New Polls: Dems Very Likely to Keep Senate

Jason Easley’s essay looking at recent opinion polls in Kentucky, Nevada, and California argues that Democrats are substantially improving their position in senate races in each.

I’ve been noticing the same thing. Even if the new LA Times poll showing the Democratic candidates, Boxer for Senate and Brown for governor, pulling way out ahead is as inaccurate as the rightwing blogosphere maintains, there is other evidence of them now enjoying a lead beyond the margin of error. Easely pays a lot of attention to who has high negatives, and it is clear that the public just does not like some of the Republican candidates very much.

I’ve also noticed that television news has made a big deal about generic Republican versus Democratic polls. I cannot say such polls are completely useless, but they should be approached with great caution. Americans have the same low opinion of Congress as an institution that Mark Twain had.

But it turns out that voters usually like their representatives just fine, thank you, and believe that they are exceptions to the rule.

The president’s party usually loses some seats in the midterm, but the Democrats increasingly look set to keep a majority in the Senate. The Republicans would have to take 10 seats, and that outcome looks increasingly implausible, especially with Christine “Blood on the Altar” O’Donnell having won the primary in Delaware.

It is, of course, strange that Americans should be contemplating returning to power in the House the party that ran the country off a cliff during the first 8 years of the new millennium. But it isn’t all “Americans” who are voting. In most midterms, the voter turnout is relatively low, about 37%. The poor don’t typically vote, and neither do people under 30 (they came out for Obama in ’08, but that was likely a fluke). Also, ethnic minorities don’t vote in as high numbers as middle class and upper class whites. The voters will be well-heeled people who already had health coverage and who mind that it was extended to workers, students and the poor in a way that might cause them to have to bear some of the burden. They will include the ones who would be affected if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire.

So a midterm election is an election in which rich cranky old white people predominate as voters. Thus, it really is remarkable, and sad for the Republicans, that even with such a favorable electorate (i.e. a shrunken and weird one), they likely can’t take the Senate back. And without the Senate, they won’t be able to get up to much mischief. Every theatrical bill they pass in the House will be quietly buried in committee, and in the unlikely event it came to a vote and passed, it would simply be vetoed; and the veto would stick.

Since there are only two parties in the US, and one has gone bonkers, every election is now a game of Russian roulette for the American republic. But this time, at least, the chamber that has come up looks to be empty.

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8 Responses

  1. In Poland, the main opposition leader has also gone nuts behaving in irrational and destructive ways. Thankfully, Poland is not a ‘two-party state’ so the other opposition parties are most likely going to quickly take over the role of keeping the government in check. It feels weird to say it, especially living here and having to put up with some of the madness, but I can’t help but think that democracy is in better shape in Poland than in the US.

  2. “It is, of course, strange that Americans should be contemplating returning to power in the House the party that ran the country off a cliff during the first 8 years of the new millennium.”
    This puzzles me no end. FDR was given almost a decade to resolve the Great Depression, but the electorate seems unwilling to give Obama even two years. And, as Obama says, they want to give the keys back to the people who ran the car into the ditch in the first place–including some who have the figurative “blood on their hands:”
    link to

    “And without the Senate, they [Republicans] won’t be able to get up to much mischief. Every theatrical bill they pass in the House will be quietly buried in committee, and in the unlikely event it came to a vote and passed, it would simply be vetoed; and the veto would stick.”
    Since the main activity of Republicans in the Senate has been blocking legislation proposed by the Democrats, little will change as long as the Republicans have between 41 and 50 seats. (41 is enough to sustain a filibuster; 50 is break-even but Joe Biden settles tie votes.) What will change is that, if the Republicans control either house of Congress, they will institute wall-to-wall investigations of groundless charges against Obama, as they did with Clinton, and if they control the House they may contrive another pointless impeachment.

  3. “…there are only two parties in the US, and one has gone bonkers,”
    and the other is scared to death it.

  4. I used to be one of Jason’s writers over at politicusUSA. I have the deepest respect for Jason, but I think he might be a little too willing to see daylight in the Democrats pulling ahead of Republicans at this point. I see more significance in the number of undecideds and in the comparatively weaker enthusiasm of those on the left who are being counted in these polls. It is the enthusiasm factor that I find more indicative of who will actually get out and vote – or not. Some of the Republican primaries have had record turn outs compared to other years; if someone is turning out for a primary, they are far more likely to turn out for the general election. I haven’t seen comparable turnouts on the left, nor am I seeing the equivalent support of independents this time around that there was for Obama and the Democrats in ’08.

    What I DO think is an unknown quantity on the left / Dems is that there was an unprecedented turnout of segments of voters in 2008 who did NOT previously vote. The political organization that made that happen didn’t just go into mothballs. I think it is still fundamentally intact, and I HOPE it results in a significant number of those previously inactive voters participating a second time.

    Because if they don’t it is far more likely that this election AND the next election cycle will result in turnovers of who has control, and not just in the house or the senate, but governors and state legislatures and even local governments.

