I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up on the Senate election models but they’ve all turned sharply against the Democrats. Interestingly, FiveThirtyEight currently gives the Democrats the highest percentage chance of holding onto the Senate: 40%. Sam Wang’s Princeton model gives the Democrats a 30% chance. And, of course, The Monkey Cage gives them 7% — the highest percent chance for the last two weeks! None of this means that the Democrats will lose the Senate. But it doesn’t look good.
This bothers me. As much as I try to approach politics in a reasonably objective way, I do care. Even apart of partisanship, I have long felt that we have a bad system of government. It usually ends up in a divided government and that means that neither side ever gets to show what its policies really mean. Of course, the Republicans have had better luck with this than the Democrats. This is because Democrats aren’t crazy and actually allow Republicans to govern when they are in power. So I am bummed out to know that the Democrats will likely lose the Senate because that will provide the president with even less power to implement his policies than he has now.
What is most definitely not going on is the Democrats doing what the Republicans did in 2012: refusing to except facts and “unskewing” polls. I’ve heard a few people make such claims, but they are typical of moderates desperately trying to argue that the Democrats are just the mirror image of the Republicans. You know the logic: the Republican Party has turned into a revolutionary group, but there were some radical Democrats in the late 1960s. Balance!
To me, there is a fundamental difference in the psychology of Republicans and Democrats. Republicans have an admirable certainty, which often falls into delusion when they are simply wrong about something. (Very often!) Democrats have an annoying defeatism, which often crumbles at the first sign that things are not going well. That makes the Democrats sound bad, but given the state of the American political system, such defeatism is highly rational. And it means we don’t look at the polls and say, “They must be wrong! Everyone I know who works at Apple is a Democrat!”
None of this means that we don’t hope. For one thing, there is the Bannock Street Project, where the Democrats have put $60 million into get-out-the-vote efforts. So the hope is that there will be many more “unlikely to vote” people who eventually end up voting than is usual. Then there is this very interesting effect that Ed Kilgore wrote about, Polling Minority Voters Is Hard. I didn’t know this, but for some reason that pollsters have not been able to figure out, black and Latino voters always poll a whole lot more conservative than they are.
Despite this, I still think (as I have for over a month), that the Democrats are likely to end up with 48 seats in the Senate. One thing about all the different polls and their very different probabilities for the Democrats holding the Senate: they all predict that the most likely outcome is 48 seats for the Democrats. But even if this is the case — or if it is even worse, which it could well be — this should have been a huge year for Republicans in the Senate. The Democrats should have basically no chance of hanging onto the Senate. The fact that they do shows some progress in American politics. Maybe we are headed into a time when being crazy actually hurts the Republican Party.
Oh, I’m just kidding! I’m not a delusional Republican, after all!