Voters Stand Up To GOP Priorities

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - November 16, 2011

Consider last week’s elections on the continent. From Maine to Mississippi, from Ohio to Arizona, voters told Republican legislators of 2010: “Not so fast.”

In Maine the issue was same-day voter registration at polling places. Democrats, of both the large and small “d” variety favor it. Members of the Democratic Party like it because the minorities who vote their ticket too often fail to register prior to elections or, when they do, allow their registration to lapse afterward. Americans worried about small “d” democracy want same-day registration, electronic voting, absentee voting: anything that will increase the United States’ sorry voter participation rate.

Following the GOP’s victories in the 2010 midterm elections, Maine’s Republican majorities ended same-day voter registration. Last Tuesday, via initiative, Maine’s voters restored it.

In Mississippi, the heart of the nation’s Bible belt, voters rejected a so-called “personhood” amendment that would have constitutionally defined life “to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or functional equivalent thereof” and would have outlawed all abortions, morning-after pills, and some forms of contraception.

Now let me repeat, Mississippi’s voters did that. Mississippi, as in African-American singer Nina Simone’s infamous Mississippi #@*&+!

In Ohio, the Republican state legislative majorities of 2010 and GOP Gov. John Kasich put a referendum on the 2011 ballot that would have weakened collective bargaining rights for public employees. Ohioans overwhelmingly rejected it.

And in Arizona, voters rejected a Tea Party state senator who had written a hysterical anti-immigration law and nullification ordinances of various federal laws.

Is all of this good news for President Barack Obama’s reelection chances?

Maybe, maybe not.

Obama will never carry Mississippi. But Maine, Ohio and Arizona are certainly on his electoral map in 2012. He could win all three. Not because voters love all of his policies, but because moderate Republican candidates have had to fudge these and other issues in order to appeal to the GOP’s conservative base.

Poor Mitt Romney, the only moderate in the Republican field.

He’s been forced to renounce the health care bill he championed in Massachusetts: “What’s good for Bay Staters isn’t good for the nation,” or something like that. He’s had to endorse the antiabortion position that Mississippi rejected, and he felt it necessary to straddle the anti-collective-bargaining referendum embraced by Ohio’s Republicans. Between his flipping, flopping and straddling, Romney’s created a contorted candidacy that may get him to the nomination but deny him the presidency.

There are implications closer to home. In her campaign for the United States Senate, former Gov. Linda Lingle will try to sell herself as a moderate Republican, a designation in part deserved.

But to appeal to her party’s right, she’s had to do her share of straddling as well, most noticeably by taking Grover Nordquist’s pledge not to vote for a single tax on anyone and by opposing civil unions.

When the civil unions bill reached her desk, Lingle commenced a period of anguished consideration of the bill, only to veto it at the final hour not on the merits, she said, but on the manner in which it passed a legislature dominated by Democrats.

Lingle left her office to Neil Abercrombie, who pledged that he would sign HB444 into law as soon as the legislature got the bill to his desk.

He resoundingly defeated both a Democrat who straddled the issue and a Republican who opposed it. The Democrats in the legislature sent Abercrombie the bill posthaste, and he signed it as promised.

Abercrombie’s heard more than his share of complaints since taking office, but his signature on the civil unions bill is far down the list.

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