Election 2014 was not a wave, but a quarantine

More thoughts to come, but a striking pattern from Tuesday’s election is how the Republicans made significant gains just about everywhere but in major urban counties. You could call it a wave, but it’s also as if most of America stepped back from the big cities and academic enclaves that had enjoyed renewed clout with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Call it a quarantine election.

Here are a few quick examples of the urban vs. suburban schism:

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In Colorado, Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall carried Denver County with 70 percent, a bit below the 73 percent he got in 2008. Up in Weld County, on the Wyoming border, Udall skidded from 44 percent to 32 percent. Statewide, he went from a nine-point win to a four-point loss.

In North Carolina, Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan won Chapel Hill’s Orange County with 73 percent, up from 70 percent in 2008. In smaller Caswell County, just to the north, she fell from 57 percent to 48 percent. Overall, her nine-point win turned into a two-point loss.

In Illinois, Democratic incumbent Sen. Richard Durbin was never thought to be in a competitive race, and he won with a margin of 350,000 votes. But he won Chicago’s Cook County by 550,000 votes, meaning that he lost the rest of the state. He lost suburban DuPage and Will counties, which he carried in 2008, and his statewide victory margin fell from 39 points to 10 points.

In the Georgia U.S. Senate race, Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn won Atlanta’s Fulton County with 65 percent of the vote, up from the 63 percent the Democrats won in 2008. But she was stuck at 42 percent in the suburban powerhouse Cobb County, the same as in 2008, which doomed the Democrats’ best shot at capturing a Republican seat this year.

In the Wisconsin gubernatorial race, incumbent Republican Scott Walker won 52 percent, the same as in 2010. Challenger Mary Burke took Milwaukee County with 63 percent, compared with 62 percent for the Democratic nominee in 2010. But Walker won the three biggest suburban Milwaukee counties with more than 70 percent in each, and in each case doing a smidge better than in 2010. His confrontational style paid off in a state with one of the sharpest divisions between urban and suburban voters.

Yesterday’s results do not foretell the outcome in 2016, but Democrats have got to be worried that their gains in first-ring suburbs, so important to their successes in 2008 and 2012, were largely washed away. And the more anti-urban, anti-safety-net wing of the Republican Party, must be relieved to learn they don’t have to improve on their terrible showings in the most densely populated counties in order to win nationally.

