"(T)he biggest single under-discussed aspect of contemporary national politics is the consistent disparity in turnout patterns between presidential and non-presidential elections, which at the moment happen to align almost perfectly with party preferences."
If anyone's taking nominations in the category of "Best 2014 Election Analysis", I nominate Ed Kilgore's Nov. 9 post, "Turnout Disparities and the Democratic Dilemma for 2014", on the Washington Monthly's invaluable Political Animal blog.
What's so good about Kilgore's piece? Well, for one, it's from Nov. 9, 2012. That means it was written during the euphoric afterglow (for partisan Democrats) of President Obama's convincing re-election. Second---and this may be the most important reason---it remains resolutely focused on the fundamental interplay of how US voters actually behave and how the US electoral system is structured:
Unless Democrats can do something to change the typical mid-term composition of the electorate, or can boost their percentage among older and whiter voters, 2014 does not look good. And FWIW, not only will the 2010-2012 redistricting continue to protect the GOP’s House majority, the Senate landscape isn’t much better than it was this year (20 Democratic seats are up, compared to just 13 Republicans, and 7 of the Democrats are in states carried by Romney; just one Republican—Susan Collins—is from a state carried by Obama).
On top of everything else, second-term midterms are normally a disaster for the party controlling the White House (look at what happened in 1958, 1966, 1974, 1986, and 2006), though one of the very few exceptions ever was pretty recent, in 1998.
I’m not trying to provide a buzzkill for happy Democrats here, but just as it was inevitable the day after Barack Obama’s election that 2010 was going to be difficult for Democrats given the drift of older white voters towards the GOP, 2014 will be difficult as well.
It turns out Kilgore was exactly right. The Democrats' efforts to boost turnout and change the demographic composition of the midterm electorate had, at best, a minimal effect in federal, state and local elections earlier this month.
Finally, though it's not his main point, Kilgore presciently observes that "Republicans, for all the talk of them “learning lessons” from 2012, do not seem inclined to change much of anything between now and then beyond cosmetics".
That's one reason not to take too seriously current Republican talk about how President Obama is "poisoning the well" with his immigration plans. House Republicans couldn't even bring themselves to take a vote on the Senate's 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill (let alone do the work of drafting their own legislation). It's hard to believe that, in the wake of an election in which the party's nativist faction scored numerous victories, congressional Republicans would change their behavior when they have no apparent incentive to do so.
Crossposted at: http://masscommons.wordpress.com/