With One Week To Go, The Midterms Are Looking Good For the GOP

Things are looking good for the GOP to take over the Senate, but there are still several right races that could tip the balance one way or the other.

Election 2014

When the midterm election cycle began earlier this year, the strong expectation was the the Republican Party would do quite well in its efforts to regain control of the Senate since losing it eight years ago in the 2006 elections. Based on the math on the ground, and specifically the fact that there were three open seats and four Democratic incumbents running in states that Mitt Romney had won in the 2012 and in which Republicans had done well in elections ever since Barack Obama was elected President in 2008. If there has been hope for Democrats in the ensuring months, it has lied in the fact that there have been Republican seats where there seemed to be at least a chance of a Democratic pickup such as Kentucky, Georgia, and, most surprisingly, Kansas assuming that Independent Greg Orman wins and caucuses with the Democrats. Even if the Democrats didn’t manage to pick up those seats, the party could hope that the possibility of upsets in those states could force Republicans to divert resources from Democratic states in order to hold on to the seats that they already have. As time has gone on, there have been mixed signals from the polling, with some trends seeming to show Democrats holding their own and others showing the GOP surging. Additionally, we’ve seen that the public has been largely disengaged from the elections, a possible sign of lower overall turnout that could help the GOP in close races. Most of all, though, what the polling has shown that many of the most important races remain very tight. .Now, with just a week of campaigning left before the midterm elections, the battle for control of the U.S. Senate is heading into the home stretch, and polling and projections seem to be showing that while the key races remain tight, the GOP has a clear advantage:

Control of the U.S. Senate is coming down to the wire, with Democrats and Republicans locked in tight races in the key contests that will determine the majority in that chamber of Congress, according to six new NBC News/Marist polls.

The momentum in these races, however, has swung mostly in the Republican Party’s direction, giving the GOP a clear path to winning the majority.

  • In Colorado‘s Senate contest, Republican challenger Cory Gardner holds a one-point lead among likely voters over incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., 46 percent to 45 percent. Back in September’s NBC/Marist poll, Udall was ahead by six points, 48 percent to 42 percent.
  • In Iowa, Republican Joni Ernst edges Democrat Bruce Braley by three points, 49 percent to 46 percent. Earlier this month, Ernst’s lead was two points, 46 percent to 44 percent.
  • In Kansas, independent Greg Orman has a one-point advantage over Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, 45 percent to 44 percent – down from Orman’s 10-point lead earlier this month in the NBC/Marist poll.
  • In Arkansas, Republican challenger Tom Cotton gets the support of 45 percent of likely voters, versus incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., at 43 percent. In September, Cotton’s lead was five points.
  • And in North Carolina, incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and GOP opponent Thom Tillis are tied at 43 percent each. That’s down from Hagan’s four-point lead earlier this month. Libertarian Sean Haugh gets 7 percent of the vote.

“Senate contests are coming down to the wire,” says pollster Barbara Carvalho of Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion. ” In a reversal from 2012, when there were multiple paths for [President] Obama, now the Democrats are struggling to protect their firewall in Iowa, North Carolina and Colorado.”

All five of these races are within the polls’ margins of error. The lone exception is the NBC/Marist poll of South Dakota, where Republican Mike Rounds enjoys a 14-point lead over Democrat Rick Weiland, 43 percent to 29 percent, while independent Larry Pressler, a former Republican senator, gets 16 percent. To win control of the Senate, Republicans must gain a net of six seats. Two pick-up opportunities – in Montana and West Virginia – appear to be slam dunks for the GOP. And South Dakota, per the NBC/Marist poll, looks to be a safe bet for a third.

That means Republicans need to win three out of these seven other Democrat-held seats to get to a majority: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

But if Democrats win a GOP-held seat – say Georgia – or if Orman decides to caucus with Democrats, that means Republicans must win an additional seat (or two) to net six Senate seats.

