Indirectly through Jonathan Bernstein, I came upon a jaw dropping article by Jeffrey Lord in The American Spectator, 2014: a Wave Election or an Earthquake? The article goes into some detail describing what the difference is between a “wave” election and an “earthquake” election. It doesn’t help that he seems to have made up the term “earthquake election.” But according to him, a wave election is when one party does really well but it is ephemeral. An earthquake election is where one party does really well and it represents a long lasting political realignment.
The problem with the article is the subtext. This conservative hack is certain that the Republicans will win big in November. Never mind that polls indicate that the Democrats just look stronger and stronger in the Senate and have always looked good in the governorship races. Lord just knows this is a big year for the Republicans.
He also doesn’t actually get the idea of a wave election right. Both 2008 and 2010 were wave elections because the prevailing political tide dragged along a lot of candidates who wouldn’t normally have been elected. Even if the Republicans do really well this year, it won’t be a wave. In the Senate, we are seeing the results of the Democrats’ 2008 wave. There are a lot of Democratic Senators up for re-election in states that are generally pretty hostile to Democrats. The fact that only one of the six main Senate election models give the Republicans an even modest advantage (Just 4 percentage points!) shows this is no kind of wave.
But Lord has a major ax to grind. He claims that the Republicans made major gains in 1994 because Clinton turned to the left. He also claims Carter (the proto-New Democrat who was really quite conservative) lost to Reagan because he was liberal and not because of the bad economy and the Iran hostage crisis. Clearly, Lord is one of the true believers who thinks that if only the Republicans ran the Platonic ideal of the pure conservative, they would win elections for the next century.
Similarly, he complains (This is unbelievable!) that Thad Cochran isn’t a real conservative because he voted to affirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court. He likens Ginsburg to Robert Bork. So okay, Jeffrey Lord is not just a conservative hack, he’s also an ignoramus. But he is entirely typical of the whole of the Republican Party. What we hear from him today goes right along with what we heard everywhere in 2012 about Mitt Romney winning the presidency. Remember Peggy Noonan’s belief that Romney was going to win because she was seeing more yard signs? That’s what’s going on here.
In Lord’s defense, he does write, “The GOP establishment panicking over re-electing Pat Roberts in red state Kansas is not a sign of an earthquake election — and maybe not even a wave election.” There are 33 Senate seats up for election this year. Of them, 21 are currently held by Democrats. The Republicans should easily be able to take the Senate. But there is a very good chance that they won’t even be able to do that. Regardless of what happens, 2014 will not be a wave election.
But if the economy keeps improving, 2016 will be a wave election. For the Democrats. And it might even be an earthquake.