Political pundits often miss the forest for the trees, and it’s amazing how things look when you pause for a moment to look at the broader context of the 2014 midterm elections. The short-term discussion among political junkies is all about whether Republicans can win control of the Senate and just how many seats they will win.
Almost everyone involved sees it as a close and competitive election.
However, take a step back and it’s easy to discern the message from American voters.
Whatever happens next Tuesday, President Obama’s time in office will have cost his party more seats in Congress than any president in at least half a century.
The numbers are stark. President Obama took office after the 2008 elections with 257 Democrats in the House of Representatives. At the moment, there are only 199 members of his party left -- a net loss of 58 seats. And, virtually all analysts expect the number of Democrats to decline even more next Tuesday. The only question is by how much.
To put that number in perspective, the 58 seats already lost by the current president even tops the 46 lost by Richard Nixon amidst the Watergate scandal.
On the Senate side, the same trend is confirmed. Following the 2008 elections, the Democrats held 59 Senate seats. Expectations are that they will have between 45 and 50 following next week’s elections, a decline of 9 to 14 seats. Nixon’s Republicans lost six seats over the same time frame.
To be fair, President Obama had more seats to lose than Nixon, but the percentages are about the same. And the numbers are worse than any other recent two-term president including Bill Clinton (-47), George W. Bush (-17) and Ronald Reagan (-16).
The damage to the Democratic Party is primarily the result of the president’s huge gamble to rush through his health care law with limited public support. At the time, many Democrats, including then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were convinced the law would eventually become popular. Perhaps that made them overlook the danger of passing major social legislation without any bi-partisan support.
It’s impossible to overlook the dangers anymore. As the 2014 midterm elections approach, even the generally supportive Politico.com posted a concise headline summarizing the new reality: “Obamacare brings Democrats backlash, not benefits.”
The backlash did more than harm the Democratic Party. It also dealt a blow to the president’s dream of restoring faith in government. Today, confidence and trust in the federal government is as low as it’s ever been. Nothing that happens next Tuesday will change that reality.
Just over a year ago, President Obama himself put it this way. “If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.”
Sadly, we have a problem.
It’s also an opportunity for those who want to follow Barack Obama into the White House. A modest agenda of restoring trust in government by changing the way government behaves could be well received by voters. It may not be as exciting as promising to reshape the nation, but it’s something that everybody outside the political class wants to see.
To find out more about Scott Rasmussen and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.