As always, it’s worth remembering that individual polls are merely snapshots in time and highly dependent on the methodology of the poll itself and who the poll happens to have as respondents. We’ve already seen several examples of polling that was very good for one party or the other that turned out to be an outlier. When you look at the poll averages and the trends, though, they show the same things that this latest NBC News poll does, which should be heartening for Republicans. In Colorado, for example, Cory Gardner retains a lead in the RealClearPolitics polling average of 2.8 points, although recent trends have shown his numbers slipping just a bit and Senator Mark Udall’s rising just a bit in a sign that the race is indeed tightening, although perhaps not enough for Udall to make a comeback. In Iowa, Republican Joni Ernst continues to lead in the polling average with a 2.2 point margin, and while there have been a few polls showing ties between her and Democrat Bruce Braley, it’s been three weeks since any poll has shown Braley in the lead. In Kansas, where independent Greg Orman at one point had a double digit lead over Senator Pat Roberts, Orman’s lead in the polling average is now under one point at 0.6 points, with the recent trends showing Roberts’ numbers rising consistently. In Arkansas, Congressman Tom Cotton appears to be pulling away decisively from Senator Mark Pryor, with Cotton now showing a 5.5 point lead in the polling average and the gap in the trend between the two candidates at its widest point in months. North Carolina is shaping up to be the most interesting race, because Senator Kay Hagan had displayed a clear but narrow lead in the polls for much of the past two or three months, but now Hagan’s lead in the polling average is now down to just 1.6 points. In the states that weren’t part of the latest batch of NBC/Marist polling, Republicans are clearly in the lead in Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota, but these are seats currently held by Democrats that virtually everyone has expected them to pick up for some time now. In Alaska, Dan Sullivan has a 4.2 point lead over Senator Mark Begich and seems well on the way to taking back the seat that Begich had won from Ted Stevens in 2008 in large part because of the corruption charges against Stevens that were later dismissed. Democrats also seem to be endangered in New Hampshire, where Jeanne Shaheen’s once seemingly insurmountable lead has vanished; presently, the Senator has a 2.2 point lead in the polling average with Scott Brown surging. In Louisiana, it doesn’t appear that any candidate will get above 50% in the state’s open primary on November 4th, but Congressman Bill Cassidy has a solid lead over Senator Mary Landrieu in a head-to-head matchup, with the polling average there presently at 4.4 points in Cassidy’s favor. Finally, in the two states where Republican seats were seen as vulnerable, the results are somewhat mixed. In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell seems to have a solid lead over Alison Lundergan Grimes, with a 4.4 point lead in the polling average that seems insurmountable at this point. In Georgia, the race between Michelle Nunn, David Perdue, and Libertarian nominee Amanda Swafford  has tightened significantly with Nunn now hold a 0.3 point lead in the polling average, however neither candidate is polling over 50%, which means that we would be headed for a January 6th runoff in that race.

Taking all of this together, the news remains good for Republicans hoping for a Senate takeover this year, but we’re back at a point we’ve been at before where the projected majority they would gain looks rather slim. Right now, for example, RealClearPolitics projects that we’d end up with a Senate that had 51 members caucusing with the GOP, 48 definitely caucusing with the Democrats, and one seat unknown in Kansas. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that many of the races included in this calculation, most especially Georgia and Kansas have polling averages so close as to be statistically insignificant. It’s just as easy to believe right now that David Perdue will win in Georgia, for example, and that Pat Roberts will win in Kansas, and of course there remains the possibility that Scott Brown and Thom Tillis could end up pulling off wins in their states. If that happened the new Senate would have 55 Republicans and 45 Democrats, and there would only be one Democratic Senator south of Virginia. I don’t expect that to happen, but Georgia and Kansas are far too close to call right now and the possibility of North Carolina or, less likely, New Hampshire, going to the GOP cannot be dismissed.

