Reality Check: GRAND OLD PARTY – HOW BIG IS THY HAMMER?

—by , September 8, 2010

Trends, Polls & History Spell Mid-Term Democrat Doom

“What makes this election cycle so devastating for the Democrats is that the Republicans have had their numbers reduced so severely in the past two cycles. Republicans were reduced to 42.5 percent of the popular vote in 2008—their lowest total since 1974. Their share of the two-party vote (i.e. just Republicans and Democrats) was 44.5 percent. Even a dead-cat bounce in a neutral environment would have netted the Republicans twenty seats after plumbing those depths.”

– Sean Trende

Bigger Than 1994

During the summer of 1937, a time of enormous international political upheavals, from the rise of fascism to the spread of communism and an explosion of modern right-wing revolt to the command of modern liberalism at home, the great author-wit Dorothy Parker was asked to comment on which political party she belonged to. Parker, one of the great radical drunks in American letters, mused; “That not especially brave little band that hid its nakedness of heart and mind under the out-of-date garment of a sense of humor.” Thus marking out territory for this space and the entirety of the Reality Check News & Information Desk’s toil for the past 13 years—an aim to serve the outer limits of political judgment, considering neither the prevailing winds nor its humorous intent.

The winds, as is their wont in these shifting political times, have gone from predictable to historical according to one of the finest political columnists in this country, Sean Trende, who spends his spare time combing over an outlandishly bizarre collection of charts, graphs and polls to cobble together the odd opinion on political trends (pun duly intended). Trende is a warrior when it comes to laying it on the line, often re-printing his previous missteps and copping to weird shifts in prognostication. The above quote is a small gem from his most recent exhaustive discussion on the Real Clear Politics web site, on the devastation awaiting the Democrats this autumn.

Trende, while a favorite of this space, is hardly alone. No one with half a brain or a bloated heart thinks the Democrats are not going to be pummeled this November, nor do those blissfully living in the ideological wilderness of the late Ms. Parker. The question has always been by how much? Or more to the point, how many seats can the Republicans snatch; 40 to 50? More? In turn, can the GOP retake control of congress and put the screws to the Obama agenda, pushing the president into the kind of legislative cramp that led to the repeated shut down of the federal government in 1995 and ‘96.

In a perfect mid-term campaign world, the opposition party in power is weakened by a poor to horrid economy and a president who, while unnaturally popular at the time of his election two years prior, has taken broad steps in activity that have queered even those rooting for him. As stated in this space, Ronald Reagan’s first term comes to mind, but according to Trende and his mounds of research, the far-less iconic Bill Clinton in 1994 may be more apt.

Although Trende’s more conservative approach rightly warns that the “Contract with America” Republicans not only had a unifying ideological agenda but was ushered in by an impressive surge of young lawyers, legislators and number-crunchers who posed confidently as less fiery political hacks than a no-nonsense accounting firm. This year the Republicans are not only more “colorful” and playfully disjointed in their candidates’ personas, running the gamut from sacked CEOs to wives of former wrestlers, but the TEA Party movement’s chaotic “outside political gamesmanship” has them fractured as never before.

Since many Republican candidates are either spanking new or hardly set, and the embattled Democratic incumbents still regrouping, the general doom-speak perception in the press comes from generic polling, or what Trende and other junkies of his ilk refer to as the Popular Vote Quotient. In less wonky terms the PVQ registers voter confidence in or popularity for either party without mentioning a single candidate.

Trende uses the PVQ in pointing out key mid-term beatings by both political parties in similar volatile environments, such as the aforementioned Republican Revolution of 1994 and the Reagan backlash of ‘82, but specifically former Republican uprisings not unlike this year in 1966, ‘68, ‘72, ‘80, and ‘86, wherein the GOP polled dramatically higher than Democrats, but hit a ceiling in certain counties and districts which kept them from gaining the number of seats the Popular Vote Quotient portended.

This is all very interesting, but there is more than a good chance that because of the wild card TEA Party “outsiders” posing as Republicans and the always unpredictable two-headed opposition to the status quo, 2010 Republican gains could approach 60 seats.

As Trende states in his piece; not since 1932 when merely admitting your allegiance to the Republican Party, much less representing it as a candidate meant a very real threat of tar and feathering, has the opposition party hit this kind of jackpot. Democrats that year, when the crippling damages of the Great Depression vaulted FDR into power, jumped an astounding ten percent in polling from 46 percent to 56 percent, netting 97 congressional seats in the process.

The Republican PVQ polling percentage, as of the time of this writing, is also a rock hard ten percent—51 percent to the Democrats 41 percent, an especially alarming swing since the Democrats obliterated the last vestiges of the Karl Rove Experiment just two years ago and delivered the White House with the most impressive victory in 40 years.

Assuming Trende’s historical postulation holds up, the Republicans might not be able to count on crushing 1932 numbers, but then no time in American history has there been a lower polling of congress or less trust and reverence for political figures. Merely considering the kind of kooks that are popping up all over the hinterlands these days, on both sides of the political fence, there appears to be no candidate litmus beyond the choosing of someone for an office they either openly despise or aim to transform into a personal soap box.

Whether throwing all these statistics and reference points into the cauldron that is the 2010 political landscape is wise at this juncture is anyone’s guess. But with less than 60 days remaining to Election Day, it is unlikely a drastic rebound in the economic indicators or a GOP implosion could slow the current anti-incumbent momentum.

But since all politics is local and national polls tend to be poor-to-dismal finite indicators, there is nothing left to do but cast votes; the preponderance of which will not be for Democrats.

James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus, and Midnight For Cinderella.

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