The Year of the Schizophrenic Voter?

Political pundits are describing the 2014 elections as the most devastating defeat of Democrats in recent history. Republicans increased their majority in the U.S. House that it already controlled, took over the U.S. Senate, and even dominated state Houses.

The Politico reports,

Tuesday's Republican midterm wave also rippled across the nation's state governments, with the GOP grabbing three governorships and majorities in at least 10 new legislative chambers - further tightening their grip on the levers of power at the state level. Republicans will hold 31 of the country's 50 governorships next year - perhaps 32, if late-counted ballots push Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell ahead of his independent challenger, Bill Walker. They will also hold between 67 and 69 of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers - more than at any point in history, according to the Republican State Leadership Committee.

This, of course, is a beautiful part of the Republican narrative. They will be talking about this for months and maybe even years to come. It was simply that big of a victory. However, in spite of this historic win, something is very wrong in this incredible, bright red mosaic called the GOP political map. Throughout the country, as states voted for Republican candidates for office, they largely voted against GOP policies in their initiative and referendum positions. Below are just a few examples.

In Massachusetts, as the state elected a Republican governor, over 60 percent of the electorate passed a ballot measure guaranteeing paid sick days to about a million people.

In Colorado, as the GOP defeated a Democrat incumbent in the Senate, the voters opposed a personhood measure that was aimed at fighting abortions.

In Arizona, as the state elected a Republican governor and U.S. Senator, voters defeated a measure that, according to progressives, "undermine public employee pensions". This was a measure supported by most Republican candidates.

Even in the epicenter of GOP politics -- Texas, the city of Denton voted for a measure that would injure the most sacred of that state's industries, energy. By a vote of almost 60 percent, voters approved a ban on hydraulic fracturing.

This type of schizophrenic voting behavior is nothing new. In 2008, in the state of California, 70 percent of the black male population voted against same sex marriage while also voting for Barack Obama, the man who would drive that practice into the political mainstream. The irony of it all.

So what is the cause of such odd voting behavior?

There is an argument that has gone on for a long time. Back in 2012, Republicans described what they called the "low information voter", who could experience the worst economy since the Great Depression, but somehow still vote for the President who championed it. I first heard it by Rush Limbaugh, but such a description soon became a common part of the lexicon of conservative pundits.

Fast forward to 2014, following the huge GOP wins, liberal pundits are trying to figure out what happened. Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote immediately after the GOP tidal wave that "Part of the answer (to the GOP win) is that leading Republicans managed to mask their true positions." He goes on to say that "the biggest secret of the Republican triumph surely lies in the discovery that obstructionism bordering on sabotage is a winning political strategy." Finally, in the most damning statement of all, Krugman argues "Most voters don't know much about policy details, nor do they understand the legislative process. So all they saw was that the man in the White House wasn't delivering prosperity -- and they punished his party." In other words, the masses are, in fact, asses.

On the Sunday following the election, Barack Obama seemed to share Krugman's position when he told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation, that the voters know one person in Washington, DC and that is the president of the United States. This was not a vote against him, he argued, but the entire political culture of DC. The voter only knows Barack Obama, if they knew more they certainly would have cast different votes. The poor unwashed masses.

In the end, pundits of all political persuasions are beginning to see the problem is with the voters. Voters are disengaged, uninterested, and clearly confused as they vote for individuals of one philosophy, while voting for policies promoting entirely different objectives. This is not by design, but by confusion. The voters are not schizophrenic, voting for one thing when it comes to offices and another thing when it comes to initiatives; rather this appears to be a trend of an electorate that simply does not know what it is doing.