Midterm elections throughout the United States are over and done with and the results are in—some of which will directly affect USF students like Propo- sition J, which is the minimum wage increase.
“The minimum wage increase is important. That to me is going to be lasting story from this election [because of the] overwhelming support for the mini- mum wage increase,” said Associate Politics professor and Leo T. McCarthy Center Director Corey Cook.
The minimum wage increase would allow for the minimum wage to increase gradually to $15 in San Fran- cisco by 2018. For students and those who plan to live in the City after graduation, the impact will be significant.
Significant proposition results according to Politics professor Stephen Zunes are Proposition 47, which would require misdemeanors instead of felonies for nonviolent crimes, and Proposition 1, which is a $7.5 million water bond measure that would help combat the current drought.
Zunes mentioned that the propositions were confus- ing to understand this year. “I’m a political science pro- fessor, and I didn’t understand half of them!” said Zunes.
In explaining how Proposition 47 would benefit the state, Zunes commented, “savings can be used to try and keep kids in school and with abuse treatments and ad- diction services. Less people will be sentenced to jail and people who are in jail for nonviolent offenses will be released. It is not just good for these people and their families, but it will help with the problem of prison over- crowding and [will] save taxpayers a lot of money.”
Voter turnout for this state election was low—only 36.5% of registered voters turned out at the polls, according to U.S. News, which is even less than the 40.9% turn out during the 2010 midterm elections.
REPUBLICANS SWEEP HOUSE AND SENATE
Republicans gained a significant number of seats in the Senate and House of Representatives.
According to Cook, there was a pretty significant sweep and the Republican wave hit California too as the elections were closer than usual.
Zunes echoed the sentiment and shared that this election had one of the lowest turnouts in national elec- tion and that it was low among traditional Democrats because of disillusionment with the Democratic Party.
“Part of this is that their [Democratic] party has not been as rigorous in supporting a more liberal agenda in domestic and foreign politics,” said Zunes. “[In terms of the losses of seats by the Democrats,] it was huge. It’s not unusual in a midterm election and during a president’s second term that the part of the president will lose some seats, but it was a bigger margin…the losses were more substantial than one would normally expect.”
Cook explained that the Republican’s seat gains were due to three reasons. The first is a turnout gap, which is that Democrats dominate among younger voters and Republicans dominate among older voters. In presiden- tial years, Democrats do well and voters turn out. In non-presidential years, people are less likely to vote.
“In non-presidential years, older voters, white vot- ers, wealthier voters, tend to turn out so essentially, this demographic gap signifies that low-intensity races
tend to be more Republican and high intensity races turn out being much more Democrats,” said Cook.
The second reason is that people are really unhappy with Obama; thus, Republicans are more inspired to turn out compared to Democrats.
The third piece is that for the most part because there was the sense that it was going to be a good year for Republicans; thus, Republicans went out and raised more money and better candidates so they were prepared for a good election.
“Democrats had a lot of retirements…They didn’t have great candidates and so forth…so basically, it’s that they weren’t as excited for voting as Republicans were as well as there’s this demographic different be- tween the two,” said Cook.
Cook was surprised by the Republicans’ significant wins. “I thought that democrats had a shot in one of those [Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina] races. A lot of them were in the margins. This is what hap- pened in the presidential race every competitive race the Democrats won in 2012,” said Cook.
“This time it was the other way. Every close race the Republicans won. I thought the Democrats would hold off in Iowa and I thought there was a good shot to pull it out in Colorado due to it becoming increas- ingly Democratic. Both of those were pretty signifi- cant losses to the Democrats. It’s rare that a party win every close race,” added Cook.