America is in a slump. There is no other word for it. So far there is 1% GDP growth for the year, official unemployment at 6.2% (unofficially 12.2%), and multiple scandals continuing to signal that the Government is as inefficient and ineffective as the common person always imagined. Yet don’t forget that these are the highlights of the current situation.
In years past the logical displeasure with Congress and the President would reveal itself in polls. The resulting fear of being elected out of office, particularly in an election year, would drive Congress and the White House to some form of compromise on at least one major issue that was in the headlines at the time. The majority of incumbents would maintain an individual approval rating above 50% and their re-elections would generally be assured. Then the cycle would repeat itself.
The latest polls show that the President is in a pickle. Polls for the first week of August tell a tale of woe. NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed President Obama with a 54% disapproval rate. Gallup puts him at 51%, Reuters at 57%. These are numbers hovering at or above the highest disapproval President Obama has had since taking office. President Obama is quickly approaching lame-duck status, and with it comes the inability to make any change to the current situation.
Congress is doing little better. The latest average disapproval has been 79%. But the polls since September 2011 have shown Congress locked in a range from 73% disapproval to 85%. An amazing 53% believe that their own member of Congress places partisan Party politics above the good of the country.
Things are so bad that for the first time a majority of Americans are upset with the job their own member of Congress is doing – a stark contrast to the normal “Congress sucks but my representative is doing great” mentality that has kept the majority of incumbents in office for decades. The next highest low, outside of the Obama term, was back in October 1994 (43% disapproval of your member of Congress then vs. the current 51%).
What does this mean though? Will there be longstanding incumbent members of Congress kicked out to start fresh? Will this be the reboot of Congress people have talked about for decades, finally reversing the 93% re-election rate that members of Congress enjoy?
Without a major change in voter participation? NO.
“What we’re really seeing in an unprecedented way, especially in the key Senate races, is that voters don’t like either of the major candidates.” – Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling
“If the middle of the country decides not to participate, then you end up having a simple base election, which makes it much easier for incumbents to hold on.” – NBC News’ Mark Murray
“Despite negative views of incumbent officeholders, the impact on incumbents’ actual reelection hopes is likely modest, with the vast majority of officeholders expected to win reelection in November.” – Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement
What is the reason? Why would pollsters and news media so uniformly expect members of Congress to be re-elected?
Because only 56% of Republicans and 47% of Democrats are following news on the mid-term elections. 48% of American either don’t know what Party their representative is in, or are wrong in what party they believe their representative is in. This is true even with 2/3 of the nation stating the country is on the wrong track.
The public just doesn’t care enough. Not to know basic facts about their incumbents and the challengers for this November. Not enough to vote, according to predictions from pollsters. The public is upset, and angry, and giving up on the vote.
M V Consulting president Michael “Vass” Vasquez, who ran for the NY 22nd Congressional Republican primary seat, said
“Voter apathy is at massive levels right now. When I was on the campaign trail at least 1 in 10 people I spoke to thought former Rep. Maurice Hinchey was still running – he retired and was replaced in 2010. I’d say 2 in 10 thought the current Representative (Richard Hanna) was a Democrat, even though he is a Republican and got elected in 2010 with the backing of the Tea Party. Not exactly what is considered the most pro-Democrat political organization.”
So what could be the result of all this?
Simply put, if the public just sits back and wallows in apathy, incumbents will overwhelmingly be re-elected. The status quo will remain unchanged. There will be another 2 years of more of the same, until the 2016 presidential elections roll around. If that is the case then the nation as a whole loses.
But like in every election, the choice is with the voters. Even if incumbents win re-election in landslides, if the turnout of voters is above average things will change. If incumbents lose, especially with voters stepping forward to have their voices counted, there will be drastic change.
The reasoning is simple. Politicians like their jobs and want to keep them. If the majority of voters aren’t paying attention, and don’t care about what an incumbent does enough to cast a vote, the incumbent will just do whatever they please. Currently that means intractable partisan gridlock on every issue, and the nation is suffering for it.
In 2016 there will be a new President. Between now and then, the 2014 mid-term elections will dictate the issues and the pace of any changes that might occur until someone wins on November 2015. If voters show up, things like a solution to the mess with the Veterans Administration and a coherent international policy will develop. Maybe even an economic policy that does something might be created, potentially spurring much needed job growth.
But if pollsters are correct that voters won’t show up for the State primaries and November elections in 2014, then even with the majority of Americans completely in unison that things are not the way they are supposed to be in Washington D.C., the next 2 years will continue to be the slowly spinning vortex down the drain.
It’s just that simple.