president, differ from what the Democrats are going to want to push. And so it's -- but it can't -- the status quo can't continue, I don't think, without there being a bigger backlash against both parties.
DAVISI think -- from what the caller said, I think it's interesting because I reread Obama's acceptance speech this morning sort of just to have some clear eyes to it. And when -- the two words he said, accountability and collectivism, I thought it was interesting that Obama seemed to hit on both themes in his speech last night. He talked about, you know, we're one America. We're better together than individual. The sum of our parts is -- we're greater as the whole.
DAVISBut he also very specifically, I think, made a reference to saying, you know, people want to work hard for what they get. And they want self governance and they want self reliance and they want these things. And I think that was his way of trying -- he acknowledged that this is a divided country. And those two cores of thought exist very much and he spoke to both of them in his speech last night.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling, Joe. To Bruce in Phoenix, N.Y. Bruce, where is Phoenix, N.Y.?
BRUCEIt's just north of Syracuse.
REHMOkay. Go right ahead, sir.
BRUCEHi, Diane. Good morning.
REHMHi. Thank you.
BRUCEYou know, I was really upset a bit by the panel in failing to note, while they say that the Democrats need to be receptive to negotiations and so forth. But they forgot all about the Republican Party that is totally controlled and held hostage by Grover Norquist. I listened to the Republican statements last night and if you listen, almost everyone has a hedge about, well, like Boehner, we don't really see a need necessarily to raise taxes and statements to that.
BRUCEObama, I am convinced in my heart, would be perfectly willing to negotiate providing he was not held hostage by the Republicans and their signing of the pledge to never raise taxes.
REHMYeah, it's going to be interesting to see what happens with Grover Norquist and. And he had every single member of Congress sign that pledge. What happens now?
GONZALESYeah, just about every Republican member signed the pledge -- the anti-tax pledge. And it'll be interesting to see in the coming days and weeks to what extent Republicans, as they go through the what happened and a little bit of soul searching, to what extent they may compromise on the tax issue, which for them has usually been pretty much aligned to say no tax increases on anybody. And, I mean, to what extent will they -- as was mentioned earlier maybe they'll come up with some sort of cutoff, a million dollars, $500,000. So far they haven't but left to see if they -- how they react to the election results and whether they'll give a little bit on the tax issue.
REHMAny indication, Susan?
DAVISNo. I really -- I feel pretty strongly about this point. I just -- I think there's possible for compromise and they've said as much on the idea of revenue. You know, we can raise more revenue, but will we raise taxes on individuals? That's going to be a fight.
REHMSusan Davis. She's chief congressional reporter for USA Today. Greg Giroux is political reporter for Bloomberg News. Nathan Gonzales is deputy editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. Short break, right back.
REHMAnd we'll go right back to the phones to St. Petersburg, Fla. Hi there, Tony.
TONYYes, what I wanted to say is I think the biggest takeaway from this election, which I think you're panel is missing when you're talking about redistricting, I think there is a redistricting going on right now that both the Republicans and the Democrats can't control. And that's the ascendency of Hispanics as a population and what their vote means. And I think if the Republicans want to be a two-party system and consider themselves, you know, a viable party, then they have to start speaking to everybody in the population, not just an exclusive club, you know, and not the Tea Party.
TONYThey need to become more centrist and they need to actually speak to everybody. And I think the political power of Hispanics in this country joined by other minorities is a voting bloc that can't really stop. And as Hispanics move into the south and into other states, that redistricting really is not going to mean much.
GONZALESThe Hispanic electorate is a long-term -- it was a problem last night. It's going to continue to be a long-term problem for the Republicans, unless they figure out either promoting surrogates, but also addressing the stereotype, the policies. I mean, it's a multifaceted problem that Republicans have with the Hispanic community.
REHMWell, when you have a candidate talking about self deportation and of that kind of thing, you're not going to win the favor of many Hispanic voters. Sue.
DAVISYeah, absolutely. I mean, if you look at Obama's victories last night in Nevada, in New Mexico, in Colorado, the Hispanic part of his coalition was a fundamental factor in those races. And I think already you have seen Republicans acknowledging that this is a major, major disadvantage of Republicans going forward, and that if they don't change it, they are looking at being a minority party.
