In search of a smiling Democrat, I went Tuesday night to Chris Kelly’s election watch party. I deliberately went early, before many results were in, because I expected that the outcome at state and national levels would eventually extinguish any merriment.
That expectation proved prescient, but even early on, Chris himself was just about the only one present – other than some pool players in the back of the room – who seemed to be having any fun at all. Everybody knew it would be a bad night for party faithful, though I don’t think many realized quite how bad it would turn out to be. Who ever heard of an incumbent state auditor getting beat?
One prominent former officeholder surprised me twice, first by offering to buy me a beer and then with his analysis of the mood of the electorate. That mood, he speculated, was so sour that an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate, vowing only to clean up Washington, could have defeated either party’s nominee this year.
We’ll never know whether that’s true, of course, but two things about the Senate race seem indisputable: First, Robin Carnahan ran a weak, almost altogether negative, campaign, and second, she encountered a perfect storm. The collection of anti-tax ballot propositions could almost have been designed to bring out pro-Blunt voters. The bans on earnings and transfer taxes got even more votes statewide than he did. Missouri turned red.
At the local level, some of Tuesday’s results were equally predictable. Our three Democratic state representatives were handily re-elected, thus cementing Columbia’s reputation in the Capitol as Havana on the Hinkson. And we do love our parks. The quiet opposition to the parks tax that worried mayors past and present only mustered a third of the voters.
We also love our puppies, at least in the city limits. In the county, not so much. The dramatic disparity shows in the helpful interactive online map ColumbiaMissourian.com editors labored into the early hours of Wednesday to create. That map shows an interesting correlation. The precincts that voted Yes or No on Proposition B are almost a perfect match with the votes for Scott Christianson and Ed Robb for presiding commissioner.
I wouldn’t allege that Prof. Robb is pro-puppy mill, but the map certainly suggests that his relentlessly critical campaign registered with many of the suburban and rural residents who didn’t want more regulation.
(The first few months of 2011 should be interesting around the County Government Center, as the new presiding commissioner rubs elbows or butts heads with the Democratic officeholders – all of them re-elected without opposition – whom he called overpaid and incompetent. It might be a cause of some concern for those officeholders that their constituents outside Columbia seem to have believed Prof. Robb’s charges.)
Tuesday’s results remind that Columbia is home to a good number of unrepentant liberals, but as if to confuse an analyst, they showed themselves again to be law-and-order liberals. The proposed Taser ban won less than a quarter of the vote. When an anti-Taser campaigner told the Missourian the group might go back to the City Council to ask for stricter limits on use, he appeared more wishful than hopeful.
At Wednesday morning’s campus town hall session, University President Gary Forsee quoted a bit of his father’s post-election wisdom. No matter what the outcome, the senior Mr. Forsee said, the sun always comes up the next day.
Sure enough, even for Democrats, it did.
George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.