Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coming Home To Roost

Image credit: Cujo359

This is the transcript of the sound of chickens coming home to roost:

Republicans lead by 51% to 41% among registered voters in Gallup weekly tracking of 2010 congressional voting preferences. The 10-percentage-point lead is the GOP's largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup's history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress.

GOP Takes Unprecedented 10-Point Lead on Generic Ballot

And here's the graphic:
Image credit: Gallup Poll

This is what screwing your base in return for campaign dollars buys you:

Republicans are now twice as likely as Democrats to be "very" enthusiastic about voting, and now hold -- by one point -- the largest such advantage of the year.
Gallup's generic ballot has historically proven an excellent predictor of the national vote for Congress, and the national vote in turn is an excellent predictor of House seats won and lost. Republicans' presumed turnout advantage, combined with their current 10-point registered-voter lead, suggests the potential for a major "wave" election in which the Republicans gain a large number of seats from the Democrats and in the process take back control of the House.

GOP Takes Unprecedented 10-Point Lead on Generic Ballot

Historically, Republicans have been more enthusiastic voters than Democrats in mid-term elections. What's awe-inspiring is the size of this enthusiasm gap. Gallup goes on to caution that there was a change in relative enthusiasm this summer in favor of Democrats, and that such a change could happen again. There would have to be a huge change, though, to make this any less than a disaster for congressional Democrats.

Why do I say that? It is, after all, the generic ballot, which hardly ever matters in a race where a congressional incumbent is running. Still, as Nate Silver, Gallup, and Alan Abramowitz have shown, there is a definite correlation between this ballot and the number of seats Democrats (and Republicans) win during mid-term elections. Right now, that correlation looks very bad for the Democrats. Let's take a look at a chart Alan Abramowitz came up with that shows the popular vote for Republicans, which is roughly predicted by the generic congressional ballot, versus the number of seats the Republicans have in the House (click on it to enlarge):
Image credit: Alan Abramowitz/Pollster

Let's crunch a few numbers to see where this puts us. Suppose there are a thousand voters in the United States. Of those, based on the relative voter registration numbers in this Pollster graph:
Image credit: Screenshot of this Pollster chart by Cujo359

Our microcosmic electorate looks like this:

  • 373 will be Democrats

  • 352 will be Republicans

  • 254 will be independents

Of these, according to Gallup's numbers:

  • 373 * 0.25 = 93 Democrats will almost definitely vote

  • 352 * 0.50 = 176 Republicans will almost definitely vote

  • 254 * 0.28 = 71 independents would presumably vote

Assuming that all Democrats vote for Democrats, all Republicans vote for Republicans, and independents are split down the middle, that comes out to a 62 - 38 split (212 votes to 129) among voters who will reliably show up at the polls. That's a huge difference to make up, and my assumptions about who will vote for whom have favored the Democrats. Republicans tend to vote more reliably for Republicans.

This election will be toward the right-hand side of that Abramowitz graph. It might go off the chart. To me, what makes the issue of whether the GOP will take over the House this year a question is simply this - the Democrats have to lose a lot of seats before they lose a majority, roughly 41. I say "roughly", because at the moment, two seats are vacant. It would be more accurate to say the Republicans need to gain 41 seats they don't have right now. That's a lot of seats to lose, but with the unprecedented voter apathy they've managed to earn, the Democrats could manage.

This is what refusing to do what you were sent to Congress to do gets you. Refusing to support the Constitution. Refusing to speak out clearly or unequivocally against religious bigotry. Refusing to end the wars. Refusing to fix the economy. Refusing to fix our broken health care system. Refusing to help unions organize. Refusing to support gay rights. They refused to do all of these things.

Of course, we've been told about all the nasty Republican obstructionism. There's some truth to this. It made the job of running the country harder for President Obama, and it made the job of passing legislation much harder for Congress. That doesn't excuse all the things Obama could have done without congressional approval. It doesn't excuse congressional Democrats for not doing what they could do to either highlight Republican obstructionism or get around it. It doesn't excuse them for having accomplished nothing worthwhile. The plain fact is that Democrats have been running Congress for four years now, and they have nothing to show for it except a stimulus bill that was too small to do anything but blunt the depression we're now in, and a magnificently lousy health care bill that will only make things worse for people who are either self-employed or employed part time, and won't do a thing for the rest of us who don't qualify for Medicare.

Even during the time when the Senate Democrats had a "filibuster proof" majority, they couldn't get anything done. They let Senators Nelson and Lieberman, among others, hold up the process for their own petty purposes. They could have brought the hammer down on these folks, but they didn't. Hell, the only reason we have Joe Lieberman in the Senate is because of their enthusiastic support for him in the 2006 election. He owed them, and they didn't make him pay.

They didn't make the Republicans stand up and filibuster. Instead, they kept letting the GOP demand cloture votes at a record pace without ever making them filibuster against things like extending unemployment benefits, or any of the other things they supposedly blocked. They had the nuclear option, just like the Republicans did when they threatened to use it back in 2005.

The only logical conclusion is that the Democratic leadership wants things this way more than they wanted to support the people who vote for them.

They richly deserve their upcoming demise. We certainly don't deserve two more years of the GOP running the House, but we didn't deserve the craven opportunists we voted for last time, either.

UPDATE: Similarly inspired by today's news, Jane Hamsher wrote a telling chronology of her experience with the Democratic Party leadership regarding health care reform. It should be an eye-opener, but I suspect by now that too many in the Democratic camp consider Jane to be some sort of shrill crazy lady who is never happy. Those people are idiots, but idiots are sadly numerous in this political landscape.

No comments: