Some good news in down-ballot races

It was truly gratifying to see that some truly awful characters lost their races for Congress yesterday.

Richard (‘a child of rape is a gift from god’) Mourdock lost 50-44% his race for the US senate in Indiana, as did Todd (‘women have magical bodies that automatically prevent rape pregnancies’) Akin by a whopping 55-39% margin in Missouri. These were the two Republicans who started out being favorites to win and then during the campaign propounded their weird and reprehensible views on rape. Their polls started diving and they never recovered, not only destroying the Republican party’s high hopes of getting a majority in the senate, but actually increasing the size of the Democratic caucus by two to 55. You can bet that the party will try and school future candidates on how to speak about rape but it may not help. These people are true believers in what they say, and will chafe at hiding what they feel is their god’s will. Their religious nuttery will leak out in one form or another.

I am delighted to report that in my state of Ohio, the obnoxious Republican Josh Mandel was defeated 50-45% by incumbent senator Sherrod Brown despite vast amounts of outside money pouring into the state on his behalf. Mandel is young (just 35) and aggressively ambitious so we will (unfortunately) likely see him return to compete in another statewide office as soon as one opens up. He will have to wait a while though. The next US senate and the governor races are in 2016 but are both currently held by Republicans who are likely to run again. So Mandel will have to wait and challenge Brown again in 2018.

Interestingly Mandel, who married into the wealthy and influential Ratner family in the area, was taken to task by nine cousins of his wife on his opposition to same-sex marriage and his desire to reinstate the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military. They jointly took out a full page ad in the Cleveland Jewish News that was published before the election, where they said, “Your cousins, Ellen Ratner and Cholene Espinoza, are among the many wonderful couples whose rights you do not recognize… Their wedding, like yours, was a beautiful and happy occasion for all of us in our family. It hurts us that you would embrace discrimination against them and countless other loving couples in Ohio and around the country.” This is what is going to doom anti-gay politicians in the future. They will be squeezed between the rapidly rising numbers of people who view with disgust their anti-gay policies, and their base which is locked into rigid religious homophobia.

Unfortunately Ohio’s Issue 2, that called for the redistricting process to be taken out of the hands of politicians, lost badly 64-36%. The election process is the US is seriously flawed but that is the topic for another post.

In the House of Representatives there are four truly crazy people whose fortunes I have been following. Over in Illinois Joe Walsh, who seems like a jerk, was trounced 55-45% in his bid for re-election by Tammy Duckworth. And to the delight of sane people everywhere, another crazy person Allen West narrowly lost his re-election bid 50.4-49.6% in Florida, though he has not conceded yet. Did I mention that he is a crazy person?

Unfortunately, another nutcase Michele Bachmann managed to just squeak by 50.6-49.4% in her district, after outspending her opponent by 8 to 1 with outside Tea Party money, raising hopes that her star has waned and she might be defeated in two years. Could it really be that she won the Iowa straw poll at the beginning of the Republican primaries and was once considered a serious candidate for the presidency? Or was it all a bad dream, like Herman Cain’s meteoric rise and fall? Or was that real too? The entire Republican primaries now seem curiously surreal, like a Fellini film recalled from long ago where the real and the imagined blend seamlessly. The fourth person in the quartet of crazies, Steve King of Iowa, unfortunately won fairly easily 53-45. But all in all, not a bad outcome.

Talking of losers, Linda McMahon got drubbed 55-45% in her second attempt to win the US senate seat in Connecticut, joining Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman as rich businesspeople who spent vast amounts of their own money to try and buy their way into high elected office without having held any prior elected post.

On the winning side, physicist Bill Foster of Illinois was easily elected (~58-42%) to Congress after having served one term previously and losing his seat in 2010 in that Tea Party wave election. He joins Rush Holt of New Jersey as the other physicist in Congress. They are both Democrats. Republican Vern Ehlers was another physicist from Michigan before he retired in 2011. It was perhaps just as well Ehlers retired. He would have been too reality-based for the current Republican party and would have faced a Tea Party challenge.

This election also saw the first Buddhist elected to the US senate in Mazie Hirono in Hawaii who won easily 63-37%. She will be joined in Congress by Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to the House of Representatives, who trounced her opponent 81-19%. Interestingly, the first Sikh elected to Congress was a long time ago, Dalip Singh Saund serving his California district from 1957-1963, being forced to retire after suffering a severe stroke. He was the first Asian American elected as a voting member of Congress.

Meanwhile, the only openly atheist member of Congress (Pete Stark from California) lost his bid for re-election. He is 80 years old and has been there since 1972 but came out as a non-believer only in 2007. His loss is attributed to redistricting, that pitted him against a fellow Democrat, rather than to his atheism since he was re-elected twice since 2007. But another openly atheist Kyrsten Sinema, who is also a bisexual and former Mormon, was elected to Congress from Arizona, winning narrowly 48-46%.

So now we have, had, or will have Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists, gays, and bisexuals joining the Christians, Jews, Mormons, and heterosexuals in Congress, which is progress. The more diverse the religious and sexual make-up of our governing bodies, the harder it will be for any faction to impose its views on others.

And finally, joy of joys, come January Joe Lieberman retires from the US senate and one hopes will fade away, never to be heard from again. Lieberman’s unctuous manner, sanctimonious posturing, and political opportunism were infuriating. There were rumors that if Mitt Romney had won, he might have offered Lieberman the position of defense secretary, subjecting us to more years of his ponderous droning pieties and warmongering. I don’t think I could have taken that which makes me even happier that Romney lost. I will never forgive Al Gore for bringing Lieberman to national prominence by picking him as his running mate.

So all in all, Tuesday was a very good night.