OK, now that I’ve read this Politico article about how the supposedly soon-to-be-triumphant Democratic party* is not going to get more than five seats at best (and may actually lose seats), and I’ve stopped laughing, let me do my civic duty for the day and explain what actually happened. There are three real reasons for this slow motion car wreck, and none of them are redistricting, outside money, and/or chicanery:
- Nancy Pelosi. There is a reason why Speakers of the House tend to resign after being handed an electoral shellacking of the kind that was handed to Madam Speaker in 2010, as events since have shown. The woman is simply weaker as House Minority Leader than she would have been if she had never been Speaker of the House at all; less ability to command others, and decreased deference when it’s not to her face. There are people in the Democratic party who would rather badly like to actually react realistically to what happened in 2010, even if their solutions may not be realistic… but as long as Nancy Pelosi is running things, they won’t. She doesn’t think that she did anything really wrong. I understand that Pelosi is an earner, but honestly: get her out of the house and give her a Super PAC, then. (By the way: most of the ostensible answers in the Politico article happen to come back to the meta-problem – for Democrats, anyway – of Nancy Pelosi keeping her job.)
- Barack Obama. You can argue about whether Barack Obama is a drag on House races or not, but it’s largely academic anyway: Obama for America simply can’t make itself care about the downticket races when they’re in trouble. Which is why House races have dramatically shifted towards the GOP in the last month. If you’re a Democratic candidate in a swing state, you might have seen the President stop by and help you out. Might. If not… well? Good luck?
- Wave election fatigue. …We’ve had three wave elections in a row: two Democratic ones, and one Republican one that wiped out the first two. We’re pretty much out of low-hanging fruit. We’ll have some more in 2014 – it takes two to three terms for a Member of Congress to decide that he or she is invincible – but right now everybody’s mostly hunkered down and taking no changes.
And… that’s how it is. With one important caveat: none of this would really matter if the Democrats happened to have, say, a six point advantage in the electorate this year.
*Actually, to be fair to Politico they actually referred to Democrats as “a party that has a legitimate shot at keeping the presidency and the Senate on Tuesday.”