Congressional Democrats are caught between a rock and a hard place electorally. Squeezed tightly by both historical and current trends, there are few positive issues to seize and little time in which to do so before November. While potential does not necessarily equate to reality, this year’s congressional elections portend ominously.
Dickens could have been thinking of congressional Democrats when he wrote “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Congressional Democrats hold overwhelming majorities in the House and the Senate. At Pennsylvania Avenue’s other end resides Obama, elected with the largest percentage of the popular vote for a Democrat in 44 years.
Just about everything else though is the worst of times. And they don’t look to get better soon. The economy still feels like the worst recession in decades – if not technically, at least to virtually anyone not an economist. It brings with it near double-digit unemployment and a troubling persistence to stay that way.
America’s fiscal books show the strain. Last year, Washington borrowed one-tenth, and spent one quarter, of everything America produced. This year promises to be nearly identical.
Abroad, America still has two wars in the Middle East and increasing amounts of its debt in the Far East.
The signature accomplishment with which Democrats could hope to counteract these problems is health care reform. It remains generally unpopular.
Finally, there is little time to fix these things between now and November. Just six months away on the calendar but, once recesses are subtracted, Congress really has just over three months to alter things politically.
Even in the best of times, the historical trend of mid-term elections offers little reassurance to the party whose president holds the White House. Over the last 100 years, Democrats have lost on average 32 House seats and 1.4 Senate seats in the first mid-term election of a Democrat president. Only once, in 1934 with FDR, have Democrats not lost seats. Absent that election, they have lost an average of 39 House and 3.3 Senate seats.