News coverage shorthand paints U.S. politics as a red-vs.-blue landscape. But a growing number of registered voters who refuse to identify with one political party and some results from local and state elections on Tuesday hold out the hope that the American electorate is returning to its purple hangout somewhere in the middle.
The Virginia Legislature flipped from Republican to Democratic. It should have happened in 2018 when the Democrats won a majority of the votes. A recent court rejection of the state’s gerrymandering allowed this year’s results to reflect the votes cast.
In Kentucky, the governor’s house also flipped. The winning Democrat, Andy Beshear, is his state’s attorney general. He also has a name well-known in Kentucky politics. His father was a popular two-term governor. It would be like Idahoans seeing the name Andrus on their ballot.
Further, incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin has been called Trump before Trump. A black-and-white conservative, he pushed hard to roll back the Medicaid expansion that provides health insurance for hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians.
Change is happening even in local races. Columbus, a small city in Republican Indiana, is the birthplace of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. It sent his brother, Greg Pence, to Congress in 2018. On Tuesday, Democrats won the City Council.
For several election cycles, voters have been trying out fractious, partisan politics. They have rewarded the demonizing of ideologies and a bully-boy approach to governing. Politics as usual was rejected in favor of a new thing.
This week’s election results, isolated as they may be, might be a bellwether of a more optimistic American politics.
In Virginia, all votes counted equally. In Kentucky, the candidate with deep political roots and a broad message beat a rigid ideologue. In Columbus, party affiliation was not the only way office seekers were judged.
Occasionally, America flirts with driving itself off the democratic cliff as crazy ideas and crazy candidates attract the spotlight. Eventually, Americans find their way back into the warm glow of the middle ground. Could voters be seeking a return to balance, what is often referred to as “purple,” sensibilities?
It would be wise to ignore the hyperbole that will inevitably be attached to the results of Tuesday’s elections. Americans should take a long close look at those who are capable of the middle ground.