Published on November 23rd, 2014 |
by Ben Andrew
Why The Democrats don’t need to panic just yet
The 2014 Midterm elections were bad news for the Democrats. The Republicans now have a majority of Senators, Congresspeople and Governors, giving them a huge amount of power and influence over the decision making process in the United States.
This weak performance was not unexpected, and is a common problem faced by two term presidents. The six year itch is a term previously used to describe the traditionally poor performance of the ruling party mid way through their second term.
With the 2016 Presidential election fast approaching, the Democrats know that history is not on their side. They haven’t held power for three straight terms since World War Two, and these mid-term results don’t indicate that this is about to change.
Beneath the headlines of these troubling results, however, there are reasons to believe that a victory for the Democrats in 2016 might not be as unlikely as it immediately appears.
The Midterm elections had the lowest turnout since 1942, a signal of the growing apathy American voters feel towards their political system.
The turnout in a Presidential election tends to be higher than for the mid-terms, given how much is at stake, and this could be a positive sign for the Democrats.
Certain groups turn out to vote more than others – with the elderly and the wealthy more likely to participate than other groups. Ethnic minorities, blue collar workers, the young, and the poor are, on the flip side, some of the least likely groups to vote. These voters are also some of the most likely to be left wing, meaning that low turnout often disproportionately harms the Democrats.
The 2016 Presidential election is likely to have a much higher turnout that the mid-terms, meaning that the Democrats can hope for a boost if they do indeed get a more energized voter base.
- Protest Vote
American’s have rarely been as angry at their politicians as they are right now. The approval rating of Congress is hovering at a staggering 15%, with the overwhelming majority of American’s unhappy at the way they are being represented.
Polls are also consistently showing that U.S citizens feel a third party is needed, as they are dissatisfied by the way that both Democrats and Republicans represent them.
President Obama has not been spared from the anger of voters, with his approval index dropping to -16%. When angry and frustrated with the political climate it is easy for voters to take out their frustration on the President, punishing the establishment heavily in the mid-term elections in favour of an opposition party who are less immediately accountable for the problems America faces.
The 2016 election, however, is not going to be between an incumbent and a challenger, but between two candidates vying to become President for the first time. Protest votes against the Democrats seem much less likely in this context, given that Obama can not run, and that both candidates will be equally scrutinized by negative campaigning.
- The Party nominees
For the Democrats, there really is only one possible candidate. Hilary Clinton is the overwhelming favourite to become the next Democratic nominee, with no other candidate seen as a challenger to her by the media or the public at this time.
The situation for the Republicans, however, could not be more different. They have an unprecedentedly large contingent of potential candidates, with Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and others all with a fair chance of becoming the next nominee.
Competition in a primary isn’t all bad, but the Republicans may find it much easier to have electoral success uniting against Obama’s government, than trying to unite their many factions around one leader. The eventual nominee is likely to go through a very gruelling process in the primaries, given the huge range of opinions and viewpoints among Republican candidates, and may find themselves alienating parts of their voter base in the process.
Uniting the party behind one candidate is a very different challenge to uniting the party against an unpopular opposition President, and this difficulty for the Republicans may prove an advantage for Clinton if she does decide to run.
All in all, despite the disappointing results in the mid terms, there is still plenty of hope for the Democrats ahead of the 2016 Presidential election. No Republican candidate has yet won the hearts of the American people, and once the GOP have to start defending one nominee rather than criticizing Obama, they may find their current advantage starts to slip away.
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