Tuesday’s election results provided some insights for both Republicans and Democrats nationally and in Nebraska.
Republican Deb Fischer’s 16-point win over former Governor and Senator Bob Kerry in Nebraska’s Senate race was an historic one. Fischer became the first woman in Nebraska elected to a full term in the Senate.
“I will work hard. I will serve you with honesty and integrity. You know what? We’re going to build a better America,” Fischer said in her victory speech Tuesday night.
Fischer’s win did not surprise University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor of political science John Hibbing. “I think in Nebraska, people need a really strong reason not to vote Republican,” Hibbing said. “Fischer did not mess up and in many respects that’s all a Republican needs to do.”
Fischer will join Republican Mike Johanns in the Senate. Nebraska voters also returned all three Republican House members, Jeff Fortenberry, Lee Terry and Adrian Smith, to Washington. That means Republicans hold all of Nebraska’s state and federal offices for the first time in 42 years. Hibbing doesn’t see the Republican wave in the state subsiding any time soon, nor does he see Democrats making many gains.
“I think the way forward is difficult to see and the issue is not leadership but structural,” Hibbing said. “The party registration numbers just increasingly show an advantage for the Republicans, especially when you factor in the situation with the independents, who usually like to call themselves independents, but tend to break Republican, at least in Nebraska.”
Nationally, the country’s demographics are changing. Hispanics in this election surpassed the 10-percent mark of the electorate for the first time. Hibbing says it’s the Democrats who have made the decision to adjust to that shift and it’s paid off.
“I think one of the figures I saw last night was about 71 percent of the voters were whites, though that number has been diminishing and will continue to do so,” Hibbing said. “So that’s got to result in some changes and clearly that’s been benefiting the Democrats. You know it doesn’t have to. There’s nothing automatic to this. I think the Republicans could, but they’d have to change some of their policies.”
For now, voters are making few changes. President Obama wins a second term. Democrats still control the Senate and Republicans still control the House. Third District Representative Adrian Smith said it’s a lesson from the past that should guide the future of politics in the country.
“It’s time to get beyond the bickering. You know we need a real debate. Our founders had vigorous debates, yet they still came together. I hope that we can learn from that,” Smith said.
John Hibbing, though, isn’t so sure that will happen. He says the voters’ decision to keep the status quo is somewhat surprising and may not bode well for getting things done in Washington.
“As far as governing, it means trouble for the most part,” Hibbing said. “Our system was designed to stop bad things from getting done, not have good things be done and I think we’re going to see that happen. It may be that we see nothing done, although it may also be the situation with the fiscal cliff and these other things just demands that something be done. I think we’ll find that out fairly quickly.”