In other news, two pastors and a 90-year-old man were cited last week for violating Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s ban on feeding the homeless. Proponents on the city law claim that nonprofit groups like Love Thy Neighbor “sanction” people living on the street. Expect more of this thinking over at least the next two years.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Dane Conroy
2 years 11 months ago
Mr. Sullivan: Your final paragraph is intellectually misleading and quite distasteful. Digging a bit deeper, the law in Fort Lauderdale is exactly the type of government overreach that conservatives and most Republicans find atrocious. The purpose of government in the conservative eye is not at all to create such laws! With a quick Google search, you will also discover that the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, a man who passed and defended the ban on feeding the homeless, is a Roman Catholic Democrat. Please do not use an unrelated news article to comment on election results, results that could, maybe, lead to political compromise, policy advancements and economic developments that would help both the rural and urban poor.
J Cabaniss
2 years 11 months ago
It has for decades been true that Democrats win in the cities and Republicans win in the country, nor, I think is this particularly surprising. It is in the cities where one finds the largest concentration of workers dependent on the government in one form or another for their livelihoods, either because they work directly for the government or work in areas (e.g. teachers) where their salaries are controlled by the government. Additionally, it is where government largess is most pronounced, so even individuals with no interaction with the government receive tangible benefits. Not that any of this is (necessarily) wrong, only that the more dependent one becomes on the government the more likely one is to view opponents of the status quo as personally threatening.
Stuart Bintner
2 years 11 months ago
Re the Urban-Rural split and the notion that city folks are more the beneficiaries of government largess: I was born and raised on a farm and have lived in an urban area of over two million for over thirty years. I have seen both points of view. It's very misleading to think that city dwellers look to the government any more than rural people. Various crop and farm subsidies are taken for granted by farmers and those who serve them. Often, they don't even comprehend that these are forms of "government handouts." That doesn't even take into account the large amount of direct aid given to the poor of the rural areas--particularly the South.
David Wager
2 years 11 months ago
Very interesting to read the comments of the Corp of Catholic True Believers. The Republican Party is not here for you just as the Democratic Party is not here for you. They are both here to obfuscate the political reality in this country. To serve the privileged few. The insinuation that people vote Democrat simply to receive a kickback is small minded and ignores the fact that most in this country get nothing and that the ultra-rich get almost everything from our government from kickbacks, payments, and laws that favor them completely. They poured billions and billions into this election and they won. This is not the people's win, but the people's loss. Keep watching FOX and keep spreading the message of the ultra-rich! Don't forget that the vast majority did not vote. They did not vote because they have lost hope in our political system and have simply walked away!
Tim O'Leary
2 years 11 months ago
Mr. Sullivan says this election was as if "most of America stepped back from the big cities and academic enclaves." The academic enclaves are not only extremely liberal and generally anti-family in their social views, but they reap huge benefits from their "non-profit" profits, while they pay no property taxes. Harvard's endowment is >$32B and Yale's is >$21B, yet their tuition charges keep going up faster than inflation. Is it not time to remove tax subsidies from these extremely rich institutions? Just think of how much stronger their cities would be if they could collect property taxes from these institutions. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2011/10/07/The-Rich-University-The-Mother-of-all-Tax-Breaks
Vincent Gaglione
2 years 11 months ago
I started to write a long rebuttal to what I read in some of the comments here. Instead, let me just convey my dismay and disgust at the self-righteous attitudes that have been expressed. What kind of people would express such mean-spirited opinions. I presume they have the advantages of a job or a pension, a home, and a life-style far different than that of the vast majority of Americans and its immigrants, documented and otherwise. And if they don’t, how bitter have they become to be so ungenerous to others as they themselves have experienced. We live in the richest country on earth. We spend billions of dollars on wars and machines of war, on subsidies to corporations and farmers and homeowners. Yet all I perceive in many of the comments are complaints about being forced to spread the wealth to those who do not share in the plentitude: to the undeserving poor, to those immigrants who only come here to suck off the public tit, to people who can’t afford their own health insurance and therefore shouldn’t have access to it, to those who irresponsibly reproduce but for whom there must be no provision for support for their children or reproductive alternatives, to criminals who should be put away for as long as possible with no chance of redemption. Those are not the Catholic attitudes that I understand to be derived from the message of Christ.
David Wager
2 years 11 months ago
Thank you Vincent. I am saddened by the hatred that our two powerful and self-serving political entities have engendered in our people. Once there was a feeling that we were in it together. I am afraid that no longer exists. I appreciate your viewpoint.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 11 months ago
Vincent – This would be funny if it were not sad. I really wish you had gone for the “long rebuttal” to the 3-4 comments (not “many”), rather than just write a very self-righteous comment about none of them. Here is a quick summary to assist you: - DC notes the person responsible for a ban on feeding the homeless was a Democrat - JC calmly noted the urban support of Big Government wasn’t surprising or necessarily wrong - SB disagreed with JC in a very civil way, noting that farmers also get a lot of Government aid - TOL (me) thinks the very rich fat cats at Harvard should pay property taxes Then David Wagner calls these 4 comments a “Corp of Catholic True Believers,” despite the absence of any doctrinal point at all. He decries both parties as pawns, mentions something about “FOX” and claims only the ultra-rich (not defined) get anything from the Government. He forgets that 49% of the population pay no income taxes and most of the money goes to the poor or middle-class. Here are some figures (http://www.usdebtclock.org/) to assist your blogging accuracy. The National Debt is $17.9 Trillion (grew $8 Trillion so far in Obama years). US Federal Income from all taxes is ~$3,000 Billion. Medicare/Medicaid is $828 Billion, Social Security is $845B, Income Security is $310B, Fed Pensions are $246B. Defense is $595B, Interest on debt is $269. (So, about 20% on defense and security). Vincent - only you and David decried anyone. Yet, in your non-rebuttal, you declare yourself “dismayed and disgusted,” call the commenters “self-righteous,” “mean-spirited,” and “ungenerous” which you put down to their likely having a job and a home (as if that meant they were living the high-life, with no worries and no care for their fellow man). Nobody but you mentioned illegal immigrants, imprisoned criminals and undeserving poor. Nobody but you talked about “reproductive alternatives.” Did you mean as a way to reduce the poor?
John Fitzgerald
2 years 11 months ago
Thank you for this interesting perspective. I don't see the relevance of the final paragraph, however.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 11 months ago
Interesting breakdown by religious affiliation in this election. All Catholic voters: 45% for Democrats (10-point drop since 2006), 54% for Republicans White Catholic voters: 38% for Dems (12-point shift since 2006), 60% for Reps. http://www.pewforum.org/2014/11/05/how-the-faithful-voted-2014-preliminary-analysis/ Gallup poll finds that the Democratic Party’s image has hit a record low (since 1992), with just 36% of Americans have a favorable view of the Democratic Party, down 6 percentage points since September. Republican Party has a 42% favorable view. http://onpolitics.usatoday.com/2014/11/12/democrats-approval-rating-gallup/
Michael Barberi
2 years 11 months ago
The American people spoke. They believe the country is heading in the wrong direction. The Administration and the Democrats are as much to blame for Washington gridlock as the Republicans, and no one truly trusts Obama anymore, save for some of his defenders. We need to change Washington because it is broken. Obama campaigned on this but failed. If we elect a Republican President and the Republicans maintain control of Congress in 2016, then the Republicans will have a shot at: growing the economy beyond anemic rates, creating more high paying jobs and not more temporary low paying jobs, fix our immigration system, HC system, restore confidence in America as the world leader and defender of liberty and freedom, especially for those groups and nations that threaten our existence and that of our neighbors ….the list goes on. If a new Administration and Congress fails to make significant progress on these issues and does not change the direction we are currently on, then God help us.

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