Election 2011: That’s Enough Change, Thanks

DETROIT – Can we assess any kind of pattern from a series of elections in a random assortment of states? Hell, we can try. The line running through New Jersey, Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi and Arizona is thin, but visible. You could call it counter-counter-revolution. Voters basically approved the governments they had or added checks to governments that had changed too quickly.

This easily explains the results in New Jersey, where Democrats held their majority in the legislature, and Virginia, where the popular GOP very narrowly won two Senate seats, forcing a tie there. Two popular Republican governors, but a mighty struggle to convince voters that they needed even more power. In Kentucky, Democrats easily held on to every office that they’d won in 2007. How to explain the races where parties swapped roles? One of the Democratic mayoral victories came in Tucson, Arizona. He was helped by an endorsement from the miraculously recuperating Gabrielle Giffords – what says “return to normalcy” more than that? Russell Pearce blamed his recall loss on a Democrat-funded effort to back his Republican challenger Jerry Lewis, but that’s just it – Pearce lost to a Republican.

Partisanship isn’t a great screen for this election. Ohio’s union reform measure failed in areas that Republicans always carry. Kentucky’s Steve Beshear won areas that Republicans have conquered. How did Beshear do that? Ads like this:

Beshear was promising to keep cutting and managing. Ohio voters wanted Gov. Jon Kasich to stop scoring long-dreamed-about points on Democrats, and keep managing. This was a very unradical election.