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The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the editor: Takeaways from Tuesday’s election

On Tuesday, in an election that cost nearly 3.6 billion dollars (enough to make Dr. Evil from Austin Powers excited), voters went to the polls for the 2014 midterm elections and Republicans won control of the Senate, solidified control of the House and won many key governor and local races. Many analysts are saying this election was a resounding denunciation of the Obama presidency. Some are even saying this was a Republican wave election. We are inclined, however, to assert that the election came down to two things: turnout and money. Exit polling showed that compared to 2010, women, Latino voters and independents voted more strongly for the Democrats. Voters everywhere also seemed to embrace progressive ideals, with minimum wage increases, rejections on “personhood” amendments, passage of universal pre-K programs and stricter gun control. So, what happened?

In the end, Republicans showed up at the polls. Part of this was due to stricter voting laws that disproportionately disenfranchised African-Americans, a strongly Democratic voting bloc. The Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Section 4 of the Voting Right Act may have made the difference in the tight Senate race in North Carolina, which now has some of the harshest restrictions on voting in the country. On a smaller scale, voter restrictions prevented some students here in Grinnell from registering on Election Day. However, in Iowa, Republicans swept the races for statewide office by decisive margins that cannot be explained by stricter laws alone. Compared to 2012 and 2008, voter turnout among college-age students and those who identified as “liberal” was very low. This, combined with the exorbitant amount of money Republicans were able to raise due to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, was enough to put a very conservative candidate like Joni Ernst over the top. Rather than beat ourselves up as college students over the results, we should reflect on this election as a way to mobilize and build enthusiasm for future elections. Here are some ideas and takeaways:

• Wherever you stand on the issues, it is important to vote. Others have fought too hard for you to take this right for granted. It is hard to complain about the result if you did not participate.

• Remember that the Republican surge is more of a reflection of general voter discontent and disillusionment than an embrace of their ideals. With President Obama dealing with ISIS, Ebola and an economy that is only slowly rebounding from the worst downturn since the Great Depression, it is not hard to imagine what the source of this discontent is.

• It may be troubling to many of you that the Republicans have taken control of the Senate and gained power in the House.  However, we need to remember that the United States government was created in a way for it to be hard to pass legislation. President Obama is in control of the Executive branch and if he deems it necessary, he will veto Republican bills.  As long as Obama shows some backbone against Republican opposition, we have nothing to fear about the Republican agenda over the next two years.

• Ernst was part of a historic moment in Iowa history by becoming the first woman to win a statewide election. As such, I suggest you write a letter congratulating her, but then also alerting her to issues you care about. As she is new to statewide office, I am certain she would love to hear from her constituents at Grinnell College.

• If you are concerned over Ernst being elected to represent Iowa in the Senate, be consoled in the fact that Ernst is only one of 100 Senators. Even if she continues to promote some of her fringe policy goals (abolishment of the EPA and Department of Education) she will not have the power to actually pass legislation on her own. 

• Finally, remember that the 2016 election is less than two years away. Many of us will still be on campus then and I hope we use the results of this election to energize us. As always, Iowa will be a critical state; so, expect a slew of high-level candidates visiting Iowa. Your vote as well as your encouragement of others to vote will once again be critical. However, with the results of the last election still fresh in our minds, voter apathy and malaise will be unacceptable.  This time, come November 8, 2016, we will be the ones to “make ‘em squeal.”

Lex Mundell ’16 and

Doug Anderson ’15

Campus Democrats Co-Chairs

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