After the elections of November 2022, the US Senate looks to be almost evenly divided. At this writing, it’s apparent that the House of Representatives will probably go Republican, but the net shift of members could fit into a Cadillac Escalade. By historical standards, the Democrats should have lost about 30 seats. That it didn’t is a victory for the ruling party.
The big loser is Donald Trump. His guy Mehmet Oz lost an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, and his guy Don Bolduc lost a vulnerable seat in New Hampshire. His gal Kari Lake may win the race for governor in Arizona, but only by a nose. The same can be said for Trump’s man in the Georgia senate race, Herschel Walker.
Liberty readers will know about those races, and some others. But here’s a case from my home state, Washington: The 3rd congressional district, north of the Columbia River from Portland, is a right-leaning district in a left-leaning state. The district’s population center is the city of Vancouver, which has many voters who have fled Oregon’s income tax. For five terms, the 3rd district has been represented by Jaime Herrera Beutler. She was a Republican of no particular distinction until January 2021, when she was one of the 10 of her party in Congress who voted for the impeachment of President Trump after a Trump mob invaded the Capitol.
By historical standards, the Democrats should have lost about 30 seats. That it didn’t is a victory for the ruling party.
This year the Make America Great Again people knocked out Herrera Beutler in the primary, creating an open seat. The primary fight ended in a close vote, but the winner was Joe Kent, a soldier returned from Afghanistan. He is a right-winger, supporting an “America First” foreign policy. He supports Trump’s claim of a stolen election. He represented a majority in his party — barely — but he was too far right for his district. Not all the votes are counted, and Kent could still win, but as of this writing, his moderate Democratic challenger, a neophyte named Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, has 53% of the vote. If that result holds, it’s a Democratic gain in what was supposed to be a Republican year.
This is just one seat out of 435. But November 8, 2022, was not a good night for Donald Trump. If he was going to be the party’s nominee in 2024, and go on to win the election, his people had to do well this year. And mostly they didn’t.
Some of the reasons for that show up in the state ballot measures — abortion, particularly.
The Democrats made a huge issue of abortion this year, while the Republicans — at least the ones in my part of the country — didn’t want to talk about it. They claimed toward the end of the campaign that the Democrats had chosen the wrong message, but apparently they were wrong. Consider the state ballot measures:
In Vermont, Proposal 5, the right to personal reproductive autonomy, passed with 77% of the vote. In California, pro-abortion Proposition 1, the reproductive freedom amendment, was passing with 65% of the vote, with 42% counted. In Michigan, Proposal 3, the reproductive freedom initiative, was passing with 56% of the vote, with 85% counted. And in Kentucky, Amendment 2, which declared there was no right to abortion, was failing with a 53% no vote, with 90% counted.
“Pro-life” may play here and there, but on the national level, Republicans need to run up the white flag on it.
Vermont is Bernie Sanders’ state, and California leans that way. The votes that matter are the ones in Kentucky, Senator Rand Paul’s state, and in Kansas, which rejected a similar proposal a few months ago. If the anti-abortion cause can’t win in Kansas or Kentucky, it’s done. “Pro-life” may play here and there, but on the national level, Republicans need to run up the white flag on it. They were thrilled when the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade; they thought they were beginning to win. But they were wrong. They can still fight for a ban on late-term abortions, but that’s about it. For them, abortion is an issue like same-sex marriage. The fight is over.
Marijuana legalization had a mixed night. It won in Maryland, 66% yes with 82% reporting, and in Missouri, 53% yes with 89% reporting. But it lost in North Dakota, 55% no, South Dakota, 53% no, and Arkansas, 56% no. In Colorado, one of the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana (Washington was the other), voters were about evenly split on Proposition 122, which would decriminalize psilocybin as “natural medicine.” Oregon has done this already. With 80% reporting, Coloradans were passing the measure with 51%.
Tobacco took a hit in California. A landslide of voters (65% at this counting) voted to uphold a state law that bans most flavored tobacco. The campaign for the measure, Proposition 31, was funded by a multimillion-dollar donation from Michael Bloomberg.
Liquor was also on the ballot in several states, but the issue was who could sell it. In Massachusetts, voters rejected (by 55%, 90% of votes counted) Question 3, which would have reduced the number of retail liquor licenses anyone could have from nine to seven. In Colorado, voters rejected (by 62%, 80% of votes counted) Proposition 124, which would have repealed the limit of three stores. Massachusetts and Colorado voters went in opposite ways on this, but were consistent in voting against change. Colorado voters appear to have rejected (by 50.2%, 80% reporting) a measure to allow grocery stores to sell wine — a measure opposed by the small wine shops. Colorado also rejected (by 53%, 80% reporting) a measure to allow companies such as Doordash and Instacart to deliver alcoholic beverages to buyers with ID.
Gambling went down in California — 70% no on sports betting at Indian casinos and 83% no on online betting, both with 42% of the vote counted.
Perhaps the message is no more complicated than that feeding kids beats electric cars.