Looking at the various projections, the consensus notion that the GOP is likely to regain control of the Senate goes across the board. Nate Silver presently puts the odds of a GOP Senate at 63%, which is only slightly below where it was in September. Silver notes, however, that the GOP’s odds have ranged over that time from 66% odds to 53% odds and that, while this is a strong indication of a GOP takeover being likely it’s not definitive and it doesn’t suggest a Republican wave that would result in the kind of 55-45 Senate I talk about above. The Upshot blog at The New York Times puts the odds at 68%, with some of the same caveats that Silver notes in his latest forecast. Sam Wang at the Princeton Election Consortium puts the odds of a GOP takeover lower but it remains the most likely prospect among all the scenarios that are run using his model. Finally, The Washington Post’s Election Lab gives the GOP an incredibly bullish 92% shot at gaining control of the Senate. All of these projections rely to a large degree on the polls so it’s not surprising that they are showing the likelihood of a GOP win since that’s what the polls are showing. Nonetheless, this is yet another good sign for Republicans.

With a week to go and so many races so close, anything is possible of course but it is looking increasingly likely that the GOP will end up next year with a majority in the Senate when everything is said and done. Of course, with the possibility of runoffs in two states and recounts and challenges in others, we may not know the final answer until well after November 4th.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2014, Congress, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Good for the GOP…bad for the Republic.
    What to look forward to?
    Dynamic Scoring by the CBO…magical mathematics intended to justify lower taxes for the wealthiest and lower revenues for the country which will in turn justify….
    Block Grants for Medicaid…intended to slash benefits for the those who aren’t the wealthiest.
    In other words…the 30 year Republican War on the Middle Class will continue apace.

  2. al-Ameda says:

    Finally, The Washington Post’s Election Lab gives the GOP an incredibly bullish 92% shot at gaining control of the Senate. All of these projections rely to a large degree on the polls so it’s not surprising that they are showing the likelihood of a GOP win since that’s what the polls are showing. Nonetheless, this is yet another good sign for Republicans.

    Well that’s certainly good news for those people who look forward to more intensified multiple efforts to repeal, rescind, or defund ACA.

  3. ernieyeball says:

    @al-Ameda: Well that’s certainly good news for those people who look forward to more intensified multiple efforts to repeal, rescind, or defund ACA.

    Not to mention the clowns who will call for impeachment.

    http://www.theblaze.com/blog/2014/10/27/gop-lawmaker-impeachment-should-be-an-option-if-obama-moves-on-immigration/

    http://www.westernjournalism.com/gop-rep-says-white-house-protests-impeachment-among-possible-reponses-amnesty/

  4. Paul Hooson says:

    Democrats need to count on strong vote turnout efforts and local social issue ballot measures to hold on to many critical seats against an energized Republican base. The Democrats probably lose senate control by one vote, lose a few house seats, and Republicans take some state houses, but probably gain few new governorships. – One of the most vulnerable would be John Kitzhaber in Oregon, who’s girlfriend was involved in a sham marriage to a foreigner and involved in an illegal marijuana grow operation conspiracy. – Kitzhaber has to hope that a marijuana legalization measure passes, because it will pull out voters who will look the other way on his girlfriend’s problems, and not likely to vote for conservative Mormon Dennis Richardson…

  5. stonetools says:

    If the Democrats have an October Surprise, now is the time to pull it out:-(.
    Unfortunately, I don’t think they have one and it’s not in Obama’s nature anyway. If it was, he would be playing politics with Ebola instead of staying science based.
    I’m about at Stage 4 of the Kubler-Ross process, with a tiny hope that the Democrats’ GOTV advantage might turn the scales just enough to pull out a 50-50 result. But that’s hoping against hope.
    The fundamentals were always overwhelmingly against the Democrats, and luck was too. Had Duncan just not got on the plane to Dallas….

  6. James Pearce says:

    In Colorado‘s Senate contest, Republican challenger Cory Gardner holds a one-point lead among likely voters over incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., 46 percent to 45 percent.

    Huh….I thought Gardner was closing the gap, but with such a puny lead, I think Udall as the incumbent has it.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    The map is against us. In two years the map is with us. Life is far more about geography than people recognize.

    Democrats made a mistake not nationalizing this election. They made a mistake not attacking party-on-party. They need to define themselves and define the opposition around a few key issues – income inequality, environment and gay marriage. All three are winners for the Dems, and rather than meekly playing defense on Obamacare they should be pushing it for the success it is.

    But if there’s one thing Democrats aren’t, it’s bold. This reminds me of Al Gore distancing himself from Bill Clinton. Fatally stupid. He was already going to be stuck carrying Clinton’s water, that was inevitable; so carry it boldly. Ditto here with Mr. Obama. If you are inevitably going to have to eat some sh-t the only way to do it is with gusto, a lesson Democrats never learn.

  8. beth says:

    @michael reynolds: You’re absolutely right. I saw a Lindsey Graham commercial last night and it was all about Obamacare, ISIS, and the Keystone Pipeline. I’ll bet those are way down on the list of South Carolina citizen concerns.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    The essential difference between Republicans and Democrats on strategy is that Republicans think the point is power while Democrats think the point is being right. Democrats are almost always right on the issues – as evidenced by the fact that Republicans inevitably succumb. But Democrats are idiots for thinking that’s the goal. The goal is power. And you do not get power from being right, you get power from showing daring and determination.

    We are talking about governing a superpower, not running a TED seminar. The moron with balls will beat the genius without them.

  10. Guarneri says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Thank. I needed a good belly laugh.

  11. ernieyeball says:

    @michael reynolds: But if there’s one thing Democrats aren’t, it’s bold.

    Well, not today.
    See Harry S. Truman of The Show Me State.

    The Republicans believe in the minimum wage — the more the minimum, the better.

    Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a Republican. But I repeat myself.

    Herbert Hoover once ran on the slogan, “Two cars in every garage”. Apparently, the Republican candidate this year is running on the slogan, “Two families in every garage”

    .

    Republicans don’t like people who talk about depressions. You can hardly blame them for that. You remember the old saying: Don’t talk about rope in the house where somebody has been hanged.

    (I don’t know why I remember this. I was in the womb for most of 1947, dob 1.3.48. Maybe my mom was standing close to the radio and I heard Harry while she was cooking liver and onions for my dad.)

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The moron with balls will beat the genius without them.

    In the short-term maybe.
    Abraham Lincoln…a figure who is foreign, morally speaking, to the modern Republican party:

    “…Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it…”

  13. al-Ameda says:

    Modern Democrats, unlike Republicans, do not play for keeps.

    Until Bill Clinton came along, it had been since Bobby Kennedy and LBJ, when Democrats last had a spine. Typically, as we see now vis-à-vis the Republican House and guys like McConnell and Cruz in the Senate, Democrats just rollover and let Republicans take shot after shot without a response.

    It’s no accident that Republicans are the party that engineered 2 government shutdowns in the past 5 years, and they were quite willing to leverage their demands to cause instability in financial markets in order to extort a repeal of ACA from the president.

    The public complains about government and then elects those toxic representatives. I guess that’s what people mean when they refer to “wisdom of the people.”

  14. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The essential difference between Republicans and Democrats on strategy is that Republicans think the point is power while Democrats think the point is being right

    Yup, liberals pride themselves on being right, right, right, and earnestly put up charts, appeal to reason, and try to be fair. Conservatives don’t give a sh!t about any of that. They believe what they believe, and that’s that.