GIROUXThe one thing that struck me the most about the exit poll data last night was that Barack Obama won the Hispanic vote by 71 percent to 27 percent. Four years ago he won it 67 percent to 31 percent. So he increased his vote share among Hispanics by four percentage points as he won a lower overall share of the popular vote. They're going in opposite directions. If you look at the vote in Florida, there's a burgeoning Hispanic population on the I-4 corridor in and around Orlando, Puerto Rican Hispanics who vote Democratic.
GIROUXAnd if you look at the totals in Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida, Obama ran ahead of his 2008 percentage by over four percentage points there. That county is almost two-third Hispanic. And it looks like the president's a little bit ahead in Florida right now, always a key state in the presidential sweepstakes.
REHMTony, thanks for your call. Now to Dallas, Texas and to James. Hi there.
JAMESHi, thanks for taking my call.
JAMESI was just wondering, I know Puerto Rico had an election last night and they also voted to try to become a state. And I was wondering -- and I don't know how long that would take or anything, but I was wondering the impact on future elections to that.
REHMYou know, it's interesting. We have an email here from Terry who says, "The Puerto Ricans yesterday voted for the first time to become our 51st state. And President Obama has pledged to honor the will of the people. So exciting. What do you think will become of this?" Nathan, any thoughts?
GONZALESWell, I mean, I guess that's a first step, but we still have to go through the constitutional process. And while...
REHMCould take a long time.
GONZALES...while it's an important to that group and maybe it is a way for the president to do better -- even better with the Hispanic community, there are some other things on the table for Congress probably to address.
REHMLike healthcare, for example. Where do you think healthcare goes from here, Susan?
DAVISI think any Republican that understands the reality of what happened last night knows that the fight over ObamaCare is over, that there's not going to be anymore battles over the feat of the law, at least for the next four years. And by the end of the next four years, the idea of a full repeal or overturning this law evaporate. You know, I talked to some Republicans even last night that said, you know, as much as they may hate, it's the law of the land and they need to figure out ways to continue the fight on healthcare, but stop the efforts to keep passing repeal bills in the House and keep the -- and stop doing -- I think in the last Congress they had 37 votes to repeal the healthcare, what law, and that they need to move on.
GIROUXAnd Republicans never had the numbers to repeal the law even before the elections yesterday. It was these votes, Susan mentioned, dozens of votes that they knew were going to go nowhere, that the Senate would never take, and of course the president would never agree to being its signature, domestic achievement.
GIROUXAnd as we saw in this election, I watched -- I must've watched hundreds of television ads. And I'm hard pressed to think of one that didn't mention ObamaCare or the healthcare law by Republicans lodging some sort of attack against it. And this was their election to send that message to -- and of course they needed to defeat President Obama to get rid of that achievement, and they didn't do it.
REHMAnd certainly in Virginia you had George Allen talking about healthcare against Tim Kaine who ultimately came out with the victory. Nathan.
GONZALESWell, even I agree that the Republican attacks on the healthcare plan didn't boost them to victory, but I do think that it insulated them somewhat from the Social Security and Medicare attacks that Democrats were lobbying against them. I mean, that was the Democratic argument that Republicans want to dismantle Social Security and Medicare. Republicans counter and said, well, Democrats already took $700 billion out of Medicare to pay for the president's healthcare plan. And so I think that it helped them insulate, it helped them diffuse some of the Democratic arguments. But, you know, Tim Kaine, we knew that...
GONZALESWell, no, and not enough to win that race, but...
GONZALES...but I think that the losses in the House could have been worse for Republicans if they didn't have that polarizing. It's still a polarizing plan. I mean, I think that's a fundamental part of it.
REHMAll right. To Athens, Ohio, hi there, Roger.
ROGERHi, Diane. My concern is that the problem with gerrymandering goes beyond its impact on fairness and the outcome of elections and one person, one vote. I think more important is the impact on the way elected officials govern once they get in. If we make districts less targeted and homogenous and more diverse, less safe for the incumbent, we'd see more moderate stances, more compromises, fulfilling ideas on their merit for the greater good. So it's not just about who districts, but how they district.
DAVISThat's a great point. And I think one thing to understand when we talk about Congress and we say, okay, well, the margins didn't really change, Republicans are in the House, Democrats are in the Senate, but I do think that when the dust settles, we are looking at a Congress that will be more partisan in the next one than it was in this one.
