There has been a lot of talk about the Democrats making a clean sweep this November. Many pundits have compared this election to 1994, when the Republicans captured the House and Senate from Democratic control. Here's a look at the most recent New York Times--CBS News Poll, Oct. 27-31, 2006, http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/politics/20061031_poll.pdf.
The good news: In general, voters say they'll vote for the Democrats, and there's a negative feeling toward the current members of Congress.
"If the 2006 election for U.S. House of Representatives were being held today, would you vote for the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate in your district?"
"Do you think most members of Congress have done a good enough job to deserve re-election, or do you think it's time to give new people a chance?"
Deserve re-election: 16%
Time for new people: 70%
Deserve re-election: 11%
Time for new people: 82%
No doubt, these numbers are in the Democrats' favor. Here's the bad news: Most voters like their own member of Congress and think he/she deserves re-election.
"Do you think the representative in Congress from your district has performed his or her job well enough to deserve re-election, or do you think it's time to give a new person a chance?"
Deserves re-election: 46%
Time for new person: 44%
Deserves re-election: 37%
Time for new person: 53%
"How about the Representative in Congress from your district? Do you approve or disapprove of the way your Representative is handling his or her job?"
Why? It's the "They're All Crooks Except My Guy" phenomenon. People complain that Congress is just a bunch of crooks--except for their own member. They see their member down at the supermarket on weekends and in church, he shook their hands at the last Fourth of July festival, etc. Voters think he's a nice, normal guy--even though his votes in Congress might be hurting average Americans.
The same Times poll shows that self-identified "Independents" are breaking for the Democrats 2-to-1 when it comes to voting for Congress:
Republican candidate: 23%
Democratic candidate: 50%
One problem is that independents might not turn out for a mid-term election. Let's hope they show up.
The biggest obstacle to Democrats--and the will of the American people--is gerrymandering. Politicians redrew the district lines in 2000, and they designed them to make it difficult for incumbents to lose. Thus, there are fewer competitive seats than in 1994. They crafted districts that were more polarized: Republican districts became more Republican, and Democratic districts became more Democratic. In the Michigan U.S. House races, none were competitive in 2004. The span between the winner and loser was more than 10 percent in each of those races. So even if Democrats earn 10 percent more votes than in 2004, it won't make a difference. The wave simply has to be that much bigger to overcome the district lines.
Here's the point. Voters are mad at Republicans and ready to vote for Democrats. Dems are going to do very good this year. This election, however, is not the same as 1994. It's not certain they'll take over either the House or Senate. Politicians have built a lot of safeguards to prevent incumbents from losing. Victory is within our reach, but it's not guaranteed.
The moral of the lesson? We still have a lot of work to do. No matter what the polls say, we need to work as hard as possible to ensure the Democrats win both the House, Senate, and the governorships.Thus, during these last few days, we need to get off our butts. If you're already off your butt, stay off your butt. Get your inactive friends off their butts. With that, we'll kick the Republican butts.