Voters in New York City and Colorado are trying to make up for past mistakes. Despite bad decisions on Election Day last year, they're throwing out some of the politicians who abused their trust.
Eliot Spitzer, an ex-governor, and Anthony D. Weiner, an ex-congressman, were first run out of office a cycle or two ago because they couldn't keep their pants on. They had no idea of how to make a living except on a public payroll, so they plotted comebacks. Voters are often forgiving, eager to grant second chances. Mr. Weiner, his fly zipped tight, returned to lead in the early public-opinion polls in the Democratic mayoral primary. But further revelations of naughtiness brought him low, and he won only 5 percent of the vote on Tuesday. He left the arena with a middle-finger salute to the 95 percent on election night. Eliot Spitzer almost survived his reputation as a boulevardier of the bordellos, but still fell short of a runoff by 4 percentage points.
The common sense alive in the Big Apple prospered in the West, too. Colorado voters punished the Democratic lawmakers who most enthusiastically exploited mass shootings to inflict damage on the Second Amendment. They gave state Senate President John Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron pink slips and showed them the door. It was the first time in Colorado history that a state senator, let alone two, was recalled.
Democrats assume they can win popularity points by enacting strict gun-control laws in the emotional wake of tragedy. They learned otherwise when the Colorado ban on ordinary-capacity rifle magazines drove Colorado companies such as Magpul, a large manufacturer of rifle accessories, to a friendlier state, taking hundreds of jobs with them.
Citizens who never showed much interest in politics felt compelled to do something about it. A 29-year-old plumber led the effort to gather signatures to put the two tragedy exploiters up for a recall, and it became a national referendum on gun rights. Democrats held every advantage. The relevant state Senate districts, in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, gave President Obama more than 60 percent of their votes a year ago. New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg donated $350,000 to fight the recall, and billionaire Eli Broad contributed $250,000. The national Democratic Party dispatched experienced help from Washington. Bill Clinton made robo-calls. By Election Day, the gun-control advocates had spent seven times more than supporters of the recall effort. It wasn't enough.
Americans demonstrated once before, in 1994, that taking guns away from the law-abiding is not a winning issue. Democrats took a pasting in the November congressional elections that year in response to Mr. Clinton's "assault weapons" ban. But Democratic strategists promised that this time would be different. Shifting demographics, they said, would give gun controllers a safe haven in the Rocky Mountains. Gov. John Hickenlooper pushed the gun-ban legislation. Now, in the wake of a new election night, he wants to change the subject. "It's now time we refocus again on what unites Coloradans," he says, invoking the usual mantra of chastened pols: "Creating jobs, educating our children, creating a healthier state — and on finding ways to keep Colorado moving forward." It's no doubt a coincidence, but he's up for re-election next year.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, blames "voter suppression, pure and simple" for the Colorado vote. She missed the authentic message to the politicians: "Keep your pants on, and keep your hands off our guns."