What to make of yesterday's election? Some observations:
Voters rejected the idea that prosecutors, not voters, should decide who represents them. They sent a signal that candidates' positions on issues are more important than alleged legal line-crossing, rebuking prosecutors who have tried to target what they view as corrupt politicians. So — Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey; Rep. Chris Collins, Republican of New York; and Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., Republican of California, all pulled out victories. See the book by Peter Morgan and Glenn Reynolds, The Appearance of Impropriety: How The Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business, and Society. That's not to defend everything that Menendez, Collins, or Hunter did or allegedly did. It is to say that for American voters these days, integrity in politicians isn't necessarily a prerequisite but just one factor to weigh among many, and that an indictment isn't necessarily a political death sentence.
These high-motivation, high-turnout elections can have an unfortunate way of wiping out moderates or centrists. So, for example, Heidi Heitkamp, the North Dakota Democratic senator who voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch (but not Kavanaugh), lost. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democratic senator who at least the New York Times portrayed as a centrist (at least compared to Andrew Gillum) also lost. Phil Bredesen, the very centrist Democratic candidate for senator in Tennessee, lost. John Faso, a congressman from New York who was part of the centrist Republican Main Street Partnership, appears to have lost. Exceptions in this department include Republican governors Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Phil Scott of Vermont, and Larry Hogan of Maryland, who all won, and Gina Raimondo, the Democratic governor of Rhode Island, who also won.
The last sentence of my column this week about San Francisco Proposition C, to raise taxes on businesses by $250 million to $300 million a year to fund programs to combat homelessness, was "my money's on Milton Friedman." When I wrote it, I paused to consider that maybe you can't go wrong by betting on San Francisco voters to choose the far-left alternative. I should have listened to that doubt. In the event, San Francisco voters approved the tax increase, which was championed by Salesforce founder Marc Benioff. Now social scientists may want to keep a close watch on what will be a very interesting empirical test, to see if the additional money solves the problem or of it just drives away businesses and attracts more homeless people from elsewhere, as opponents predicted.
For all the talk of President Trump's unpopularity, the midterm election wasn't a landslide. It was more of a mixed decision, with Democrats gaining in the House but Republicans gaining in the Senate. As David Leonhardt wrote in the New York Times, "last night did not feel like a thorough rejection of Trumpism. In one statewide race after another, Democrats suffered disappointing losses." That shouldn't come as a big surprise; it turns out that Trump is a lot more popular in the rest of America than he is in the newsrooms of Washington, D.C. and New York City.
Watch out for Ned Lamont. One Democratic victory came in the Connecticut governor's race, where voters elected Ned Lamont of Greenwich, a great-grandson of the J.P. Morgan Thomas W. Lamont. While younger gubernatorial candidates of color such as Stacey Abrams, 44, in Georgia and Andrew Gillum, 39, in Florida got more press attention, Lamont, 64, managed to pull out a win. His tax returns showed him earning about $18 million over the past 5 years. It's not his fault that he's descended from Thomas Lamont, or that he's wealthy, but watching him try to rescue Connecticut, which is in rough shape, while also maneuvering on the national Democratic stage should be highly entertaining, at least if you appreciate limousine liberals.
The "year of the woman" also has a Republican face. Martha McSally appears to be the next senator from Arizona, and Marsha Blackburn will be a senator from Tennessee. Kim Reynolds will be governor of Iowa. Cindy Hyde-Smith has a shot at being the senator from Mississippi. Kristi Noem will be governor of South Dakota.