Will mid-terms be a blue wave or sub­tle shift in cur­rent?

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Low­man S. Henry Colum­nist

La­bor Day is still con­sid­ered to be the tra­di­tional kick-off of the Gen­eral Elec­tion cam­paigns de­spite the fact the na­tion has set­tled into per­pet­ual cam­paign mode. In re­cent weeks there has been a spate of col­umns by main­stream me­dia types point­ing out the chal­lenges Repub­li­cans face in the up­com­ing elec­tion.

There has been lit­tle by way of anal­y­sis of the dif­fi­cul­ties fac­ing Democrats. The pos­si­bil­ity of a ‘blue wave’ is baked into con­ven­tional wis­dom, although there is lit­tle ev­i­dence to sug­gest a pro­found re­align­ment of the elec­torate will take place this year that will undo the pop­ulist surge of 2016.

This is not to sug­gest Democrats will not make con­gres­sional gains. His­tory tells us the first mid-term af­ter elec­tion of a new pres­i­dent is usu­ally not kind to his party. The elec­torate is sharply divided — and closely so —there­fore mi­nor shifts in vot­ing pat­terns could have an out­sized im­pact on the par­ti­san com­po­si­tion of the next congress.

For­mer Bill Clin­ton cam­paign man­ager James Carville once fa­mously summed up what de­ter­mines elec­tions by say­ing: “It’s the econ­omy stupid.” That was true in 1992, it is true to­day. And the surg­ing U.S. econ­omy rep­re­sents the big­gest hur­dle fac­ing Democrats this Novem­ber. There are more jobs avail­able that work­ers seek­ing em­ploy­ment. Un­em­ploy­ment among tra­di­tional Demo­crat con­stituen­cies, es­pe­cially African-Amer­i­cans, is at an all-time low - and the pres­i­dent’s ap­proval rat­ing in that cat­e­gory is at an all-time high.

Adding fuel to the eco­nomic fire are the tax cuts passed by congress and signed into law by Pres­i­dent Trump at the end of last year. By Novem­ber the full im­pact of those cuts will be felt by tax­pay­ers. As has hap­pened with tax cuts, the cur­rent round has spurred eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. More Amer­i­cans are work­ing; work­ers are get­ting paid more, and pay­ing less in taxes, a boost for the party in power.

Most pun­dits pre­dict­ing a blue wave fo­cus on Demo­crat chances in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, which is in­deed in play. They don’t talk about the U.S. Se­nate be­cause the GOP likely will make gains in that cham­ber and that doesn’t fit the nar­ra­tive. Here is the rea­son why Demo­crat changes of tak­ing over that cham­ber are bleak: 24 seats cur­rently held by Democrats are up for elec­tion this year, just 9 Repub­li­can seats are in cy­cle. Even worse for Democrats 10 of those 24 seats are in states won in 2016 by Don­ald Trump. The most re­cent round of polling shows Repub­li­can held seats are at risk in just three states, in as many as eight or nine states Demo­crat in­cum­bents trail their Repub­li­can chal­lengers or the races are within the sta­tis­ti­cal mar­gin of er­ror.

The nar­row mid­dle of the elec­torate gets scared when ei­ther party veers too far to the ex­treme. This year Democrats are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a wave of ul­tra-Left wing so­cial­ist ac­tiv­ity with the so-called Demo­cratic So­cial­ists as­cen­dant within the party. Such ex­trem­ism turns off in­de­pen­dent vot­ers, par­tic­u­larly those in more af­flu­ent sub­urbs where many con­gres­sional and statewide elec­tions are de­cided.

There have been a num­ber of con­gres­sional spe­cial elec­tions since Don­ald Trump ar­rived at the White House. But spe­cial elec­tions tend to not be good bell­wethers.

At­ten­tion of the en­tire po­lit­i­cal world fo­cuses on spe­cial elec­tions with huge amounts of na­tional money flowing into the can­di­dates’ cof­fers. In Novem­ber there will be hun­dreds of con­tested con­gres­sional races. All but a hand­ful will be fought in rel­a­tive anonymity.

This is not to sug­gest Democrats will not re­gain con­trol of the U.S. House. Af­ter all only a mi­nor shift in voter loy­alty in po­lit­i­cally fickle sub­urbs could flip the 23 seats needed. If that hap­pens (and that re­mains in doubt) Left wing pun­dits will un­doubt­edly look at a sub­tle shift in the cur­rent and la­bel it a blue wave.

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