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You Know He’s Right

Midterm elections are boring, especially compared to presidential elections. Rather than one nation-wide election between two well known candidates, midterms revolve around several state and district-wide elections between candidates most Americans don’t know. But despite being boring, midterm elections are usually important, since they decide which party controls the legislative branch of government. The upcoming 2014 midterm can’t even claim importance. Regardless of what happens, American politics will be almost unchanged – the legislature will still be grid-locked, and no major laws will be passed or repealed while Obama is president.

The outcome of the midterm is easy to predict. Republicans will keep control of the House of Representatives and almost certainly take back the Senate. The Senate elections favor the Republicans because the Senators who are up for reelection were elected to a six year term in 2008, when Obama’s popularity let Democrats win in states that usually vote Republican, such as Arkansas and North Carolina. Now, Obama is despised in these states, and most midterm elections are reflections on the President’s popularity – people who like him vote for his party, people who dislike him vote for the opposition party.

Vulnerable Democrats will try to distance themselves from Obama, as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin did last week when he said he’d vote to repeal Obamacare. But usually only long-serving incumbent Senators who have built up two or three terms worth of name recognition can convince voters they are different from their party. The Democrats up for reelection are mostly one-term Senators, whose political fortunes rose with Obama and now will fall with him.

Democrats’ only real hope for keeping the Senate is that Republican nominate bizarre, unelectable candidates like accused witch Christine O’Donnell or the biologically confused Todd Akin. But that isn’t likely to happen. Though hardline conservatives are just as powerful a force in Republican primaries as in the last two election cycles, this time they seem to be picking electable, rather than laughable, conservatives. A candidate’s abilities are never truly known until the campaign begins – everyone expected Rick Perry to be a great Presidential candidate – but this year’s Republicans look like an electable bunch, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, they’ll be the Senate majority after Election Day.

There is even less suspense in the House elections, since the decline of swing voters has made almost every district safe for one party or the other. But even though the Republicans will control both branches of the legislature, nothing will change in Washington besides Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid’s job titles. President Obama isn’t going to like Republican ideas any more if they’re the majority party, and victory isn’t going to make Republicans magnanimous toward the President. Instead, gridlock will continue unchanged. Now Democratic Senators will filibuster Republican bills rather than vice versa, and now Republicans will complain about the filibuster while Democrats defend it as a sacred safeguard of minority rights. But other than those semantics, nothing will change. It will just be dysfunctional politics as usual.