This diary is not intended to bash Nate Silver, since he was just basing his predictions on historical precedent. It's to help motivate all of us (including myself) to not let a repeat of 2010 happen and to from this point forward always take mid-term elections as seriously as we do elections in years divisible by 4. Nate Silver doesn't like our prospects in the US House in 2014. He may be correct, but there's no reason why he must be.
Below the burnt orange chicken wire we'll dive into the details.
Nate Silver's Five Thirty Eight article from today points to many historical factors that are not in our favor for recapturing the US House of Representatives in the 2014 midterm elections.
Silver first points to a reversion to the mean:
First, there is some reversion to the mean: a party tends to lose more seats in the House when it has more of them to lose.Even though Silver didn't mention it specifically, the 2010 elections which gave many state legislatures to Republicans also gave them the power to
There is also another type of reversion to the mean that is often overlooked: the president’s party tends to lose more seats in the midterms following years when it performed very strongly in the presidential race. For example, the large margins of victory achieved by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 and Lyndon Johnson in 1964 were followed by large losses in the House two years later.
Still, the more likely situation is losses rather than gains for Democrats, based on the historical record. And a 17-seat gain would strongly defy historical precedent.Silver also pointed to the fact that Democrats are more reliant on voting blocs that have been less likely to turnout in midterm elections - Hispanics and voters under the age of 30. Young voters who helped propel Obama to victory in 2008 were largely absent in 2010. This trend must be reversed if Democrats have any chance in 2014.
Nor did Democrats come especially close to winning the House in 2012, once one examines the results from individual races more carefully.
This year, there were only 11 House seats that Democrats lost by five or fewer percentage points. Thus, even if they had performed five points better across the board, they would still have come up six seats short of controlling the chamber.
In other words, Democrats would have to perform quite a bit better in House races in 2014 than they did in 2012 to win control of the chamber – when usually the president’s party does quite a bit worse instead.
The article features a chart chronicling midterm US House results since the end of World War II. Only in 1998 and 2002 did the sitting President see his party gain in those elections - and those were slight gains. Democrats gained 5 seats in 1998 and Republicans gained 8 seats in 2002.
Silver's article, although an early prediction, is anything but fatalistic. 2010 is commonly known as a "wave" election like 1994 and 2006. 2014 at least for now is not expected to be, even though what happens between now and November 4, 2014 remains to be seen. Although he used this point to support his thesis ("a party tends to lose more seats in the House when it has more of them to lose" - as he put it), Democrats in 2014 will have fewer seats to lose, so I don't see it likely that Democrats will become a smaller minority two years from now, much less do I think Republicans will experience a sweeping victory in the US House. I'll still accept that the odds aren't in our favor for taking over that chamber.
Historical statistical trends, however, are not inevitable. Silver is open to the possibility of 2014 being an exception to the rule shown to largely hold true at least from 1946 until now. But, Silver states
it might take a major scandal in the Republican party, or for Republicans to splinter into factions, for Democrats to have more than a remote chance of winning the House.As I see it, what it will take is commitment to hard work, a lot of pavement pounding and steadfastness on our part. There are no short cuts in democracy. Remember that 2010 didn't just give us a "Tea Party tidal wave" in the US Congress where Republicans in both houses felt emboldened to obstruct President Obama. It also gave us Scott Walker, Rick Snyder, Rick Scott, John Kasich, Bob LePage, Tom Corbett, many Republican-controlled state legislatures, plus some of the worst legislation we've ever seen, much of if drafted by ALEC. That election brought us voter suppression laws, union busting, attempts to deny women reproductive rights, drug testing requirements for welfare recipients in Florida, dissolution of self-government in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and many other pieces of noxious legislation.
Hopefully 2010 taught us the importance of state and local government. If we can buck the trends pointed out in Silver's article, then hopefully that will bring us gains in governors' mansions and state houses, not to mention some ballot initiatives in our favor. If we assume the worst - the feds dropping the hammer on Colorado and Washington after their newly minted legalization of recreational marijuana, it would be harder for the DEA to exhaust resources to clamp down against several more states. Would more states take a look at single-payer health care? Would private prisons come under increased scrutiny? Will tax fairness get a hearing at the state level (our own Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper has thus far refused to even consider it)? Would more sane state tax policy also be coupled with stemming the tide of deep cuts to state programs - particularly education budgets?
The answer lies with us - mobilizing our base, beating back dirty money, turning out more young (including first-time) voters, and making 2014, just like 2012, about a clear contrast in values, in which vision of America should prevail and move us forward.
12:10 PM PT: Thanks to all of you, for the recs, for spotlighting this, but most of all for the dialogue. A particular comment sparked a thought: many citizens seem to approach elections like it's 'trickle-down voting". Democracy works best with a bottom-up approach.
Thanks also to leftcandid for bringing up the ACA and how we need to promote it. What if we started a multi-media campaign to publish testimonials about how the ACA benefits people? Write letters to President Obama, your Senators and Representatives, create a Facebook page where you can post those testimonials, share it on Twitter, think of a way to create PSAs on YouTube, radio and television. Other ideas are welcome too.