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December 2014 - Volume 19, Number 4

   

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Election 2014: A Conservative Victory?

by John Hendrickson

The 2014 midterm elections proved to be very historic as voters across the nation responded against President Barack Obama’s policies. The Republicans strengthened their majority in the United States House of Representatives and took control of the United States Senate. As an editorial in Investor’s Business Daily noted:

 

This generational GOP tide means that the party now controls both the House and Senate for the first time in eight years and its domination is at historic proportions. Not since Harry Truman was in the Oval Office have Republicans held such a large majority in the House, and they’re now stronger in state governments than they have been at any time since the 1920s.[1]

 

Although most of the post-election focus is on the national results there were major changes in the states. “In state legislative races across the country, Republicans saw a litany of pick-ups, with nearly two-thirds of all state legislatures now under Republican control,” noted Collin Levy in The Wall Street Journal.[2] “Seven state chambers flipped to the Republicans, including the state Houses in Minnesota, New Hampshire, West Virginia, New Mexico and Nevada,” wrote Levy.[3] Several Republican incumbent Governors were also reelected, most notably Governors Sam Brownback (R-KS), Scott Walker (R-WI), and John Kasich (R-OH).

 

Stephen Moore, who serves as chief economist for The Heritage Foundation, wrote that the election “was a huge victory for the supply-side agenda.”[4] As Moore argues:

 

The tax issue was a major factor in many state races. All GOP tax-cutting Governors — Brownback, Scott [Rick Scott (R-FL)] — won. In many states with Democratic tax-raisers — Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois — Republicans won. Liberals had said this election would be a referendum on taxes. It was.[5]

 

Voters in several states “decided 146 propositions in November, comprised of 100 legislative proposals, 35 initiatives, four referendums, five advisory measures, and two other measures.”[6] Some of the more controversial measures included legalization of marijuana and minimum wage. The Initiative & Referendum Institute reports that “perhaps the biggest proposition story on election night was the approval of initiatives to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.”[7] This is an unfortunate trend that seems to be sweeping the country as many voters take a more liberal and libertarian approach to drug legalization.

 

In regard to minimum wage, “voters in five states, Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota, approved proposals to increase the minimum wage.”[8] While voters seemed to approve increasing state minimum wage rates, other voters voted to limit taxes. As the Initiative & Referendum Institute reports:

 

Tax issues are the most common subject of ballot propositions historically. This year there were 15 tax-related measures on the ballot. Voters across the nation showed an aversion to new taxes and a willingness to grant exemptions to narrowly targeted groups, such as spouses of veterans who die in the line of duty. Three states approved tax limitation amendments: Georgia voters approved 74-26 an amendment that prohibits any future increase in income tax rates; Tennessee voters approved 67-33 an amendment that bans state and local income or payroll taxes; North Dakota voters approved 76-24 an amendment to prohibit real estate transfer taxes; and Massachusetts voters approved 53-47 a proposal to stop indexing the gas tax. Nevada voters rejected 21-79 a proposal to impose a 2% tax on business profits, with the revenue dedicated to schools.[9]

 

“The tax-hiking agenda fared poorly on ballots all over the country,” noted an editorial from Investor's Business Daily.[10] Tennessee's approval of a “constitutional amendment banning an income tax” is probably the most significant of all of the tax-related ballot measures.[11] Wisconsin voters approved a measure “mandating that all gas-tax money go for transportation projects.”[12] “No more raiding the highway trust fund of $1.5 billion that's supposed to fill potholes and instead is used as a piggy bank to finance everything from day care centers to lavish pensions.”[13] As Investor's Business Daily stated:

 

All in all, the outcome of this year's initiatives reinforces the scream from voters who want less government in their lives, and politicians — whether in City Hall, state capitals, or Washington, D.C. — out of their wallets.[14]

 

Other important ballot measures that voters considered included the passage of Amendment Three in Georgia, which “declares a right to bear arms.”[15] In Mississippi voters approved a measure that “declares the right to hunt and fish.”[16] Arizona voters sent a warning signal to the federal government by passing a measure that “declares that the state may decline to administer federal programs.”[17] Abortion was also a divisive issue as two “life” amendments failed in Colorado and in North Dakota, while voters in Tennessee approved Amendment 1, which “declares that the state Constitution does not provide a right to abortion or require abortions to be publicly funded.”[18]

 

The 2014 midterm elections demonstrated that voters are tired and frustrated with the current polices being advanced by President Barack Obama and the Democrats, but even with the strong Republican victories the policy battle will continue. Certainly voters did reject big government by handing control of the U.S. Senate to the Republicans, and as Moore argues many pro-tax Governors won at the state level, but much more work needs to be done to advance limited-government and free-market policies.

 

The nation is still divided. “The American people are today a deeply divided people — on ideology, politics, faith, morality, race, culture,” wrote Patrick J. Buchanan.[19]

 

Endnotes:

[1] Editorial, “Nine biggest losers of the GOP’s epic 2014 midterm win,” Investor’s Business Daily, November 5, 2014, <http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/110514-725139-after-gop-wave-there-were-some-very-big-losers.htm> accessed on November 6, 2014.
[2] Colin Levy, “The GOP’s state legislative wave,” The Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2014, <http://online.wsj.com/articles/political-diary-the-gops-state-legislative-wave-1415220904> accessed on November 6, 2014.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Stephen Moore, “Winners, Losers, and Lessons Learned,” National Review Online, November 6, 2014, <http://www.nationalreview.com/article/392169/winners-losers-and-lessons-learned-stephen-moore> accessed on November 6, 2014.
[5] Ibid.
[6] BALLOTWATCH: Election Results 2014: Yes on Marijuana and Minimum Wage, No on Taxes, Initiative & Referendum Institute, University of Southern California, <http://iandrinstitute.org/BW%202014-2%20Election%20results%20(v1)%202014-11-04.pdf> accessed on November 6, 2014.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Editorial, "A big loser Tuesday: Democrats' tax-hike agenda," Investor's Business Daily, November 6, 2014,
<http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/110614-725338-tax-hikes-mostly-did-not-fare-well-in-tuesday-vote.htm> accessed on November 7, 2014.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] BALLOTWATCH.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Patrick J. Buchanan, “Against Obama, but for what?” Creators Syndicate, November 4, 2014, <http://www.creators.com/conservative/pat-buchanan/against-obama-but-for-what.html> accessed on November 6, 2014.

 

John Hendrickson is a Research Analyst with Public Interest Institute.

 

LIMITS is one of our quarterly membership newsletters, arriving in March, June, September, and December. It consists of short articles and essays on protection of human rights by limiting the powers of government.

 

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