The Republicans have won back the House of Representatives in this election, and the Democratic majority in the Senate is so narrow that nothing will get done. It is important to know why this occurred.
Conservatives will say it was a referendum on President Obama and a huge rejection of his “big government” philosophy. Many liberals will say it was because of the GOP’s messaging and ability to get voters to vote against their own interest — and that if only the Democrats fought back, they would win every election forever.
Both these claims are wrong — sure, they may have some grain of truth to them, but the idea that ideological platitudes and a better “message” determines 100 percent of elections is false.
As we can see in the outcome of this election, the state of the economy blindly determines almost all election results. Campaigns and messaging do close to nothing.
A political scientist skilled in studies of voting behavior could have predicted the results of this election almost five months ago, before campaigns started and candidates were chosen.
Obviously, unpredictable events can change an outlook, like the Christine O’Donnell debacle in Delaware, but that is extremely rare.
Still, the myths on both sides persist, and sometimes create themselves when they don’t have to.
A good example is the year of 1934. The country was recovering from the Great Depression and, in the midterm that year, Democrats picked up seats in both houses, solidifying their very large (but incohesive) majority.
Many liberal bloggers take this event as some sort of magical fable. Usually, the non-presidential party loses seats in Congress in the first midterm, and it’s been that way since the Civil War.
There are exceptions, but they’re rare and can be explained by atypical events. As there is no explanation here, Democrats have gotten their history wrong.
They say that because of FDR’s superior messaging, his ability to “connect” with voters and the lack of Fox News, the “right-wing hate machine” as they call it, the Democrats won seats when they would have normally lost them.
In their mind, the moral of this story is fight for the people, don’t let your opponents smear you and you win big.
However, this is a story that only reinforces their beliefs with unproven assumptions rather than actual facts. The reality was much more complex, but still easily explained.
FDR’s rhetoric may have sounded good, but the reality was that he had many centrist tendencies and did not originally support many parts of the New Deal. But the Democrats still won in 1934.
Democrats on those blogs say it is because the voters knew they did not want to give control of the country back to the Republicans after the economy crashed under them. And then they lament that the voters today are likely to give the GOP power, even though they, again, wrecked the economy.
They say that voters are dumber than they used to be, all because of Fox News. All their misconceptions of voting seem to blend into one in that scenario.
But there’s one very important part they left out: In 1934 the economy was growing steadily, and disposable income was greatly improving.
It certainly wasn’t as high as before the stock market crash, but it was getting much better and voters supported the people in charge at that time because of the general mood — things were in fact getting better.
If the economy had been stagnant, the country would have wanted FDR out of office as quickly as possible and no “connecting” would have saved him.
Sure, the people who wrecked the economy would be back in charge, but the voters wouldn’t care — a seesaw two-party system works that way.