Articles like this are very helpful. For Republicans: “Is there anyway Democrats can win the 17 seats they need to capture the House majority this November? In one word: Yes.”
In several hundred words: no, not really.
Juan Williams is pretty much stuck with arguing generalities and gerrymandering. The first is used to assure his readers that the American people clearly love the Democrats more, while the latter is used to explain away that pesky problem that said American people have been apparently hate-voting the GOP into power since 2010. But it’s probably wise on Mr. Williams’ part, given that when actual numbers come into play things get sticky: “In the 2012 House races Democrats won 50.6 percent of America’s votes with a popular President Obama at the top of the ballot.”
…what Juan Williams forgot to tell you there, though, is that in 2008 and 2006 the Democrats got 54% and 53% of the popular vote in the House, respectively (President Obama’s 51% in 2012 was likewise a noticeable drop from his 53% in 2008). In 2010 the GOP picked up 52% of the House vote. I bring up the trend because the trend is important: it suggests that the Democrats’ performance in 2012 does not actually represent some horrible travesty of justice. The Democrats were flying high and acting haughty, and the electorate spanked them for it pretty comprehensively in 2010. in 2012 the Democrats recovered somewhat (thanks in part – and very slightly – to a barely-good-enough performance by an increasingly less-popular President), and they got some seats back. This is not difficult to understand*.
Neither is it difficult to understand that, if the Democrats want to retake the House, they will have to do better than their 2012 showing. They will, in fact, have to do as well as their 2006/8 showings, which is something that nobody is expecting, including the American electorate. Which is the real reason why people are talking about the GOP gaining more seats this year; it’s not that the historical record shows that to be the pattern. It’s that the historical record shows that to be the pattern – and we can see things progressing in the same fashion this time, too.
So: no, not really.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
PS: The only thing more common than political rules of thumb that always worked, right up to the point that they suddenly didn’t (“Democrats always win special elections!” “Republicans are the GOTV champions!”) are confident predictions that have just stepped on a rake. Hence the ‘Absent Factor X’ bit in the title. And Factor X is the Democrats’ only real hope, right now.
*This is the part where people start yelling about gerrymandering. Yes, I agree: what the Democrats did in Illinois and Maryland (and more sneakily, in California) was pretty rough, but that’s politics for yo… that’s not it? Well, OK, then: sure, the deal that the Congressional Black Caucus has made with the Republican party to make sure that the former’s districts are kept safe (at the expense of white Democratic politicians) is perhaps not the most laudable thing th’as ever been done by my par… not it, either? Then I don’t know what to tell people, then. Because while selective outrage is apparently a wizzo way to get the Democratic base out of bed in the morning, out here in the real world people recognize that elections have consequences**; and if state Democrats aren’t happy with the way that the national party utterly hammered its own state party apparatuses at exactly the wrong historical moment then there’s an easy enough cure for it in the future.
**Seriously: you can have meaningful anti-gerrymandering legislation, or you can have majority-minority districts. Pick one. And if you refuse to make that choice, don’t be surprised when you are not taken seriously in the future, because you are not being particularly serious.