Is a big blue Democratic wave poised to sweep the Republicans out of Congress in the 2018 mid-term election?
To listen to much of the media, you might think so. A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post quoted Nate Silver, the Yoda of Dem pollsters, who suggested that the “Democratic wave in 2018 may be swelled substantially by the enthusiasm gap into a tsunami.” Last month, when the conservative Democrat Conor Lamb eked out a narrow victory over Rick Saccone in a special Congressional election in Pennsylvania, CNN gleefully reported that “Lamb’s performance is ominous for Republicans as the November midterm elections approach.” As I write, Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is warning about an impending “blue wave” after a liberal won a judicial seat on his state’s court. There are intermittent bulletins urging caution about these prognostications, but prevailing meme emitted by the punditocracy forecasts a huge Democratic victory.
Let me introduce a dollop or two of doubt into this orgy of excited anticipation.
In the first place, Conor Lamb’s victory, far from limning the future, suggests why the Democratic Party as currently configured is likely to continue to lose seats. Forget that Lamb squeaked to victory by a margin of 755 votes. More important is his ideological profile. An ex-Marine, he is a patriotic pro-Second Amendment social conservative, i.e., an extreme outlier in a party whose right wing is tacked down by the socialist Bernie Sanders and whose left-wing is represented by the faux Injun Elizabeth Warren and whatever species of incontinent glossolalia Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi represent. If the Democratic Party had more Lamb Chops, they might look forward to more victories, but then the Democratic Party would not be the modern Democratic Party, whose cynosure is class-warfare fired by identity politics and various forms of exotic sex panic.
Just between us, the Republican Party is nothing to write home about, either. It is nearly as corrupt as the Democratic Party, just as instinct with crony-capitalists, just as inured to deep-state unaccountability. But the Republicans have one huge, if intolerable, advantage: Donald Trump. It’s a bitter pill, to be sure, but Trump’s dogged policies have palpably reversed decades of American decline and the psychological lassitude that typically accompanies such national angst. The economy looks like my backyard garden: green shoots and new blossoms everywhere. Unemployment is down to historic levels, business confidence (despite Trump’s audacious tariff talk) is burgeoning.
Trump’s success is reflected in his increasingly robust approval ratings. The latest Rasmussen poll has Trump on 54 per cent, a tad higher than Barack Obama at this point in his first term. And how it must have pained CNN to report that Trump’s popularity had jumped in recent months among men, among young voters, among middle-aged voters, and among college graduates. (Among viewers of CNN, presumably, his numbers are still in the tank.)
No, I do not think there will be a blue wave come November. Mid-terms are traditionally tough on the incumbent party. But the Senatorial map favors Republicans and many observers expect the GOP to pick up a few seats. I think that is correct. As I write, the House roster lists 238 Republicans, 192 Democrats, and has five vacancies. In 2010, Barack Obama lost an unprecedented 63 seats in the House. But that was in the aftermath of Obamacare, perhaps the single most unpopular piece of governmental imposition in history (excepting only the 16th and 18th Amendments) and the rise of the tea party. Sure, it is possible that the Republicans will lose a few House seats. But Trump’s increasingly broad-based support and the astonishing success of his agenda make it just as likely that the Republicans will gain a few seats. Absent some currently unanticipated calamity, I am confident that Nate Silver’s “tsunami” will turn out to be but a feeble rivulet, moist but impotent.