DAVISBecause the -- a lot of the more moderate members lost to more -- to lawmakers who have more extreme -- I don't know what to say extreme, but more defined political views. I also think that for a lot of members, particularly on the Republican side, the threat is not general election, the threat is primary. And the primary threat where you could lose within you own party keeps members on both sides more beholden to a base and more beholden to an ideology.
DAVISAnd you also see in places like Massachusetts, Scott Brown was a moderate senator. He voted with Democrats. He negotiated with Democrats. He went against his own party. And he has been replaced with Elizabeth Warren, who I think -- it remains to be seen. She does not have a voting record to speak of. But it's -- she could be a very reliable liberal vote that is not going to be as interested in negotiating with Mitch McConnell in the next Congress. So you just see the two sides move a little bit further into their corners.
GIROUXYeah, think about some of the senators who will be leaving at the end of the year. Olympia Snowe is retiring. Richard Lugar defeated overwhelming in a primary that -- and now his seat went to a Democrat. Scott Brown, as Susan mentioned. Kay Bailey Hutchison, kind of moderately conservative I think may be a fair way to describe her. You look at some of the House Democrats who were either defeated or retiring, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, seat won by a Republican. Ben Chandler, another member of the so-called Blue Dog Democrats, who emphasized fiscal constraint. So I think we're starting to see a skinnier political middle than we have before.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling, Roger. And to Louisville, Ky. and, Joe, hi there.
JOEHi, Diane. I heard that Big Bird has come out of hiding.
JOEYes, I'm thankful. I'm down here in the land of Mitch McConnell, the architect of just say no. And it's a thrilling, you know, it's a wonderful day today. It's a wonderful life. And that's one of the things I wanted to mention. It seems like the Koch brothers and Dick Armey and the Karl Roves of the world are the Mr. Potters in "It's a Wonderful Life." And it seems like they all kind of sort of took a beating last night along with their citizens united campaign, you know, that ultimate billions of dollars of money that was spent and wasted. And I wondered what your panel might have to think about that. But also if they're going to go back into hiding or if they're going to come out with even more money in the next election.
JOEBut I also wanted to address, and nobody seems to be talking about this, the -- I think this past four years the conversation, the dialogue, has been driven by talk radio, the Rush Limbaughs, the Sean Hannitys, the Glenn Becks and all those people. And I'm wondering if they're just going to continue their diatribes and, you know, just their relentless attacks against anything that the president or the Democrats or Americans want to do with the country.
REHMLet's talk money first, Nathan.
GONZALESIt's not going anywhere, as long as the Supreme Court continues to uphold that spending on campaigns is free speech, then the money is still going to be there. Sure, you could -- the money wasn't effective, it didn't produce a Republican victory, but we're going to have midterms and we're going to have another presidential race and I think just it's now part of the cycle as long as that's the law.
REHMDo you agree, Greg?
GIROUXYeah, money is always going to be there It's just matter of, you know, where it pops up and what use is it -- or what use the players decide to have for it. I think, you know, with the presidential race it's going to get enormous media attention and coverage, regardless of how much money is spent on television ads. I think we probably got to a point maybe awhile ago, well past the point of diminishing marginal returns where maybe all the hundreds and thousands of ads just didn't have that much of a marginal impact. It may have had a negative impact.
REHMWell, and that's what I was about to ask, as the news came out about people like the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Karl Rove putting all these millions and indeed billions into the races, wasn't there something of a backlash? Wasn't there something of a this is our country and we're not going to have people buy the election?
DAVISYou have to think on some level there was, because if you look at just sort of the return on the investment these Republican super packs got in 2012, shy of I think maybe Dean Heller's Senate victory in Nevada, almost a wash.
REHMNot much, yeah.
DAVISYou know, like, there's not many places you can point to where you can say that that money was the decisive winning factor in a race. And if you're Sheldon Adelson, if you're a Koch brother, if you're even a George Soros on the left, you might be waking up this morning thinking there might be a better way for me to spend my money next time.
GIROUXAnd I think part of the process of looking at the election results on the Republican side, especially if you're among the big donors who funded some of these groups, is you think the rethink the strategy. And that is maybe is it more effective to put money into, say, get out to vote operations or research groups or turnout operations, would that be more effective? Kind of like what the labor unions do, maybe they will, maybe they won't, but certainly they're going to rethink how effectively they spent all that money.
REHMBecause the ads really began to turn people off, do you agree?
