2014 Election Will Be No Mandate

Get Out the VoteEd Kilgore wrote a good article over at Talking Points Memo that really can’t be repeated enough, Looking For a Mandate In November? Good Luck. Of course, it won’t matter. Regardless of what happens, pundits will claim that there was a mandate. It’s what they always do. What is most likely to happen is that the Republicans will get a small majority in the Senate. And this will be portrayed as a backlash against Obama’s “liberal” policies.

It’s curious. Pundits are supposed to exist to provide insight into the news. So you would think that the natural thing for a pundit to do would be to note that this election is six years after the huge Democratic wave election of 2008. There are 21 Democrats in the Senate up for re-election — 8 in Romney states. There are only 15 Republicans up for re-election — only one of which is in a state that Obama took in 2012. So what we should expect is that the Republicans would gain 7 seats. And that is exactly what we are looking at, although right now, Nate Silver is giving almost as much chance that they will gain 8 seats.

But I don’t expect to see much of this nuanced view during the evening of the first Tuesday in November. Instead, there will be lots of conjecture about what “the people” think. And it will say a lot more about what the pundit thinks. But the main thing is that we can depend upon the pundits to do whatever is simplest. We can’t have news analysis that’s any more detailed and honest than campaign ads!

Here’s Kilgore’s take on it:

So no matter what happens, 2014 is likely to be a sui generis election with little or no predictive value with relatively low immediate consequences. Logically, then, no national party should be able to claim the results as a fresh mandate, particularly since the issue landscape of Campaign 2014 has been so diffuse and unstable.

To take it a step further, it seems that the only thing that matters in politics these days is turnout. So regardless what happens to the polls, we can’t much say what “the people” think or want. We can say that people are disaffected from politics. And we can say that we make voting far harder than it needs to be, even apart from Republican attempts to stop people from voting.

But part of the problem is just us liberals. The Pew Research report I discussed earlier showed that less than 70% of consistent liberals voted in primaries as consistent conservatives. I continue to grasp onto the hope that some day all my fellow liberals will realize that we have such a bad government that is so disinterested in the concerns of the people because we don’t vote. And not voting in primaries, makes it easier for Democrats to nominate economic conservatives like Clinton and Obama so that even when the Democrats win, liberals lose.

But this election? It means nothing. It looks very much like it is going to turn out exactly as the fundamentals predict. The geography itself is against the Democrats. And the politics are against them this year. If we end up with 48 or even 47 seats, it will be a neutral year. But don’t expect to hear that from the pundits.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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