Election Results From Real America

There were several elections of interest around the country on Tuesday, and the Democrats got the best of it. It’s easy to overstate their performance, and what it might portend for the rest of the country next November, but the Republicans would be wise not to underestimate the damage.
Virginia was a Republican stronghold from the ’60s until recently, but after Tuesday’s races the Democrats are firmly in control of the state. They already had a Democratic governor and lieutenant governor, and now the party holds every other statewide office and have majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The Republicans had retained control through two presidential elections when the Democratic candidate easily won the state’s electoral votes, but that was mostly due to some nifty gerrymandering, which wasn’t enough to overcome the overwhelming majority of votes cast throughout the state for the Democrats and will likely go away when the Democrats get a chance to redraw the maps next year.
The recent problems in Virginia are part of a worrisome trend for the Republicans in the country at large. Affluent and highly educated suburbanites have been abandoning the party in droves since President Donald Trump was elected, and although the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and Richmond are more hostile than most Republicans have also lost congressional seats in Kansas and other reliably red states. Virginia also has a growing number of Latinos and a sizable and politically engaged black population, and they’re also averse to the party of Trump, who was not invited by any Republican to cross the bridge and do some campaigning.
Trump was gratefully welcomed to give one of his famous rallies in Kentucky, a state he easily won in the presidential election, but despite his efforts Democratic challenger Andy Beshear wound up with more votes than incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. The margin was slight enough that Bevin has refused to concede defeat, which is what one expects of Republicans in the age of Trump, but even if he’s able to litigate and recount his way to a slim victory it’s still an embarrassment for his party. Trump can rightly blame Bevin for being a failed governor and unpopular candidate, and he surely will, but he won’t be able to boast of his enormous appeal in Kentucky, and there’s still that nagging problem of the big cities and their suburbs going for the Democrats.
There was some good news for the Republicans in Mississippi, where Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves beat Democratic state Attorney General Jim Hood by a solid if unspectacular score of 52-to-46 in the gubernatorial race. The Republicans’ problems with suburbanites and racial minorities was stark there, too, and the blatant appeals to white working class resentment that worked well enough in Mississippi might not fare so well elsewhere in the country.
Meanwhile, here in our humble hometown of Wichita, a larger-than-usual turnout in our nonpartisan local election ousted an incumbent mayor who is generally assumed to be a Republican and replaced him with a state representative is known to a Democrat. There are all sorts of peculiarly local reasons for the outcome, involving such matters as a ballpark and a big bucks water contract and plans to tear down some locally beloved buildings and pay some well-connected local businesses to put up something new, but it’s still notable that such a reliably Republican state as Kansas has a Democratic governor and its biggest city has a Democratic mayor, not to mention a Native American lesbian kick boxer Democrat as a congresswoman for the suburban and educated 2nd District up by Kansas City.
Next November is far, far away, and there’s no telling how awful the Democratic presidential nominee might be, but it’s hard to see the Republicans reversing some worrisome trends that keep revealing themselves in all the post-Trump election results. Perhaps Trump can find some way to ingratiate himself to those affluent and highly educated suburbanites and the racial minorities closer to the heart of town, but he has to keep stoking the racial resentments of his white working class base at the same time, and he’s not much for nuanced arguments. He’ll also be preoccupied with that pesky impeachment inquiry, which seems to turn up further damning testimony every day, and from the halls of Congress to the Wichita Republican headquarters his party seems in disarray.