GONZALESYeah, I think almost everyone who lived in a battleground state or a media market was over the ads. I'm not sure that the swing voter or the casual voter is distinguishing between which ad is paid for by the Romney campaign, the Koch brothers. I don't think they're making those distinctions. They just know there are too many ads and they're over them.
GONZALESBut I would say also that in terms of is there going to be less money, that unfortunately both parties thrive when they're in the minority in terms of raising money. Just having President Obama in office for four more years is going to be an incredible boost for Republican candidates raising money. It's much easier to raise money when you're in the minority I think than the majority.
REHMNathan Gonzales of The Rothenberg Political Report. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Winston-Salem, N.C. Hi there, Ginger.
GINGERHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
GINGERI just have really just a sad comment about how you guys were talking about North Carolina earlier. I am a Democrat in North Carolina. I am white and a woman obviously. So for us, really, I mean, yes, the economy is important and all these issues are important, but all around me I feel like it boils down to ideology. Seems like in the south especially people are so far to the right from an ideological standpoint that I think it presents a real problem for the Republican party because they have to, you know, energize that Republican base and be extremely conservative, and it turns off I think more of the moderate, you know, constituents in the rest of the country.
GINGERAnd I want to make one more point too. If you look at the map in North Carolina, the blue counties are really where the big universities are, where there's more money, where there's more industry, where there's more educated people. So, I mean, I just think that the Democrats are going to get nowhere unless we can somehow get through this strong, evangelical, right wing ideology here. And I'm interested to see what your panel has to say about that.
REHMGreg, I'll start with you.
GIROUXYeah, I mean, North Carolina has changed a lot in the last 20 or 30 years. It's a much different state than when Jesse Helms was a U.S. Senator there. I doubt Jesse Helms could get elected to the United States Senate in North Carolina today. It's becoming a lot different, a lot of cultural changes. You have a lot of, you know, people moving into the state, because I think the caller alluded to a lot of the universities and the research institutions.
GIROUXSo the population in North Carolina is increasing. And that's going to -- that has political changes when you have population shifts like that. And it's -- both parties have to approach North Carolina differently than they did, you know, 20 or 30 years ago. Even though Mitt Romney won the state this time, it was still very close and will probably be a battleground in presidential elections for years to come.
REHMAnd clearly it's not just North Carolina. Here's an email from Mark in Birmingham, Ala., who said, "As of yesterday's election there are currently no statewide offices held by Democrats in this state." Susan.
DAVISYeah, it goes back to what we're saying. I think North Carolina might be a little bit different than what is traditionally the Deep South, because North Carolina in a lot of ways is a little bit more like Virginia in the sense that their populations are changing so much. A lot of people come from other places and move there and bring their politics with them. So those blue counties she was talking about, and the college towns, the financial industry, people are moving there for jobs and things.
DAVISThe south doesn't -- the Deep South, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, that sort of belt, doesn't have that same sort of population shift in dynamic. And those states have really become, particularly in the era of Barack Obama, very firm, strong Republican places.
REHMDo you see any chance of leadership change on the Republican side in the House, Greg?
GIROUXI don't. I think after the -- after yesterday's elections, the Republicans, they went down a few seats, but it could've been a lot worse. If you had told the Republicans the day after Barack Obama was elected in 2008 that you'd have, you know, more than 230 seats in the U.S. House four years later, I think they'd definitely take that deal. And so they're going to go down. House Republicans are going to go down a little bit, but probably not by more than ten. They'll probably hold their losses to single digits.
GIROUXI think they could -- they'll accept that.
REHMGreg Giroux, he's political reporter for Bloomberg News, Susan Davis of USA Today, Nathan Gonzales of The Rothenberg Political Report, thank you all so much. Get some sleep tonight.
GONZALESWill do, thank you.
REHMOkay. And thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
"My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante is the first of the mysterious Italian author's Neapolitan novels. The series tells the story of a life-long friendship between two working class girls in Naples. Critics have called Ferrante “one of the greatest novelists of our time.” Yet nobody knows her true identity. Join Diane and her guests for a discussion of “My Brilliant Friend.”
French President Hollande meets with President Obama in Washington to seek additional U.S. support in the fight against ISIS in Syria, and NATO holds an emergency meeting over the downed Russian fighter jet: An update on international military strategy in Syria.
The latest research into the link between germs and mental illness -- and what we all need to know.