An election pre-mortem
According to political scientist John Sides, the fundamentals suggest that Democrats should expect to lose 1 to 3 Senate seats and 40 to 45 House seats. Going into the election today, polls suggest that the Democrats are likely to lose the House and possibly the Senate, but not by as much as one might expect given economic conditions.
Suppose that Democrats substantially beat the fundamentals even if they lose control of Congress. What lessons should they draw from this?
Recriminations would no doubt be the order of the day, but some optimistic souls might be tempted to conclude that the party is basically on the right track because it outperformed relative to economic conditions. Voters may be disappointed with the state of the country, but they still understand that Republicans are not a viable alternative.
I think this comforting interpretation would be a mistake.
For one thing, it is possible that historical models of vote shares based on economic conditions overstate likely Democratic losses due to increased partisan polarization and reduced swing voting. Perhaps closer elections with less variability are now the order of the day. In this case even a moderate Republican win would be a cause for serious concern, because it would suggest strong baseline support for Republicans and that Republican wins in the future are more likely.
The bigger issue, though, is that being competitive with Republicans is not nearly good enough. For America to survive as a democracy and address our real and pressing problems, Democrats need to secure a sustained working majority in Congress. By a working majority, I mean that in a typical election the Democrats would expect to win something like 56 Senate seats and a 30 seat cushion in the House. This is needed to overcome disagreement within the party (the Manchin/Sinema problem). But more fundamentally, a sustained working majority is needed because there is a significant element of randomness in electoral politics. We can’t secure our democracy and tackle problems like climate change, child poverty, education reform, and a dozen other important issues if the Republicans are likely to gain unified control of the government after the next pandemic or recession or foreign policy crisis or rise in crime and tear everything down.
Win or lose, the focus going forward needs to be on expanding the party’s appeal to low-income whites, and moderate and conservative blacks and Hispanics and Asians, and perhaps especially rural voters. We can argue about how to do that, but that’s the task. It’s no use saying this is impossible or complaining about the electoral college. Unless the Democrats have a surprise victory today, substantially expanding the Democratic coalition is the only way to avoid disaster. If it’s not already too late.
Thoughtful comments. WRT the environment, though, it’s already too late. And WRT civil rights in the US, it’s too late, at least for the next 25 years, because of the SCOTUS.
Surely much has already been lost and many opportunities missed. But it’s not too late, because as bad as things are, they could easily be *much* worse. Any gain we make now, or loss we avoid, is something we can build on later, if circumstances improve.
One possible solution to the electoral college issue is the interstate compact that is still seeking one or two states agreement. However, that won’t do anything for the congressional problems.
Elect our president by popular vote
Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest (Oak Park, IL) – Sep 27
Well the real question is whether we go back to the Articles of Confederacy or perhaps the European Union. Think we may be headed that way anyway but the Electoral College continues to serve the purpose of keeping the country the United States. Second many of TFG’s and his acolytes claims include millions of undocumented aliens voting and skewing the popular vote. Do we really want this? And doesn’t that increase the motivation for real fraud? Finally, I remember in 2000 dealing with the tie in Florida— in a close election do we want to do this in every state and precinct ? The answer is to appeal to the non MAGA GOP to marginalize the Nihilists supporting the fascists. But I do agree it is too late at least in my lifetime.
When asked, Ben Franklin explained that we are a ‘republic’, if we can keep it.
Not a ‘democracy’ as such. Electing presidents by popular vote would be rather democractic. Probably won’t happen very soon, if ever.
The thirty plus states with relatively small populations will insist on keeping things the way they are, and they will get away with this.
It is not at all certain that the SCOTUS would accept the popular Vote Compact.
It really hasn’t been the “small state advantage”, but the kind of huge margins in California and a few other states. Trump, as an example, won states with a nearly identical share of the population as his share of 2016 Electoral votes. Several states who went for Clinton did so with big margins, but”small state” EVs were not why Trump won.
Interesting. Still a heavy lift, but who knows.
That is our only hope.
Recrimination caught my eye. Quickly searched and found this from 2017. “Barack Obama: a noble failure” Angry Bear, New Deal democrat. A good read.
Tonight is not over yet.
Do Dems dare to cast aspersions on their party hero (for all practical purposes) Barack Obama? I can’t imagine why. Seriously.
Having said that, Obama won hands down over John McCain, whose worst electoral mistake may have been choosing Sarah Palin as his VP. One recalls Peggy Noonan (Of the Wall St Journal) heard on a hot mic saying ‘Well, this election’s over’ after that had been done. (Or words to that effect.) Everyone who did not want McCain to win was extremely pleased, as we were certain that GOP voters would NEVER approve it. It could be that the GOP has never gotten over that election, and never will.
