I am truly beginning to hate pundits. At least, the professional lefties who think they know everything, and declare everything they say that is actually opinion as “fact.” Case in point, Ezra Klein’s latest missive on his new website venture Vox. You can start with the abject arrogance demonstrated in the title:
The first problem? Vox is run by Klein, a journalist who supposedly values facts above all else.
Call me crazy, but I would say that, since we still have just over two months to go before we even conduct the 2014 election, everything said about it right now would pretty much have to be a prediction. And predictions, by definition, cannot be fact. They are opinions, and they’re not even opinions based on facts. They’re based on “conventional wisdom,” which is mostly conjecture and almost always wrong. And I’m sick of this. I’m sick and tired of progressives pretending they know everything and then proffering ideas and notions that undermine real progressives’ attempts to create a better government and, therefore, a better life for Americans. I’m sick of the professional left telling me who’s going to win in November, instead of working to make sure the best candidates possible win. not only are these not facts, but what this type of article does is to undermine everything that real progressives do on a daily basis to try and get the best candidate into office.
Therefore, when someone says something so incredibly arrogant as, “Here’s what you need to know to understand the 2014 election,” and then proceeds to undermine everyone else’s efforts to get the vote out, my crap-cutting radar goes off, and I feel the need to rebut. Let’s look at these, shall we?
1) Midterm elections favor Republicans
2) Midterm elections favor minority parties
3) Barack Obama is unpopular.
The first one is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, he proves it with the chart he provides. He compares the turnout in 2010, which was by all accounts a complete disaster for progressives and Democrats, and compares it to 2012, which was less so. Yes, turnout has tended to be higher in presidential years and in midterms. And yes, as of right now, given recent trends (and I emphasize the word “recent”), when turnout is low, Republicans have an advantage.
However, that’s only been the case since the 1970s. In point of fact, in elections between 1932 and 1970, which is actually a longer period of time, turnout in midterms usually hovered around the 50 percent mark. It wasn’t until midterm turnout dropped below 40 percent mark that Republicans started winning midterm elections. In fact, from the period between 1960 and 1970, Democrats held a supermajority in the Senate and a very large majority in the House, and there were three midterm elections during that period.
Therefore, it’s simply not true that midterms automatically favor Republicans, because they don’t. What favors Republicans is their main strategy to drive down turnout. They do this by constantly being negative, and our side helps by also being negative and strengthening the perception that Democrats simply cannot win. In other words, not only is this not a fact, it’s actually a self-fulfilling prophecy. By claiming that Democrats simply don’t have a chance in midterms and calling it a fact, Klein has himself broken one of the cardinal rules of journalism, which is to report the news and not make it, because I number of voters will read this article, assume they have no chance in November, and simply not show up. That is our problem, and that has been our problem for about the last 40 years or so, and definitely since 1980.
As for number two, you have to define the term “minority party.” That’s a tricky one this year, since the parties are split in Congress. If you take him literally, that’s a contradiction. If true, then Democrats should win the House in a walk, and Republicans should eke out a win in the Senate. But it’s not true, and there are many examples why. I repeat the example I used above. From 1932 through 1980, Democrats had a majority in Congress for all but four years. That would indicate, with all of those midterm elections (there would’ve been 12 in that time), it would be impossible for Democrats to control Congress for that long. Yet, they did. Why? Because in most of those elections, the losses were in the low single digits, often one or two seats, even though in many of those midterm elections, Democrats had super majorities, and therefore have a lot to lose. If Klein is right, then there is no way is no way and yet Democrats should have been able to keep the majority for nearly 50 years. And yet, they did. How does Klein explain that?
Well, of course, he doesn’t. Instead, he changes the definition. Read this piece of sophistry:
“One of the perennials of American politics is that the president’s party loses seats in midterm elections, especially in the House of Representatives,” writes political scientist Eric McGhee. “Only three midterm elections in the last century featured a seat gain for the president’s party in the House: 1934, 1998, and 2002. Of those, the largest was 9 seats in 2002.”
