On a scale of one to ten, this election ranks about a 3. There were plenty of disappointments, but some victories that should be highlighted.
You can guess how the media is framing this: as a big election for Republicans. But let's dig deeper.
I'm not surprised that the Republicans won the New Jersey and Virginia races. Dems had held those governorships for some time now, and neither Jon Corzine nor Creigh Deeds were all that progressive - in other words, they didn't exactly stand up for Democratic values.
Meanwhile, in New York's 23rd Congressional District, President Obama's cunning political strategy of appointing a moderate Republican from a not-so-Republican district to an administration post to get another Dem vote in Congress has paid off. Bill Owens (D) has defeated Conservative Doug Hoffman by a small margin after even the Republican nominee endorsed Owens.
I was disappointed to see Commissioner Jim Jendrasiak lose in Grand Rapids. He is a perennial target for some people, and it's sad to see that they were able to knock him off this time. Next time, Jim!
Speaking of next time, congratulations also are due Ben Barker, the 21-year-old CMU student who came in fifth out of seven candidates. Not bad, considering that (a) this was his first race; (b) he's a student; (c) he ran against the three incumbents, all of whom won; and (d) he outpolled two others. His future is bright! Congratulations also to Bruce Kilmer, an involved Mt. Pleasant Democrat and incumbent Commissioner who won.
And what about Kentwood? The city saw its first contested race for City Commission since 2003, and Mayor Rick Root was unopposed for a third term. (Kentwood has not seen a contested race for mayor since 1997.) The contest was in the second ward. Incumbent Frank Raha III's day job is with Republican State Rep. Dave Hildenbrand, so hearing that he lost to Ray Verwys might not seem all that bad - except for the fact that VerWys is a 'tea party' activist. Only 1,033 votes were cast between those two, as only 6% of those in the 2nd ward showed up.
Southern Michigan played home to both the biggest pleasant surprise (the approval of a gay-rights referendum) and disappointment (Mike Nofs's election to the State Senate) of the night.
What does this all mean?
There are plenty of ways to look at these results.
For one thing, the typically low turnout that we often see in "off-year" elections was seen once again this year. Many people don't realize that the decisions their local leaders make can be even more important than some of those made by the President, Congress, and the like. Our votes for city commission, mayor, etc., are much more important than our votes for American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. (Okay, I will admit to having voted a couple times on Idol).
Furthermore, this election is a good excuse for progressives to intensify their efforts to bring change to our communities and our nation. Gay-rights advocates saw mixed results; the Maine vote was particularly disheartening, but its closeness reminds us that the fight cannot end now!
In closing, I leave you with two quotes:
"Dr. King once said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice, but here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice." - Barack Obama
"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." - Ted Kennedy