And much later, McCain’s finest hour (& Senate vote) to preserve ObamaCare.
NDd presents a realistic view of the eight years of Barack Obama. He spent years crossing the aisle to develop a partnership which never occurred. It was only later, after his many attempts failed, did he finally figure out the Repubs did not give a damn about him, what he has to offer besides complete capitulation, etc. He even offered up Social Security.
Barack was a nice man whiling away his time when he had complete control the first two years and no control the last few years. A dreamer and not a doer.
With the ACA, we could have had a Public Opton if they had moved faster. LTC was next. Kennedy died and both were lost. The Senator from Aetna was not going to agree to a Public Option.
Joe Biden offered up solutions early on in his administration which kept a 2008 from reoccurring. No one really explained this or argued against the resulting inflation. A doer taking action versus a well-speaking dreamer of unity. Millions of people did not hit the bottom of the barrel due to Joe’s programs. One clear example is an extension of the ACA subsidies for those under 200% FPL. The cliff at 400% FPL no longer exists and the most you can pay is 8.5% of household income. That is just one victory which will last to 2025.
There are more and no one is talking about what Joe and the Dems brought about for “All People,” Repubs included.
I could not agree with you more-Biden maybe dottering but he has done great job for the country and he is only “ divisive” because he is dealing with men and women of bad faith. Obama was a bit too intellectual and too much of a politician to be better than mediocre and he was used as the enemy in the heartland all up and down the ballot.
Barack Obama was widely popular among Dems, still is.
Joe Biden, the centrist, is not exactly popular even among Dems, despite his various legislative successes. Go figure. (Obama was & is a centrist also.)
It would seem that a preponderance of Dems are opposed to a 2nd term for Biden. Bring in some youthful person. AOC maybe? For continuity, Kamala Harris can remain VP. (However, historically, presidents don’t reach ‘great’ status unless they are re-elected. Maybe that’s what drives Trump ever onward, to achieve Grover Cleveland status!)
Presidencies of Grover Cleveland
We do not disagree often, but we do on this. Obama never had “complete control”. The public option was never going to get past the Senate, not with the NON-Democratic Senator from the Insurance Industry in Congress.
Of course we do not disagree a lot. But this time it is important to make this clear. It already had gone through the internal Democratic mechanisms. The only issue was one independent Senator from Aetna, Joe Lieberman.
Senate Democrats Drop the Public Option to Woo Lieberman, and Liberals Howl
But, I have already said this. Lieberman later would be found shilling for Betsy DeVos to be appointed as Secretary of Education. The administration? . . . trump.
Bless America! never vote for an incumbent! always vote for gridlock! stand by Ukraine!
Are we ready for a postmortem?
Are we ready for two years of perpetual investigations and impeachments?
Kudos to Dems for dodging ‘crushing defeat’ in the face of raging inflation.
As it was jubilantly put on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’, American voters seem to prefer to cut back on craziness for the time being, by a slim majority. Maybe on both sides. They didn’t mention that a lot of 2020 election deniers still got elected however.
As for the Senate, it looks (to me) like the Dems will keep the AR seat, lose the NV seat, the GOP will hold on to WI & AK. Fetterman’s PA win means that the Senate stays evenly split until GA is settled. There will likely be a runoff in GA next month.
And for the House, it looks like a GOP victory, sad to say. The NYT estimate is 211 Dem, 224 GOP.
err, Dems will keep the AZ seat
In New England, no GOP candidates for federal office won anything.
In VT, outgoing Senator Leahy was replaced by current Rep Peter Welch, who was replaced by Becca Ballint, first ever woman congressperson from Vermont. All are Dems. In NH, Maggie Hassan overwhelmed Don Bolduc. Susan Collins of ME remains the only GOP congressperson from New England.
How a GOP Wave Became a Ripple
NY Times – just in
Conditions seemed ripe for Republicans to make big midterm pickups. Voters had other ideas.
It is entirely possible that the Senate will remain in Dem hands to the same extent it has been over the past two years.
As for the House, the GOP will have somewhat more of a majority than the Dems did over the same period, once all the votes have been counted.
Where things stand in the House
NY Times – Nov 10
35 undecided seats. 12 are leaning Dem, 23 are leaning GOP.
Decided seats: 191 Dem, 209 GOP
Final count, most likely: 203 Dem, 232 GOP.
Expect many impeachments, but no convictions.