    Also too, conservatives understand that they are at war. Obama in 2008 truly believed that the war was over ,that everyone could clearly see that the the conservatives were dead wrong, and that now was the time to move on and consider other options. He figured liberals should be magnamoius in victory and invite conservatives into a governing partnership.
    Conservatives, however, didn’t care about being wrong. They didn’t reconsider their ideas at all ( and still have’nt). They just focused on stopping Obama and regaining power. They figured that if they could stop Obama from restoring the economy and frighten white seniors about the black man in the White House, they could regain power. So far, that’s working.They have been 100 per cent wrong about everything, and despite that, they regained the House and are on the point of regaining the Senate.
    If I blame Obama for anything, it’s that he didn’t understand he was at war, but that he thought he was negotiating peace. By the time he figured out what was happening, the conservative counterattack was well under way and he was losing the war. And now he has almost lost the war.
    He should have taken a page out of FDR’s book who never doubted that the “malefactors of great wealth” would fight him all the way and cast it as a war from the beginning. Oh well, I guess liberals had to try the conciliatory way first. We now know beyond the shadow of a doubt that this approach doesn’t work, and the country knows it too.

  15. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    But if there’s one thing Democrats aren’t, it’s bold. This reminds me of Al Gore distancing himself from Bill Clinton. Fatally stupid. He was already going to be stuck carrying Clinton’s water, that was inevitable; so carry it boldly.

    Yup, there was no way they could run from the President, so they might as well defend him. And they could have. His record is defensible. By refusing to defend him and pretending that they had nothing to do with him, they were playing the Republicans’ game-and they are losing.
    Obama didn’t help things by not defending his own achievements in a vigorous and skilful fashion and not playing hardball with the Republicans from the biginning. But Senate Democrats compounded that error, to their own destruction.
    Ah well, expect the Senate Republicans to overreach and so disgust the electorate by 2016 that the tide will run the other way just as strongly. But we’re in for two years of REAL gridlock.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:

    If I blame Obama for anything, it’s that he didn’t understand he was at war, but that he thought he was negotiating peace.

    Indeed. When you think you’ve knocked Freddy Krueger out, you go back, put a round in his chest and another in his head, and then you take out the chain saw and make sure he’s extra dead. And burn what’s left.

  17. MikeSJ says:

    I don’t think you all understand the Democrats strategy that’s in play here. It’s a variation on Rope-a-Dope.

    You fall on the floor, curl into a ball and try to cover up as best as possible. Think playing possum.

    The Republican will rain blows and kicks, spit on and throw things while their opponent will lie there absorbing the relentless punishment.

    But…here’s the where the genius of this plan kicks in! Eventually the Republican will start to tire and then eventually collapse and no longer be a threat. That’s when the Democrat makes their big move!

    You’ll see. Any day now. Just you wait.

    Yep…any day now.

  18. Just Me says:

    I think you are delusional if you think the Democrats don’t care about power.

    As for the election-I still am unconvinced the GOP will get enough seats to take control of congress.

    In spite of some tightening in my state’s senate race in pretty sure the GOP won’t win any of the major elections in my state (governor, senate or either congressional seat). Shaheen got trounced by Brown in the debates but I don’t think it will matter. My fingers are crossed that Garcia pulls off an upset of Kuster.

  19. DonVito says:

    @Just Me:

    The GOP has a nice lead and its only a questions of how many seats they pick up. Most of the polls out there are irrelevant at this point. Vegas has the GOP heavily favored in a number of matchups. Thought id post these:

    Alaska: Sullivan is close to a 6:1 favorite
    Arkansas: Cotton 6:1 favorite
    Colorado – Gardner 3:1 favorite
    Iowa – Ernst -250 favorite

    Georgia – Perdue – 150 favorite
    Kansas – Roberts – 130

    Only positives for Dems are Shaheen favored – 280 and Hagan – 250

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @Just Me:

    I didn’t say they don’t care about power. They just think the way to get it is to be right and say, “Ta da!” Like people will fall over dead at the power of their logic. Meanwhile Republicans appeal to fear and resentment and outright hate, and take more power than they should.

    People aren’t motivated by logic, they’re motivated by emotion. And since the voting population skews old, that motivation is often fear. There’s no one more afraid than an old white man living in the country.