    The resurgence of culture wars with popsies like O’Donnell boasting questionable claims about witchcraft and out-purity-ing the fundies and courting the ‘male headship’ evangelicals and the stirring of the pot of anti-choice an homophobia all suggests the right is worried enough about the numbers to be pumping up the low-information unsophisticated elements of their base to turn out the votes.

    I’m hoping the left is able to do so as well – or better – without using those exploitive tactics.

  5. The problem is, even if the GOP achieves less than Gingrich did in ’94, it will still paralyze the nation. In ’94 this meant that when the bubble economy grew no one had the guts to stand up to Reaganite dogma and preserve the regulatory framework erected after the ’29 crash, which we have been paying for all decade. But to have the nation paralyzed now is far more destructive, because there isn’t even an equivalent to the tech boom to at least get the country back to some real growth.

    This won’t matter to the corporations that fund the GOP, because they have already abandoned loyalty to their country. They can finance extremists to squeeze more war contracts and tax cuts out of the citizens, lure them into running up more debt on smaller wages, while they transfer their real assets to Asia where more responsible governments are investing in an educated workforce who will become our replacements as consumers. GM sells more cars in China than it does in the US; where does its ultimate loyalty lie? “Pump and dump” can be done with entire countries.

    The panic of white reactionaries will not recognize capitalism “being itself” as the cause of this accelerating decline. It will turn on Mexicans, blacks, gays, witches, labor organizers, anyone it associates with the liberal perversions of the 20th century. They will rule the midterms and undo any good the poor and non-white try to do at presidential elections – literally a civil war with battles 2 years apart. Democrats no longer have unions or working-class neighborhoods to organize the progressives as in 1932, and if they tried to do so their own corporate sponsors would cut them off and move to China even faster.

    The demographic trends say that eventually there will be too few whites to even control midterms. But the renewed screams for secession, nullification, and the repeal of the 13th and 14th Amendments indicate that there will be one more great showdown, where the right will attempt to use some crisis to throw minorities off the voter rolls forever. We’ve done it before in this country and it was done in South Africa in 1948 and it may happen in Israel even sooner.

    At that point, the number of citizens on each side will not matter, only the number willing to fight and die for their irreconcilable definitions of a just society.

  6. I disagree with Mr. Cole and Phud above regarding the consequences of the elections. Let’s suppose that the republicans get control of the house and 46-49 seats in the senate. It’s true that they won’t be able to pass their laws. But the last two years show:
    1. That congress has managed to get some significant (though terribly flawed) laws passed.
    2. With 60 (and later 59) senators it was always a battle in which 1 to 3 senators end up controlling what’s on there, often to the point that the more liberal senators consider not even voting for it. And with a 75 seat margin in the house the story was not much better.

    In the next two years, for any bill to pass would require not only all democratic senators, but about 8 republicans. If you think it was hard to get collins and snowe, think of the what it will be like. Of course, you’d also need the more liberal senators to be willing to go along with whatever those 8 republicans demand. In the house it’d be similar, you’ll need all 200 and odd democrats, each of which knows how important their vote is, plus a good number of republicans facing pressure not to break rank.

    You could say “well, nothing will get done”. And that’s true, but some things need to get done. For example, the government kind of needs a budget. And that’s without even talking about any of the serious and pressing problems the country faces. So to think of it is more of the same is not that accurate.

    • Not only that, but some of the Tea Party crazies will get elected, and the rest of the Republicans will be scared witless by the sight of veteran moderates and conservatives losing primaries. So it seems very possible that enough Republicans will hew to the Tea Party line to shut the government down, like Gingrich did in 1995 but this time they won’t give in so easily.
      So maybe all we have to look forward to is Obama running against the “do-nothing 112th Congress” in 2012 the way Truman ran against the “do-nothing 80th Congress” in 1948.

  7. I think the Dem’s will keep both houses. Perhaps 55 in the Senate, Margin of 10-15 in the House. Not much to work with on major legislation, but that is not the menu for the next two years.

    Come Jan, the Republicans will begin their pre-primary money primary for their next Candidate. They will all be working at who’s on First for the next year or so, and then they will go to Iowa and caucus. Media attention will be on the horse race. Because of the Presidential Race, the Congressional Republicans may not be quite so united on No.

    If Dem leaning Progressives take the opportunity, such a time is good for pushing forth some “movement” ideas that are not closely tied to the Obama Agenda. The Senate possibilities are more favorable to us in 2012 and 2014, so perhaps time to develop some interesting candidacies, and bring new ideas forward. Maybe a little drama to offset the Presidential Circle — but something a lot more classy than Tea Parties. I for one would like to see a grass roots driven movement for a Constitutional Amendment to de-personalize Corporations.

    Can’t predict Foreign Affairs or Conflicts. But they will be. Obama will travel more in the next two years, Mostly to make a little obama style drama about how complex world problems are, while the Republicans argue about their Presidential Ideological Aspirations. Any movement that shows up ought to be about jobs and economic matters at least in part, and solutions ought to seem practical, comprehendable.

    We need to consider how we “shape up” all those young voters who came out in 2008, and help them learn that Politics is a Lifetime Occupation, not a one day vote to be followed by instant change. In some respects, that is where “movements” help educate.

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