The president’s party losing seats has nothing to do with whether or not a party is a minority party. Once again, from 1932 through 1980, Democrats held a majority for all but four years. For nearly half that time, they held the supermajority. That makes the statistic cited above a complete non sequitur. In fact, I can prove it’s meaningless. It’s easy. Since 1994’s “Republican Revolution,” there have been four midterm elections, and two of them saw the president’s party gained seats. In other words, when Democrats were running the show and winning large majorities in elections, in midterm elections, Republicans would pick off a few seats. But now that the elections are closer, it can no longer be said that the president’s party always loses seats in a midterm. Not that such a statistic has any meaning anyway. There is absolutely no correlation between which party holds the White House, and who wins a majority of House seats. in fact if you look at statistics, during the 1960s, in those years where Republicans gained seats, Democrats still had around 52% of the vote in each of those elections. The difference was, turnout in the midterms hovered around 50%. Now, it’s almost always around 37%. That is the problem. If we get voter turnout up above 45%, Democrats will win most seats in most elections, and we can force the Republican Party to regroup and at least become sane.
As for number three, president Obama is not unpopular, although he’s not running for office, anyway, so that makes that statement another non sequitur. In fact, his job approval rating is roughly 4 times that of Congress, whose members are running for office. People are discontented with government in general, because it’s not doing anything. Obama gets some of that heat, because he’s there.Therefore, Obama’s job approval rating (which has little to do with this popularity, anyway) has no bearing on who voters cast their ballots for during this congressional election.
4) Democrats have no chance of taking back the House
5) Republicans are very likely to win the Senate in 2014
6) Republicans are very likely to lose the Senate in 2016
Seriously, if a journalist is going to cite “facts” for us, wouldn’t it be a great help if he knew what they were? Under no scenario are any of the above even close to the realm of “fact.” He is projecting the results of an election that is more than two months away. He is assuming that, based on the recent past, it is a “fact” that all of these will happen. Klein is apparently the Nostradamus of professional left pundits.
That said, I do agree that, if the professional left doesn’t get off its keister and start telling the truth about progressive causes, and telling the truth about what’s causing the problems in Congress, all of the above will come true. But these are self-fulfilling prophecies, not facts. Every single time some professional lefty says something like this, it discourages more voters from even showing up in November. And yes, that does influence the election. With swings elections these days is not the number of voters who you get to cast votes for you, it’s the number of voters that the Republican Party can get to stay home. Articles like this help Republicans tremendously in that endeavor.
7) The average age on the Supreme Court is 68
8) 36 states are holding gubernatorial elections this year
9) Local elections are really important
Finally, some actual facts. Yes the average age of the Supreme Court is 68. So?
Supreme Court justices don’t retire in bulk, so the average age is completely unimportant. The fact that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 81 and both Scalia and Kennedy will turn 80 before the end of the next congressional term is a little more important. Whereas Klein uses these facts to posit that the 2014 election is a very important, the fact of the matter is, these facts should make the 2014 election far more urgent. We need to have a Democratic Senate in place just in case. Now, according to Klein’s reasoning, Democrats should lose the Senate this year, meaning we will have two precarious years in which someone on the court could die or retire, and no one would replace them. If that’s either Scalia or Kennedy, that would be okay. On the other hand, if Ginsburg is the first one to go, they could make the swing vote the Kennedy provides completely useless.
The last two facts (okay number eight is fact, while number nine is opinion) are very important, but they should be used to motivate people to show up at the polls and vote. Instead, we have this article, which suggests the opposite. Gubernatorial elections are important, and 36 states are holding them. They should attract voters, and attracting voters gives an advantage to the Democratic Party, UNLESS you giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other. Unfortunately, that is what professional lefties do on a regular basis. I’m tired of this, and every reasonable progressive should also be offended by this. Everything we do has to be with the purpose of getting Democrats elected, because that’s the only way to unseat Republicans. We need to nominate the strongest Democratic candidates; not just those who hold all the right views on issues, and we need to promote the Democratic Party as the best possible means for getting us progressive policies.
There are two choices in every election. There is no smorgasbord. You get either a Democrat or a Republican. Not all Democrats are perfect, however all Republicans are wrong these days. Prove Ezra Klein wrong. The above are not facts, they are predictions. And we as progressives have to prove those predictions wrong. Being a progressive is about exceeding expectations, so let’s do that.
And to professional lefties like Ezra Klein, if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem. Stop being part of the problem. I don’t expect you to advocate for Democrats. I expect you to know a fact is and I expect you to stick to them.