  21. Kylopod says:

    It’s important to remember–and to keep pointing out–that whatever happens in this election has very little to do with the “will of the American people.” Senate elections almost by definition don’t. First of all, only one-third of the seats are in play this year, and the ones that are happen to have a Republican tilt. (The real reason is because they’re the seats Dems won in 2008, a very good year for Dems. It’s the same reason Republicans lost the Senate in ’86, when Reagan wasn’t exactly unpopular.) If the entire Senate was up for reelection this year, you’d have Republicans being forced to defend seats in states Obama won like Florida, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, and it would more than counterbalance the effect of the red-state Dems who are having so much trouble this year; that’s why 2016 is expected to be a good year for Senate Dems. In other words, the biggest driver of Senate elections isn’t the national mood, but simply which seats happen to be in play, and where.

    Moreover, the Senate itself is about as unrepresentative of the American populace as you can get, because barely populated states like Wyoming are awarded exactly the same number of seats as leviathans like California. I recently did some calculations that bring out this fact. In 2012, Romney won 24 states. That’s 48% of the representation in the Senate. Not all those seats are held by Republicans, but even the Democrats in those states have to lean rightward to win and maintain seats there. Yet the combined population of all those Romney states is (I consulted Wikipedia for the numbers) just 36% of the total US population. Think about that for a moment. It means that little over one-third of Americans get nearly one-half of the representation in this chamber of Congress. In other words, the structure of the Senate gives Republicans power vastly out of proportion to their numbers in the populace, simply because of where Republican voters happen to be most concentrated.

    If Republicans gain control of the Senate this year, we’ll almost inevitably be hearing the usual crap about how “the public has spoken” and that they have a “mandate.” We’ll hear it from Republicans themselves, of course, but I’ll bet you much of the so-called “liberal media” will be saying it as well. Just like Bush’s 2000 “victory,” or the GOP’s keeping the House in 2012 despite getting fewer votes nationwide, the outcome is equated with the public will.

  22. michael reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:

    I’ve bitched about this forever. It’s utterly absurd that California has the same number of Senators as Wyoming or North Dakota. We could buy Wyoming with the loose change in our sofas.

    The three big Founder Fails are the the perpetuation of slavery, the 2d Amendment and the Senate. Of course they’re all the same thing, really, all flowing from the desire of slave owners to maintain control over captive populations and defend their indefensible system.

  23. just me says:

    You realize without the design of the Senate the constitution would not have been ratified? Small states were concerned they would get buried by the agendas of the large states. It was part of the compromise.

  24. Paul Hooson says:

    Democrats in Oregon started a new wave of ads today that seem to unfairly point out any time Republicans were late on taxes or late pay credit cards. – This seems like an unfair tactic to me, because there are a lot of personal reasons why good people may have difficulties including health, business tenants late on rent payments, etc.

  25. MikeSJ says:

    Montana and Wyoming…2 senators each.

    California and New York…also 2 senators each. It kills me every time I think about it.

    Every time I hear a conservative from a rural state talking about Big Gubmint I always think you exist because of Big Gubmint and without it you’d be flat-lined.

    I would love to see the rural states have to do without their farm welfare and subsidies and see how they like it.

    Maybe the Democrats could perhaps…maybe…kinda sorta mention this when their Republican opponent is accusing them of being a Big Gubmint Stooge? Naaaah, of course not.

  26. Kylopod says:

    @just me:

    It was part of the compromise.

    Of course. Just like the three-fifths rule. But at least they eventually got rid of the three-fifths rule, and ultimately slavery itself. Yet we’re stuck with the Senate today. It’s literally the only part of the Constitution that cannot be amended away, because Article Five specifically declares that no amendment can deprive a state “without its consent” of “equal suffrage in the Senate.”

