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Bob Sojka

Tuesday’s election played out differently for the U.S. Senate, House, governorships and statehouses. Why? Good question. We’ll probably be trying to figure that out for months. I’ll take a stab at it. But until more granular data are available regarding community and voter characteristics at the legislative district level these thoughts are tenuous.

I would posit that the House vote was a combined reaction by middle- and low-income suburban voters to the eight-year GOP assault on the Affordable Care Act, plus an overarching refutation of the president’s character and his chaotic, intolerant, venal and inept administration. Voters recognized the vital need to restore checks and balances against the abuses and excesses of the last two years. Dismantled GOP Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania was a preview of Democratic gains that may be achieved in the future pending redistricting by bluer statehouses under the uptick in Democratic governors.

Democrats had to defend many more Senate seats proportionally in this election cycle than Republicans. Those picked up by Republicans were in conservative states. So, Republican gains were statistically more likely from the outset. The 2020 election will see nearly the opposite scenario which could set the stage for, a similar dynamic in 2020, but favoring Democrats instead. Time will tell.

Governorship and statehouse results favored Democrats. Governors and state legislators are generally more directly responsive than Federal congressional representatives to local constituent needs. The extent to which the net shift favored Democrats may be related to health care issues, ethnic demographics, and local economic (or other) issues that voters decided are better addressed by Democrats.

In all categories of elective positions, Tuesday saw a historic advance of representation parity for women. In other words, lots more women ran and won than ever before. I’ve predicted this several times in this column. Given the larger population of women, the increased percentage of women attaining college and advanced degrees, plus the increased number of women forming and managing companies, their gradual ascendance in the ranks of politics and elective government is inevitable. This same dynamic is occurring among ethnic minorities who are also becoming a more potent force in politics. You can expect to see a continuation and possibly intensification of this trend, and perhaps also more pushback by those feeling culturally or personally threatened by the new reality.

The national Democratic surge largely left Idaho behind, unfortunately. Nonetheless, the level of engagement of previously apolitical Idahoans, especially women and youth, bodes well for the future if it can be nurtured and expanded. Passage of Proposition 2 is the clearest validation of that optimism. Governor Otter’s last-minute endorsement of Proposition 2 had all the earmarks of a calculated face-saving gambit. It was clear Proposition 2 had overwhelming support statewide.

The GOP attempted to “own” the issue by calling it “a homegrown Idaho solution.” It was, but only in spite of, not because of the Idaho GOP. The proposition is virtually identical to proposals Idaho’s GOP consistently rebuffed for several years. Idahoans should never forget the suffering, unnecessary deaths, medical bankruptcies and lost revenue it took to shake Otter and his caucus from their political obstinacy and humanitarian insensitivity.

Here’s some different news. The 2018 election is a milestone for “Inside Politics,” marking its second anniversary with the Times-News. I and my guest columnists sincerely appreciate Times-News providing a balancing voice for progressive assessments of Idaho current events and politics. As we move immediately into the 2019 legislative session and the 2020 election cycle, “Inside Politics” will undergo a minor reboot.

Beginning next week Jeremy Gugino will become the new lead author and column coordinator. Jeremy got his start in Idaho politics following the 2016 election. He is the former communications director for the House and Senate Democrats. He also helped several campaigns with their communications this past election cycle, including Reclaim Idaho’s Medicaid Expansion efforts. Before that, Jeremy was an Idaho Bankruptcy Trustee and a law clerk to Idaho’s Chief Bankruptcy Judge. In 2006, before arriving in Idaho, Jeremy was a television news producer in Columbia, Mo., Spokane, Wash., Cincinnati, Ohio, and his hometown of Rochester, NY. He now volunteers full time for Idaho Democratic initiatives.

Jeremy’s “dirty little secret,” as he puts it, is that until 2016 he was a lifetime Republican. He laments the downfall of America’s first progressive party, which included the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. Given that those great people — and so many more — would be Democrats today, he decided to match his values with his choice of party. Jeremy paraphrases musician Joe Walsh, “The G-O-P is sooo different, I haven’t changed.”

I won’t completely disappear from the column; instead, I’ll join the ranks of guest writers, allowing myself more time for travel and other writing pursuits. To fans of the column, thanks for your support. Meanwhile, keep tuning in to “Inside Politics.”

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Bob Sojka is a Twin Falls County Democratic Party precinct captain and state committeeman.


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