As the Washington Post notes, Tuesday’s most high-profile elections went badly for the left:
- A marijuana legalization proposal went down in Ohio.
- A Houston ordinance that proponents said prevented discrimination on the basis of sexual preference and gender identity—but that opponents said would allow men to legally enter women’s bathrooms—was repealed by a wide margin.
- Tea Party–affiliated Republican Matt Bevin, who’s made his name in part by criticizing the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage, won the Kentucky governor’s race easily despite having trailed in pre-election polls.
Why frame this as a bad night for Democrats/liberals rather than a good night for Republicans/conservatives? While it certainly was a good night for conservatives, what those three elections all had in common is that they involved the rejection of progressive initiatives: Proposing drug legalization, passing an anti-discrimination ordinance, passing the Affordable Care Act, and pushing for marriage equality. Whether or not these results actually speak to a larger national “mood” that will affect next year’s more crucial elections is an open question—for one, Democrats usually, but not always, are at a relative disadvantage in non-presidential-election-year voting because of low turnout. But they certainly constitute blowback on issues like civil liberties and entitlements that liberals (at least the ones that I know) tend to think of as having a certain inevitable momentum.