The midterm elections in the United States are a thermometer of what might happen in the presidential elections two years from now. The 2014 elections are no exception, and the outlook does not look good for Democratic ambitions to continue to govern due to the fact that it has been very difficult for Barack Obama’s administration to deliver some of its most significant campaign promises on Capitol Hill.
Presented as an exercise in democracy, the elections, in which 435 representatives must be elected to the House along with a third of the hundred senators — in 2014 there will be 36 to cover three vacancies — are a long way from achieving this political goal. It is well known that there will be only a few incumbents, or sitting members, who will be subject to ballot box scrutiny simply because they have no rivals.
Perhaps the world’s congresses or parliaments in which the immobility of members compares to that enjoyed by the owners of seats in the U.S. are few in number — a version in political life of sacrosanct private property.
The figures are irrefutable: Congressional re-election never falls below 85 percent. This year, the results will be repeated, resulting in the same faces. As Hadley Heath Manning of the Independent Women’s Forum once put it, in the United States “we do not have kings, [but] we still have political dynasties.”
This will probably be one of the reasons for the skepticism of U.S. citizens with the “right” to vote that will lead them, once again, to not even bother turning up to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 2 — habitual absenteeism to which the fact that the U.S. is one of the few countries to vote on a weekday can be added, an obstacle for the majority, although it has also led to the creation of advance voting, which has already been taking place in many states for more than a week.
Of course, this is not the main reason. Americans think poorly of their legislators; most voters believe they do a very poor job.
Last September, a poll undertaken by Rasmussen Report found that only six percent of voters believe that congressmen and women do a good or excellent job, and 65 percent rate their performance as being poor. It is therefore not surprising that 67 percent categorically assert that electoral regulations benefit current legislators.
And it provides further evidence of distrust: 63 percent firmly believes that most members of Congress sell their votes for money or campaign contributions, a level that has not changed in recent years.
They were right: Last Tuesday, the Brennan Center for Justice released a new report which speaks of the nine “hottest” Senate election races — Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina — and it confirms that “unknown donors” and groups with significant amounts of money, hard cash that is unregulated (so-called black money), are breaking records in terms of funding provided for both Republican and Democratic campaigns. In all these states, the highest record of black money in 2012, previously set by Virginia with $52.4 million, will be exceeded.
However, the 2014 elections pocket all of the money: no less than $4 billion, with receipts and expenditures almost equal for the Democratic and Republican candidates.
In this journey through investigative reports and surveys about the American voters’ views about their politicians, whilst not wanting to overdose on statistics, there is one final interesting fact: 72 percent said that the best thing would be if the incumbents were defeated in the elections, but … we have already seen what happens without an opposition candidate: Those voters will end up being disappointed.
And now, to business. What could happen in these midterm elections? There are a few analysts predicting bad omens for the Democrats, holding the opinion they cannot overcome the advantage held by the Republicans in the House of Representatives (they would have to win 15 seats) and furthermore, this is where the ultra-conservative tea party supporters dominate. Moreover, the Democrats could even lose the slim majority they hold in the Senate, as it would be easier for the Republicans to win the six seats they require.
As a result, the United States could have a much more aggressive Capitol, favoring large corporations and an administration presented as being anti-war during its campaign for “change”; it will also prove difficult, as has been the case to date, to pass immigration reform, for which 11 million people without documentation are waiting and which two million of those already deported are lamenting. It will prove difficult as well to meet the simplest of worker demands: an increase in the minimum wage and the right to unionize.
Politicians, analysts and citizens all agree that the economy is the central issue and that this American century is marked by the increasing amount of favor shown toward the richest in society — the extreme minority — as well as the languishing in promises not kept and belt tightening endured by the vast majority who are disadvantaged and who can only survive as a result of their hard work. On Tuesday, Nov. 4, democracy runs its race, and it appears that it will lose.