    And it’s not as if states have acquired increasing importance over time. Quite the contrary. Thomas Jefferson referred to Virginia as “my country,” and the term United States itself was originally a plural. Nowadays, most of us think of ourselves as Americans first, and Californians or Virginians or Iowans second, if at all. U.S. states are kind of like the mitochondria in human cells; they might once have been independent organisms but now they’re just another part of us. Yet our system is based on pretending as if states matter today as much as they did to the Founders, and there isn’t much we can do about it, because the people who get disproportionate power as a result have no incentive to give it up.

  27. Pinky says:

    @stonetools:

    Yup, liberals pride themselves on being right, right, right, and earnestly put up charts, appeal to reason, and try to be fair. Conservatives don’t give a sh!t about any of that. They believe what they believe, and that’s that.

    If someone put a gun to my head, I could sound like more of a partisan ideologue than I currently do. Reread that statement of yours, and ask yourself, could you?

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    You may not like it, and it may not apply to you, but the conservative mind is a closed, steel box.

    We have been dragging conservatives along for decades like so much dead weight. You people have been right about precisely nothing in my adult lifetime. Wrong from Civil Rights to women’s rights to gay rights, from trickle down to Laffer curve to flat tax, from biology to cosmology to climate science.

    And it’s not that any of these issues required genius leaps of human understanding. Anyone who had not shoved his head up his own ass could see reality and reason and basic human decency in each case. In most cases all it required was a shred of curiosity and a dash of honesty to get the correct answer. But conservatives just don’t have that, either that or they actively suppress it. I suppose a little of both.

    You’re down to stupidity or chronic assholery to explain conservatives. Or both.

  29. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s all amusing, when one really takes the time to sit back and look at what the founders actually created. People function under the romantic myth that they were egalitarians intent on creating a democracy, which is exactly that – a romantic myth perpetuated because it resonates with what people want to believe.

    In reality, they created a benevolent oligarchy which gave people the illusion of democracy. Consider:

    In their time, every state had limitations conditioned on wealth on access to serving in state legislatures. Even access to voting was conditioned on wealth (a concept which Messrs Jefferson, Madison and Adams, among others, vigorously defended …).

    Under the system as they designed it, the Senate holds all the real power. It alone gets to approve presidential appointments. It alone gets to approve treaties. It alone has the power to approve the removal of government officials via impeachment. It has oversight power over everything done by the House of Representatives.

    And in their day senators were appointed by state legislatures (the same ones populated by the elite of their day). Likewise presidential electors.

    The bottom line – they created a system wherein the Senate had de facto control over everything in the federal government, and state legislatures essentially got to select the president irrespective of any popular vote.

    The one thing those two bodies had in common? They were controlled by people like Jefferson – the elite. Democracy my ass …

    Both the Senate and the electoral college disproportionately allocate political power to rural areas. The first needs to be redesigned to have proportional allocation, and the second needs to be abolished entirely.

  30. Pinky says:

    @HarvardLaw92: There might be a confusion of terminology here. The US was founded as a democracy in the broadest sense – the demos had a say. There was no monarchy. The two primary models for government at the time were democracy and monarchy, and the US wasn’t a monarchy. As for the particular form, it was always a constitutional republic. Both the Constitution and the republican nature of representation checked the power of the people. This can’t even be called an open secret – it was debated for decades and encoded in our Constitution.

  31. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Pinky:

    I can say that an ostrich is really an eagle, but that doesn’t make it so.

    A system where access to voting is conditioned on wealth, and political power is held / controlled by an advantaged elite, isn’t a democracy. It isn’t even democratic. It’s an oligarchic plutocracy.

  32. grumpy realist says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Well, considering what else was out there for the Founding Fathers to use as a model, they did pretty well. They understood Teh Balance of Power as being the best way to keep a rein on all sides (e.g. Church vs. Holy Roman Emperor). They understood that having something like “treason” floating around without a damn good definition could be used by whatever ruler existed to go after political enemies, so they stuffed a definition in the Constitution, and they tried to make the system updateable, aka methods for amendments.

