I have this recurring fantasy in which, after the fall mid-term elections, I end up on this or that chat show because, unlike the professional pundits, I managed to call the election results correctly months before the elections actually occurred (a boy can dream, right?). In order to do that, though, I need to actually post those predictions, right? Well, here goes.
Both Houses of Congress will remain Democratic, with the party gaining slightly in each. Governorships are harder to call, dependent upon a different set of concerns (for example, in Illinois, corruption at the state level and state legislative inaction are as big as the moribund state of our economy), but I have a suspicion that the Democratic trend will continue (I still think that here in Illinois Gov. Quinn, as well-meaning but ineffectual governor, should have stepped aside; he didn't so, oh well).
Now, here's why I'm swimming against the general tide of opinion on this one. It's really simple and it involves a couple assumptions and a view of the electorate that, for the most part, has held pretty steady. It also comes with the caveat that political campaigns are important as well as the usual warning about unforeseen events causing massive voter shift.
First, while the voters are unhappy at the moment with the institution of Congress, they are even more unhappy with Republican Party than the Democratic Party. The Democratic leadership keeps offering up legislation that is generally popular, and the Republicans keep voting against it. While it might seem like the party has gained a certain amount of legislative leverage this way, they really haven't. They also have no plan, substantive or legislative, moving forward. They are offering nothing as an alternative except the same thing we've been hearing for decades - tax cuts and killing people in far away lands.
This leads to another assumption, before stating which, however, I need to make clear my view of the electorate. Right now, most voters aren't paying attention except to the realities that (a) the economy sucks; and (b) the parties are fighting over things that have little to do with (a). When they start paying attention, for the most part, for all that anti-incumbency seemed to dominate in primaries, the incumbency effect will certainly play in to the hands of the Democrats. Coupled with the utter lack of any agenda whatsoever on the part of the Republicans except for those Tea Party candidates who want to party like it's Berlin in 1933, the Democrats, providing they are intelligent enough to nationalize the campaign (not always a safe bet, to be sure, but still possible) should skate to comfortable margins of victory nationally.
We are at the beginning of one of those basic sea-changes in political opinion that those poli-sci types call "realignment". The 1994 Republican Congressional victory was not the beginning of a Republican trend, but the culmination of the weak but steady preference for that party that had been on-going since the election of Richard Nixon in 1968; it was, in other words, toward the end of one party's cycle of power rather than the beginning of it. Twelve years of Republican control of Congress, with the addition of eight years of George W. Bush as President, and the past two years of the Republicans in Congress opposing any- and everything the President and the Democratic leadership offered is not so much a strategy as it is a sign of desperation. They hope to keep the country screwed up so the voters will blame the party in power and turn around and vote them back in to office. Since it is clear enough which party wants to help and which party does not, combined with the general national Democratic trend, the utter vacuousness of the Republican Party ideologically (save Social Security? didn't George Bush get spanked on that back in 2005?), I think that as long as the Democrats don't do anything truly stupid (OK, again, not always a safe bet), the election results, while certainly stunning to DC insiders, will go this way.