The November election puzzle

The Republican party has done a bang up job of pursuing policies that alienate wide swathes of the public, such as women, minorities, LGBT, poor, and young to name the major groups. The only parts of the electorate that has escaped unscathed from are rich (and middle class and poor people who think that the rich are on their side), older, white, male, xenophobic, and racist voters.

Of those groups the biggest bloc of course are women and even the GOP’s own internal polls find that women think that the party is “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion” and “stuck in the past” and that women are “barely receptive” to their policies and the party does “especially poorly” with women in the Northeast and Midwest,

By all rights, this should lead to a major shellacking at the polls. And yet, the paradox is that we have been repeatedly told over the past year that the Republican party stands to make major gains in the 2014 mid-term congressional elections and that this might even be a ‘wave’ election, those periodic moments when all the factors that influence how people vote point in one direction, resulting in a lop-sided victory for one party.

Signs of a wave election are when elections that should be toss-ups result in easy victories for the wave side and when seats that should be easy wins for the anti-wave side become toss-ups with the formerly favored candidate struggling to compete, and those on the pro-wave side who were expected to win romping home even more easily. As a result, it was widely expected that the Republicans would add to their majority in the House of Representatives and taking control of the Senate.

This year was widely predicted to be such a Republican wave election, the main factors being president Obama’s low approval rating, lack of robust economic and job growth, lack of US ability to control events in a turbulent world, a successful effort by Republicans to block any action on Obama’s domestic agenda, several US Supreme Court decisions that were favored by the Republicans, all combined with factors like the immigration issue and many of the competitive US Senate seats being held by Democrats.

But more lately, pundits have been backing off from predicting a Republican sweep and becoming more equivocal. Nate Cohn of the New York Times says that he sees no wave forming. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post sees the tide turning towards the Democrats.

More significantly for me is that Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium currently gives the Democrats a small edge in retaining control of the Senate. Wang’s work is what I have been following for elections because he bases his analyses purely on polls and does not take into account other factors that are more of an art than a science. He eschews the so-called ‘fundamentals ‘models that look at major economic and social indicators and disdains the beltway gossip that is much favored by the bloviators on TV. His predictions in past elections have been extremely accurate.

If Wang’s analyses are correct, why is the ‘wave’ not appearing? Could it be that the alienating of major voting blocs that I spoke of at the top is finally catching up with the Republicans? Paul Waldman thinks that Republican ineptness is working against them, though Kevin Drum is not so sure and thinks that the horizon for Republican craziness backfiring on them keeps shifting further and further away.

Republicans keep getting crazier and crazier and more and more conservative, and liberals keep thinking that this time they’ve finally gone too far. I’ve thought this from time to time myself. And yet, moving steadily to the right has paid off pretty well for them over the past three decades, hasn’t it?

Maybe it will all come to tears in the near future as the lunatic wing of the party becomes even more lunatic, but we liberals have been thinking this for a long time. We haven’t been right yet.

The main thing going for Republicans is that the Democratic party has become more like them on so many issues, especially on economic and foreign policy, that voters may simply not be bothered to look for differences between the two parties and simply stay away from the polls.


  1. says

    The problem really is there is no left wing political party anymore. The Democratic party is barely centrist overall, with a majority flirting what used to be considered the right wing. We do not have candidates we’re excited about. The only reason Democratic voters even vote is because of the lesser of two evils scenario. The right wingers are so off the wall batshit that not voting gives them a chance to get in, and we know how tragic that could be to this country.

    Add into that Republican gerrymandering (won’t be fixed for another six years) and the fact that more Democrats are defending seats than Republicans, and we’ve got a scenario where we’ve got the barely interested having to vote in more barely centrist candidates than we want in a situation where the lines are drawn against us.

  2. hyphenman says

    @ Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao No. 1

    And don’t discount the growing number of former Democratic Party voters, like myself, who have grown so disgusted with the presidencies of Clinton and Obama that we cannot ever foresee voting for a Democrat at the national level again.

    I always vote, I haven’t missed an election since 1974, but I won’t be voting Democrat or Republican in 2014 or 2016.


  3. says

    The republican party’s goal for the past five years was to disenfranchise the voting rights of the poor, black and other minorities -- those most likely to vote for the democrats. Even if that has succeeded in any way, they’ve alienated many of those who traditionally vote republican.

    Mid-term US voter turnout is usually in the 40% range, but I suspect this time it could dip into the 20% to 30% range, and the democrats will still win. The 1%ers plan is likely going to backfire on them.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    left0ver1under : Even if that has succeeded in any way, they’ve alienated many of those who traditionally vote republican.

    Yes, but have they alienated them enough to make them vote against Republicans, or just enough to make them not want to vote?

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