    It’s not their fault that Congress has turned into a weasel-filled bitch-fest that prefers sitting on the sidelines and sniping to actual governing. Power has over the ages moved into the hands of the POTUS, but Congress certainly didn’t set up much of a fight to stop that. They prefer to go on talk shows and whine.

  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    True, but they also reserved the power to propose and to approve those amendments to themselves. The system as it exists is not what they designed. It is how we altered their design by incrementally extending the voting franchise and via the 17th Amendment.

    Who’s to say which system was better? The entire concept of democracy depends, unavoidably, on an informed and sober electorate capable of understanding the issues about which it is tasked with making decisions. They arguably created the system that they did because they didn’t believe such an electorate existed, so they reserved the real power to people like themselves while throwing a bone or two to give the little(r) people the ruse that they were empowered to govern. They were probably right in that assumption.

    And I’m not sure that much has changed with respect to the modern electorate. We just changed the rules because we didn’t want to accept the truism that the bulk of the electorate is a stupid and emotional creature more prone to irrationally acting based on fear than rationally acting based on information.

    And look what it got us … 😀

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    we didn’t want to accept the truism that the bulk of the electorate is a stupid and emotional creature more prone to irrationally acting based on fear than rationally acting based on information.

    Yep, that pretty much summarizes it. For the system as it exists to work we would need a system of education that taught historical truth rather than myth and critical thinking rather than rote teaching-to-the-test, and we don’t have that. We would need a press (media in more modern parlance) that supplied information rather than spreading bias and fear for profit. It might also be useful to re-introduce such hoary old notions as duty, honor and fairness as fundamental parts of the social contract rather than relying on greed and narcissism.

    We need to be a country that punishes those who pander to us, because however much they tickle our happy places we would recognize them as scoundrels. That notion, that we should not reward dishonesty even when it puts a dollar in our pockets is essential. So long as we can be bought with some coded language, a few dollars in tax cuts, or some favor, we are a nation of whores selling our virtue.

  35. Kylopod says:

    @Pinky:

    As for the particular form, it was always a constitutional republic.

    There’s a general consensus that what the Founders advocated was what today we would call a representative democracy, despite their distaste for the d-word. The problem with the Senate, the House, and the Electoral College is that they are fundamentally not representative of the people. It’s true that the Senate and the EC were always designed to protect the states rather than the people. But we need to keep a few things in mind: (1) Many of the Founders weren’t thrilled by the idea of the Senate or the EC, and they accepted them into the Constitution only as a compromise (2) The Founders didn’t anticipate that the states would weaken over time and eventually become super-cities in essence; at the time of the country’s founding they were virtual nations (3) the House of Representatives, which was always supposed to represent the people, stopped working that way due to gerrymandering and other unanticipated loopholes, and it certainly isn’t the most powerful part of the government as the Founders believed it would be.

    Both the Constitution and the republican nature of representation checked the power of the people.

    I don’t believe that the Senate, the House, or the Electoral College in their current form “check the power of the people” in any beneficial way. At best they redistribute power arbitrarily, and at worst they help concentrate power in the hands of elites. They don’t protect minorities, unless you define rich white males as a minority.

  36. wr says:

    @DonVito: “Most of the polls out there are irrelevant at this point. Vegas has the GOP heavily favored in a number of matchups.”

    Wait — the polls are irrelevant because the Vegas mob has fixed all the elections? Is that what you’re saying? Or that Vegas oddsmakers have some secret way of predicting the future that doesn’t involve reading the polls?

  37. wr says:

    @just me: “You realize without the design of the Senate the constitution would not have been ratified? Small states were concerned they would get buried by the agendas of the large states. It was part of the compromise.”

    Yes, and the continuation of slavery was part of the compromise, too. Doesn’t mean that neither of them has had terrible effects on the country, just that they were necessary a couple hundred years ago.