Guns were on the ballot in Iowa and Oregon. Iowa handily (65%) passed a gun rights amendment to its state constitution. As of this writing, Oregon is about evenly split (50.3% yes, with 66% reporting) on Measure 114, which would limit magazines to 10 rounds and require a safety training, a background check, and a police permit to buy a firearm.
Taxing high earners was on the ballot in Massachusetts, California, and Colorado, with mixed results. Massachusetts approved Question 1, to add a 4% rate on top of the 5% state income tax on incomes above one million dollars, with the money for education and transportation. Voters in Colorado approved Proposition FF, to create “healthy school meals for all,” funded by taxes on households making more than $300,000 a year. But California rejected Proposition 30, to add 1.75 percentage points to the 13.3% rate on incomes above $2 million, with the money for electric vehicles, charging stations and wildfire suppression. Big money was spent on the California campaign, two-thirds of it in favor of the measure, but it went down with 59% no, 42% reporting.
Perhaps the message is no more complicated than that feeding kids beats electric cars. California also passed (62% yes, 42% reporting) Proposition 28, which mandates spending on arts programs in public schools. Art for kids also beats electric cars.
Minimum-wage proposals did well. Nevada voted 54% yes, 77% reporting, for a $12-an-hour minimum by 2024. Nebraska voted 58% yes to increase its statewide hourly minimum from $9 to $15 by 2026. (Has there ever been one of these that failed?)
Vague declarations of rights had trouble if they didn’t obviously apply to something specific.
Right to work was on the ballot in two states. In Tennessee, a conservative state that has had a right-to-work law since the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, voters put a ban on union-shop contracts into its state constitution. They went 70% yes, with 67% reporting. Illinois, a left-leaning state that has no right-to-work law, passed Amendment 1, which would forbid the legislature from passing right-to-work or any other law that “interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively.” Big money was spent on the Illinois measure, more than 10-to-1 in favor of it, and it passed with 59% of the vote.
In contrast to the Illinois measure, vague declarations of rights had trouble if they didn’t obviously apply to something specific. In Arkansas, voters apparently have rejected (50.4% no, 90% reporting) Issue 3, which says, “Government shall not burden a person’s freedom of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability” unless it furthers “a compelling governmental interest, and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” (The key phrase is “least restrictive.”) And in Oregon the result is currently 50.5% no, 64% reporting, on Measure 111, which adds to the state constitution the words, “It is the obligation of the state to ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.” In both cases, opponents argued that vague law opens up ways for people to file frivolous lawsuits against the state.
Immigration is a federal issue, but two state ballot measures involved benefits for illegal immigrants. Massachusetts voters approved (54% yes, 89% reporting) the issuance of drivers’ licenses to the undocumented. Arizona voters were apparently approving (51% yes, 66% reporting) college financial aid for the undocumented.
Election rules were the subject of several ballot measures. Nebraska approved, by 66%, a measure to require a photo ID for registered voters to vote in person. But Arizona, which allows two non-photo documents to substitute for a photo ID, may have rejected (50.7% no, 66% reporting), a photo-ID-only measure. And Michigan passed (59% yes, 85% reporting) Proposition 2, which would allow registered voters to sign an affidavit instead of showing a photo ID. The campaign for the Michigan measure was supported by a $125,000 gift from Steven Spielberg.
Ranked-choice voting is attractive to voters who would like to vote for third-party candidates but don’t want to throw their vote away. One wonders how it would have worked in Georgia.
Ranked-choice voting, in which the ballot asks voters to number the candidates in order of preference, was winning in Nevada (52%, 77% reporting), Multnomah County, Oregon (66%), Ojai, California, (58%), and Evanston, Illinois (80%). It was losing in Clark (58% no) and San Juan (57% no) counties in Washington state, and apparently in Seattle (51% no).
Ranked-choice voting is attractive to voters who would like to vote for third-party candidates but don’t want to throw their vote away. One wonders how it would have worked in Georgia, where the candidates for US Senate, Raphael Warnock, Democrat, and Herschel Walker, Republican, each hover just under 50%, with the remaining 2.1% held by the Libertarian, Chase Oliver. Under Georgia law, unless one of them breaks 50%, the race will go to a runoff between Warnock and Walker on December 6. Georgia’s Senate race was similar two years ago, when Jon Ossoff, Democrat, and David Perdue, Republican, were just under 50%, with the balance of votes held by the Libertarian, Shane Hazel. The Republican had led in the November balloting with 49.7%, but in the runoff the Democrat won, which flipped the US Senate to the Democrats. That might just happen again.
Finally, to report on the subject of a previous post, the movement in the conservative counties of Eastern Oregon to join Idaho. On November 8, two more rural counties voted for this. Morrow County voted (60%) for its Board of Commissioners to meet three times a year to discuss any negotiations on the matter, and Wheeler County voted (58%) to ask its legislators to support moving the state border. In the same election, voters in Wheeler and Morrow counties voted by similar margins to ban all shops selling psilocybin.