While Kartik has focused most of our coverage thus far on the Florida elections, I figured it would complementary to include an analysis of the national elections in the context of what it means going forward. Let’s be clear: it was a very good night for Republicans but no, it was not a “wave’ election when it comes Congress. Not in the least. All of my fellow Democrats need to pick themselves off the mat, put the bottle down, and listen up. The losses sustained by the Democratic Party last night are more so the result of the structure of our political system rather than a referendum on President Obama and the Democratic Party in general. Let me explain.
The President’s party almost always loses seats in the Senate and the House during the midterm elections. In fact, one can go back and examine very midterm since Taft and see this pattern emerge quite clearly. Taft lost fifty-seven House seats and three Senate seats in 1910. Wilson lost sixty-one House seats four years later. Harding lost seventy-seven House seats and seven Senate seats in 1922, FDR lost seventy-two House seats & seven Senate seats in 1938. Eisenhower lost forty-eight House seats & thirteen Senate seats in 1958. Johnson lost 48 House seats & three Senate seats in 1966. Ford lost forty-eight House seats & four Senate seats. in 1974. Reagan lost twenty house seats in 1982. Bush lost 30 house seats & 6 senate seats in 2006. And yes, President Obama lost 63 house Seats & 6 Senate seats in 2010. In short, over the past thirty-one midterm cycles the President’s party has lost an average of thirty seats in the house and four in the Senate and to top it off, only a few times in that same span has the President’s party gained seats in the house Bush after 9/11 in 2002, FDR in 1934, Clinton in 1998 afer the Lewinsky scandal. additionally, only a handful of President have seen their party gain seats in the US Senate. For those keeping score at home, the Democrats lost seven senate seats (with some still undecided) and ten house seats as well. Put into a historical context, this not some massive wave or realignment but for the most part, near the average. Plain and simple folks, Obama and the Democrats were walking into the lion’s den with over hundred years of history staring them in the face. Last night’s result was inevitable and structural. Without some national disaster or event having a major effect on the race, the President’s party loses seats. There was no such event last night in the United States, thus the trend still holds. Tie this with their strategy of abandoning their records and Obama’s accomplishments due to fear of being attacked by Republicans (and SuperPacs), my forecasts for losses on this night as discussed several times on TFS, my facebook and twitter were simply common sense.
So going forward what does this mean? How does relate to 2016? To be blunt, this is the best worst thing that could have possibly happened to the Democrats as it pertains to prospects for 2016. Why? The burden of governance now rests with the Republicans-meaning they have the responsibility to govern the country for the next two years during what is sure to be a tumultuous and rancid presidential campaign cycle, especially when Hillary Clinton officially enters the race, as Rand Paul and others have already tried to pin last night’s results to her. The next two years are vitally important to the Republicans and, trust me, they know. Even during his press conference today Mitch McConnell gave us a preview of a forthcoming agenda that will NOT include shutting down the government and defaulting on the debt in 2015. That doesn’t mean he wont renege on this plan, nor does it mean that votes to repeal Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and other Democratic bills over the next two years. That being said, and this is key, if the Republicans, (as they have historically) misinterpret their “mandate” from the midterms and go down a path of hyperpartisanship, obstruction, and/or being inactive/obstructive they will, once again be faced with a tough legislative cycle in 2016. Democrats have proven that the Obama coalition is virtually unbeatable in Presidential cycles, but because of its boom and bust nature, its hasn’t carried over into the midterms. If the GOP decides to not be proactive on such cross cutting issues like immigration, tax reform, and raising the minimum wage (amongst others) they once again, will be facing a blue wall of Democratic supporters in the 2016 Presidential cycles that will once again be a broad-based coalition that can trump their coalition which has been dumbed down to older, white, males as seen by the exit polls from last night and the 2012 campaign as well.
Now, it would be in the best interest of the Democrats in the Senate to not filibuster every bill that comes to the floor. Why? Its simple- we have the one thing the Republicans didn’t have when they were the minority party: the President’s veto pen. Democrats should do all they can to work with the Republicans so they can use their actions as political weapons later on especially if the Republicans refuse to work with us. President Obama during his press conference today has already drawn lines in the sand on many issues including the individual mandate, a full repeal of Obamacare, amongst others that he will veto if they make it to his desk. In short, Senate Democrats need to let the President do the heavy lifting here, and use the power of the veto to keep the Republicans in check that way, they are not tagged with being obstructionists. More on what the President needs to do and the coming lame duck session in a forthcoming piece.
In closing my fellow Democrats, do not fret. Allow our Republican rivals to gloat about last night. They still have to govern and shoulder the burden of that process going into a presidential cycle. If history is any indication (which has been the theme of this post), they won’t be able to stop themselves from overreaching and pushing hyperpartisan bills that the American people will have no interest in and the President will undoubtedly veto. Hang in there Democrats. We are in good shape all we have to do is play ball and once again, we’ll be laughing our way to another Democratic victory in 2016.
Thanks for reading.
“The President’s party almost always loses seats in the Senate and the House during the midterm elections.”
— Justin, how is this a structural part of the political system? It seems to me that this argument is akin to saying that the structure of the solar system can be found in the fact that the sun rises every day. Just because you find a pattern does not elucidate the structure – it merely points to the fact that there may be structure