There is no shortage of disturbing/depressing meta-messages from last night's election results.
There was the "What's the Matter With Kansas" message of populism being channeled into the cause of elitism and aristocracy: For example, we saw an anti-establishment/anti-corporate/anti-NAFTA/anti-government Tea Party electing to the Senate a congressman's son (Rand Paul), a senator-turned-Washington-drug-lobbyist (Dan Coats) and George W. Bush's trade representative (Rob Portman).
There was the "The Privileged Finish First" while "Good People Finish Last" message: For instance, principled Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who has taken many a principled progressive stand, loses while appointed Sen. Thurston Bennet the III of Colorado, who has sold out on key issues, wins.*
And, of course, there was the "Celebrity Trumps Everything" message of our Sarah Palin-inspired idiocracy: As just one example, low-key-but-uber-serious Rep. David Obey (D) retires and is replaced by a Republican known only for being an MTV Real World star.
All of that said, though, there is one very positive meta-message that -- arguably -- trumps all of the negative ones -- a meta-message that will be inevitably ignored by what Jon Stewart so aptly called the national media's D.C.-obsessed "conflictinator." You can see this deeper, far more important story in the ballot measures.
Ballot measures get ignored by the media because they don't involve personality -- but that's exactly why they are so good at telling us what an election is all about. Precisely because they are exclusively about issues and stripped of all the personality/side issues that come with specific candidates, ballot measures tell us what voters are thinking. And when you look at what happened to the ballot measures that exemplify the most pure form of conservative doctrine, you see an overwhelming rejection of that doctrine.
Colorado gives us a good example. Amendments 60, 61 and 101 were known here as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights on steroids -- they would have mandated massive spending and tax cuts. On top of that, Amendment 62 was the so-called "personhood" amendment that would have effectively outlawed abortion. All of these amendments, as I said, represent a pure form of the core conservative budget, tax and social issues agenda -- and all of them were defeated by a more than 2-to-1 margin in one of the most politically important swing-states in the country. Additionally, as the Denver Post notes, cities and counties throughout Colorado actually passed local measures raising revenues for key progressive public priorities.
This was not, mind you, isolated to Colorado. CNN reports that there was a similar trend all over the country, noting that "voters in several states defeated major anti-tax measures on Tuesday, acknowledging that their financially-strapped governments need revenue to provide services."
I'm not saying last night was, overall, a terrific night for progressive politics. But I am saying that beneath all the national media's manufactured storylines and its inevitably focus on the D.C. palace drama, we can see what may end up being the most important long-term result of the 2010 election: When put up for a vote in an election that had everything aligned for conservatives, the conservative policy agenda was stopped dead in its tracks -- and that very well could be a paradigm shift in our politics.
* To be clear, I wasn't in any way hoping for a Ken Buck victory in Colorado, but I am pointing out the depressing meta-message of Feingold losing and Bennet winning.