There were not many races with national significance in the 2013 election, but there are several lessons we can learn from the three races that received the most news coverage—left-winger Bill DeBlasio’s historic landslide victory for Mayor of New York, moderate Republican Chris Christie’s mere landslide re-election as Governor of New Jersey and conservative Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s two-point win as Governor of Virginia over a Tea Party poster boy.
Lesson # 1: People are tired of the Tea PartyAs the many mainstream reporters touting Chris Christie for President have pointed out, the Tea Party candidate lost in a Southern state, whereas the Non-Tea flavored Republican won in a Northern state. The Tea Party candidate also lost a bitter battle to a less radically conservative Republican in a special election for Congress in Alabama. Most people either suffered or know someone who suffered because of the sequester or the government shutdown. Most now realize that the Tea Party has little to offer to anyone except the one percenters, who will benefit from tax cuts and less government regulation.
Lesson #2: People didn’t care that much about Obamacare’s rollout problemsEveryone is rightfully pissed off that the website for the federal healthcare exchange isn’t working right. But they’re more pissed about the government shutdown, the sequester, the enormously inequitable distribution of wealth in the United States and continued high unemployment and they blame Republicans for all that. Any Republican candidate thinking he or she would get an anti-Obamacare bounce must have swallowed the entire pitcher of Kool-Aid. They certainly ignored the recent study that showed that many more Americans either like the Affordable Care Act or want to strengthen it than those who want to end or weaken it.
Lesson #3: It helps to be FOHAB or FOBAHFriend of Hillary & Bill or Friend of Bill & Hillary—which is it? Maybe we should just write FOTC and leave it at that. However you name the phenomenon, it’s interesting to note that two of the three winners in the major races have close ties to the Clintons. The Clintons endorsed DeBlasio and spent time campaigning for their former fundraiser Terry McAuliffe. These results substantiate what many are saying: that Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to be elected as our next president, assuming that she runs.
Lesson #4: Money winsIn all three of the major races (and the Alabama Congressional race), the candidate who raised and spent the most money won the contest. Just like all the recent presidential elections. Progressive who may be overjoyed that McAuliffe and DeBlasio won and not all that upset that Christie won should nonetheless be alarmed at the continuation of the trend of money trumping every other factor.
Lesson #5: The crony capitalists wonIn crony capitalism one function of government is to procure federal contracts and other favorable treatment for the supporters of the winning candidates. Both McAuliffe and Christie qualify as practitioners of crony capitalism. It was McAuliffe who auctioned off nights at the White House for campaign contributions, whereas Christie has a reputation for dealing state contracts to and getting favorable rulings for his pals and contributors. Thank goodness that DeBlasio—left wing superhero that he appears to be right now—has no reputation for engaging in the practices of crony capitalism.
Both McAuliffe and Christie are part of the current corrupt political system that favors big-money contributors and organized industries. McAuliffe is a centrist and Christie is slightly right of center but willing to move left in practical matters such as natural disasters and recessions. While Bill DeBlasio offers the hope of a political culture that seeks the best interests of all our citizens, it remains to be seen if he will carry out his promises. If he does—if he manages to build housing for the middle and lower class, raise taxes on the wealthy to support universal preschool, negotiate contracts that give city union workers decent raises, end racist police practices, improve mass transit in the outer boroughs—if he makes New York a more livable and more progressive place, then the results of the 2013 election will reverberate for decades. Otherwise, it will be remembered as another election in which money and influence won.