Yesterday, Jonathan Chait wrote a provocative article, Are House Republicans Voter-Proof? In it, he argued that the Republicans likely have nothing to worry about in going full tilt Michele Bachmann. After all, most people don’t even know which party is in control of the House of Representatives. Why would they blame the Republicans?
Under normal circumstances, I agree with Chait. If the Republicans keep doing what they have been doing killing the economy inch by inch, the electorate will not notice. As I wrote last week, I fully expect the Republicans to pick up some seats in the House and also likely take control of the Senate. But I do wish people would stop talking about the Sixth-Year Cure. This is the belief of political observers that the president’s party loses big the sixth year of his presidency. Sean Trende has debunked this idea. What actually happens is that the president’s party loses big in one of the midterm elections. That already happened to Obama in 2010. Although it is likely that 2014 won’t be a good year for the Democrats, they are already doing about as badly as they can. There aren’t many seats (in the House at least) that they can gain.
Chait mentions 5 factors that work in the Republicans favor. The first is the silly Sixth Year Curse. The second is that Democrats tend to do badly in midterm elections. That’s true, but that’s already figured into the calculation. Third is that there aren’t many swing voters anymore. I’m not sure how this gives the Republicans an advantage when most of those swing voters are just Democrats now. Fourth is the observation that Democratic voters are concentrated and thus their votes don’t count as much. That’s true in the Senate races, but not in the House. So I don’t get his point given that the big issue is the House. And fifth is that the 2010 redistricting favors the Republicans. That’s true, but again, already figured into the calculation.
All he is saying is that the Republicans can continue to misbehave and get nothing done without a voter backlash. And that’s true! But no one is suggesting that the Republicans are idiots. They respond to incentives and they see that in 2014 they are not going to harmed if they vote yet again to defund Obamacare. What people like me have been talking about is the longer term. Over the next 6 to 8 years, if the Republicans don’t start to change, they will be overwhelmed by the demographic change. And no amount of redistricting and voter suppression is going to save them.
But this isn’t even about the long term. If the Republicans refuse to raise the Debt Ceiling or if they simply shutdown the government, people will notice. The TV news will be all about this. Even Fox News will have a hard time blaming it on the Democrats. And people won’t have to know who their legislators are or who controls the House of Representatives. They will just freak out about the crazy party that hates the government.