— Bud Norman

Contretemps on the Court

The best players in the world are showcasing their skills in the National Basketball Association’s playoffs, but all the sports world can talk about is a spat between one of the team owners and his girlfriend.
For unknown reasons the spat between Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and paramour V. Stiviano was recorded on audio tape, for unknown reasons the tape wound up in the hands of the widely-read TMZ.com celebrity gossip internet site, and for obvious reasons it has since become the biggest basketball brouhaha in a while. Any argument between a married and fabulously wealthy white 81-year-old sports mogul and his 26-year-old half-black, half-Mexican girlfriend will provoke a certain amount of prurient interest in the readers of celebrity gossip sites, but this argument concerned his objections to her publicizing her friendships with blacks and Hispanics on social media. Add the element of race to such a salacious story and the media coverage goes into the full-press mode usually reserved for missing Malaysian airliners, other celebrities weigh in with their indignation, major figures in the sport call for the offender’s banishment, and even the President of the United States feels obliged to interrupt a trade mission to Asia to add his disapproving comment.
This all seems rather inordinate, although there’s certainly no defending the comments Sterling can be heard making. We listened to the entirety of his telephoned confrontation with his girlfriend, despite the creepy voyeuristic feelings it induced, and could not escape the consensus conclusion that he’s a racist as well as an all-around jerk. The world is rife with racists of all colors, however, and if the media intend to occupy themselves with chastising all the all-around jerks there won’t be time left cover any of the issues of real significance. When the controversy starts to overshadow the scores, some perspective is required.
Having duly acknowledged the repugnant racism of Sterling’s side of the conversation, we’d like to note a few other issues that will be largely overlooked among the mass harrumphing. There’s a troubling matter of how we wound up listening to what an American citizen had every right to expect was a private conversation, for one thing. We are as ardent defenders of freedom of the press as any of the big media that are piling scorn on Sterling, but we also believe in a sufficient sphere of privacy to allow for contentious conversations with girlfriends. Our suspicion is that all of Sterling’s critics, right up to the President, would also prefer some privacy regarding such matters.
Also worth noting is how very odd Sterling’s views seem. Aside from the oddity of a octogenarian white man spouting racist opinions to his 20-something mixed-race girlfriend, and the irony of a registered Democrat¬†who routinely signs multi-million paychecks to the black employees who have lately made his business successful objecting to any association with minorities, Sterling’s rant is strikingly archaic. At one point in the conversation he tells his girlfriend that he objects her being seen in the company of other minorities because “I live in a culture,” and he insists that culture will bring its opprobrium down on any inter-ethnic friendships. Apparently being an 81-year-old multi-billionaire can leave one so very disassociated with modern society that Sterling did not realize that now society brings its opprobrium down on anyone who doesn’t conscientiously seek out such relationships, but we assume he has by now been brought up to date. Some critics have seized the opportunity to lament how very common Sterling’s views are, but they’d be hard-pressed to explain why they’re still newsworthy.
Calls for Sterling’s banishment from the NBA further raise the question of whether someone’s property rights should be voided as a result of his opinions, no matter how repulsive those opinions might be. The owner of the Dallas Mavericks franchise has endorsed the “911 truther” conspiracy theories, which we find highly offensive, and professional sports team owners in general are a sleazy lot ever-eager to reach into the taxpayers’ wallets and gorge their most loyal customers, but purging the business of all but the righteous will leave us with an insufficient amount of sports.
There’s something uncomfortable, too, about the way that contemporary society so severely punishes any deviation from its latest orthodoxy on race. The same scorn that is heaped on the likes of outright racists such as Sterling also falls on the likes of Charles Murray, the brilliant sociologist who inspired the welfare reform that did so much to benefit black America, or Clarence Thomas, the black Supreme Court Justice who bravely works for a truly color-blind legal system, or countless others who criticize the policies that have lately brought high unemployment and declining wealth to the minorities of America.
Then again, we never did care for Sterling. Old-time basketball fans will recall the decades when the Clippers were the laughingstocks of professional American sports, with Sterling’s tightfistedness and propensity to overrule the basketball experts in his employ the obvious causes of their ineptitude, and we’re disinclined to root for any team located in Los Angeles. We have an admiration for the play of former University of Oklahoma Sooner Blake Griffin and the unabashedly nerdish Chris Paul, and like that they have supplanted the hated Los Angeles Lakers as the city’s top team, but even before the latest revelations we were never Clippers fans. The Clippers’ owner is apparently a racist and an all-around jerk, but we’ll just keep hoping the Boston Celtics can get another Bill Russell or Larry Bird and turn our attention to more consequential stories.

–Bud Norman