One day before the Democrats and Barack Obama are expected to suffer a second mid-term shellacking, because they have been wretched stewards of the nation that gave them power, the New York Times publishes…this. It’s written by — and I’m not making this up — a college professor and a college junior at Duke. Insert obligatory “Duke sucks!” whenever you see fit.
There was a time when midterm elections made sense — at our nation’s founding, the Constitution represented a new form of republican government, and it was important for at least one body of Congress to be closely accountable to the people. But especially at a time when Americans’ confidence in the ability of their government to address pressing concerns is at a record low, two-year House terms no longer make any sense. We should get rid of federal midterm elections entirely.
Worth pointing out: The 2010 mid-terms gave voters a chance to rein in the Democrats and Obama. The president and his party, given total control of the government, chose to waste a trillion dollars on the stimulus and prioritize their unpopular Obamacare policy over everything else. The majority did not want that law, and saw fit to hand the House to the Republicans to make sure that the Democrats were unable to pull a similar stunt again.
There are few offices, at any level of government, with two-year terms. Here in Durham, we elect members of the school board and the county sheriff to terms that are double that length. Moreover, Twitter, ubiquitous video cameras, 24-hour cable news and a host of other technologies provide a level of hyper-accountability the framers could not possibly have imagined. In the modern age, we do not need an election every two years to communicate voters’ desires to their elected officials.
But the two-year cycle isn’t just unnecessary; it’s harmful to American politics.
The Durham school board can’t foist partisan policies on the whole country. They can’t declare war. They don’t have the fate of the country in their hands.
It’s time for the editorial’s authors to lay their cards down. What they really want is a stronger president who can take more unilateral action without having to worry about suffering electoral consequences for it.
The main impact of the midterm election in the modern era has been to weaken the president, the only government official (other than the powerless vice president) elected by the entire nation. Since the end of World War II, the president’s party has on average lost 25 seats in the House and about 4 in the Senate as a result of the midterms. This is a bipartisan phenomenon — Democratic presidents have lost an average of 31 House seats and between 4 to 5 Senate seats in midterms; Republican presidents have lost 20 and 3 seats, respectively.
The realities of the modern election cycle are that we spend almost two years selecting a president with a well-developed agenda, but then, less than two years after the inauguration, the midterm election cripples that same president’s ability to advance that agenda.
Sure, if the president does something that a majority of the country doesn’t like. Otherwise, mid-terms should force presidents to begin working with the other party again. Or at least consider it. Obama didn’t after 2010, of course. He went unilateral while his IRS suppressed dissent, helping him keep his job in 2012.
This may be their worst argument.
Another quirk is that, during midterm elections, the electorate has been whiter, wealthier, older and more educated than during presidential elections. Biennial elections require our representatives to take this into account, appealing to one set of voters for two years, then a very different electorate two years later.
Shorter Times: You rich white people pay too much attention to elections! And that keeps Congress from doing what liberals want it to do!
This adjustment would also give Congress the breathing space to consider longer-term challenges facing the nation — such as entitlement spending, immigration and climate change — that are either too complex or politically toxic to tackle within a two-year election cycle.
So, the Democrats’ conscious choice to focus on contraception instead of actual issues is because House terms are too short? What about Senator Mark Udall’s choice to morph into “Mark Uterus?” Or Obama’s conscious choice to promote the phony “war on women” over and above the actual war against Islamic terrorism? They’re not stuck in short House terms. They’re just choosing to waste the terms that they do have on trivia while the world burns around them.