The results of the US Senate elections

“When  the Moon Hits Your Eye Like A Big Pizza Pie …”

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They were singing it up big when I hit Madison Steak House in Hauppauge (Hoppogg), Long Island last night for the Conservative Supporters Association Election Night Watch Party. Just another place in this vast extension of New York, a hundred miles of freeways, burbs, then a sudden wildfowl reserve, the whole thing colonised by Italian-Americans made good over the past century. Imagine the whole of Manly or the Mornington Peninsula all talking like the Sopranos, everyone with a gold chain and rug of black chest hair and the men are even worse are you with me! Madison — “your host Tony has been a longtime friend of conservative associations” said the flyer — was everything you could want, hanging stained glass lampshades over a darkwood bar, a waiter who looked like an ageing Marcello Mastroianni, goddamn hand-pounded steaks baby and boats of bearnaise sauce, Fox News on the overhead screens, and the Broadway songbook of 1961 on the karaoke: I’ve Got You Under my Skin, You’re Just Too Good To Be True and, getting real obscure here, Goody, Goody. Haven’t heard it? Don’t worry, it was a hit for Frankie Lymon in 1957. It’s still good here.

Yes, the good conservatives of Hauppauge were settling in for a big night, there was a sign up saying “Are you more likely to get beheaded or Ebola than you were six years ago?” and some guy comes in wearing a stars and stripes shirt to a cheer and “hey Frank you still allowed to wear that?” They fire up the karaoke again and it’s Witchcraft. They choosing these to make a point?

I take the last seat at the bar, next to Donna, who looks like she’s been holding this bar down since 1973. “You’re lucky I ain’t saving this seat for anybody.” Oh God.

“It’s Witchcrafffft”. If they play That Old Black Magic

But what can you do? It’s 8pm and it’s already a slaughter. There was brief early hope for the Democrats with a strong showing by Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, even if it was wards around Manchester, but then the Kentucky results started to come in, and it was going to be a bad night. Mitch McConnell had already pulled away in the pre-day polling, but he jumped to an early lead of 3.4%, and that included urban areas of which Kentucky has about two, and away we went. In Florida, the governors’ race started neck-and-neck and stayed that way, with Democrat Charlie Crist trying for an emergency injunction to keep polling places open round Fort Lauderdale, which had huge queues in black and Hispanic areas. Then as the clock ticked through the timezones, it all started to come down. Georgia, where Dems had hoped for a run-off, was never in it, Michelle Nunn never in the lead, West Virginia gone early as expected, South Dakota, and then Iowa, and that was the dealbreaker. Next to me Donna wasn’t too focused on the national scene — “oh cawwwwm onnnn, I always knew we were going to win that” — but was concentrating on New York 1st, this district, where they were trying to unseat Tim Bishop, a guy they called “the slimeball”. They did, later, but it wasn’t all good news, with Democrat governor Mario Cuomo returned by 8.30pm. “Awwwwwwwwready? Geez, let a girl get a drink, couldn’t they have held it back for a half-hour?”

Oh Donna, I bet you had a good good time in the playgrounds of Long Island in the ’60s, when Jersey Boys was a soundtrack to life, not a package tour. In Louisiana, Mary Landrieu was holding it to a runoff, but that was as good as news outside New Hampshire as you were going to get. And back on the East Coast, in Virginia, Democrat Mark Warner was struggling. Mark Warner! There was no sound on the screens but they were making big ooooos with their faces on Fox and everywhere else. No-one had picked Virginia as in play. That was so shocking that another upset was barely commented on — in North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan, polling up for months, was dumped. And at that point it was very much all over. Rand Paul came on to talk about Kentucky. “Who would you like to see as nominee in 2016?” I asked Donna, as her lumpish husband tapped at a laptop scrolling through Politico stat-maps. “Ohhhhh I dunno, can we revive Ronald Reagan?” Ewwwww. Besides, he’d never make it through South Carolina. In Kansas, independent Greg Orman fell behind against Pat Roberts, the total DC time-server. Could it get any worse? It got worse. “Illinois! Look, Illinois!” There was no Senate race in Illinois. There was a governor’s race. And Barack Obama’s home state was going to the Republicans.

“Across the country, as judged by special measures, the country moved left … the most successful Republicans had run to the centre, sounding like Democrats.”

The governors’ races had been the silver-lining the Democrats were looking to. Turned out to be a lead balloon. Turned out to be the Hindenburg. A Hindenburg of shit. A burning shittenburg coming down on them. The only gain was Pennsylvania, where they’d been polling 10 plus points ahead. The losses were eye-watering. Massachusetts didn’t help — though the bluest state in the Union often elects Republican governors because I can’t even — but the other slammer was Maryland, a state so blue that its districts are shaped for Democrat gain like a set of rococo Twisties. Kansas, spoken of as a possible upset for the GOP, was just embarrassing, especially as the Dems had channelled vast resources into Wendy Davis’ campaign. In Kansas, Sam Brownback, a Tea Party favourite who had tanked the state, was given another chance. The Dems had hopes of taking over the New York state senate. They didn’t. Morning would reveal how bad a massacre it was. In Kansas, for example, Orman fell short by 10%, having been forecast as neck-and-neck. Not least of the losers was the pollsters, who had seriously overestimated the Democrat vote, and their ability to get it to the polls.

But here’s the kicker. Across the country, as judged by special measures, the country moved left. Minimum wage measures were voted up in half a dozen states, including huge Republican ones like South Dakota. Three strikes automatic felony legislation was struck down in California, an end to the worst of the prison mill there. Marijuana was legalised in Alaska, Oregon and, heh, Washington DC. Anti-woman “personhood” amendments were defeated in Colorado and North Dakota. Mandatory gun checks on private sales won in Washington state, a popular defeat of the NRA. Which leads you to the question: what would the Democrats have done if they’d run towards all that, rather than away from it, had embraced a whole progressive program? Meanwhile the most successful Republicans had run to the centre, sounding like Democrats.

“The Democrats were rejected for cowardice, cowardice,” I said to Donna, but she was gone, they’d all gone to a private celebration, where there’d be no press, and they could really let it go, fire BB guns at the Hispanic gardeners.”Yew haaave a good noyight” she’d said in departure. I wondered if she was some sort of trafficked Republican trying to smuggle a message out. But it was too late now, they had us all.

The final tally? Up to nine Senate seats lost, the new Republican majority 54-46. Thirteen Republican gains in the House, now 243-179 so far, worst result since the 1920s for Dems. A net gain of three governorships, and the GOP now control 31 states. Under the stained glass light, as Volare played — no wonder my happy heart sings — I scoped the deserted room, nothing but old music, and half-finished steaks, rare, still in their own pinkish blood, and proud morning to come.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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