In some ways, it is not surprising that American policy-makers are intensely focused on short-term popularity. Every two years, the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate are up for re-election. Anxiety about getting turfed about by annoyed voters naturally makes politicians hesitant to support anything where the pain is near-term and the benefits far off.
Looking forward to this November’s midterm elections, most people expect the Democrats to get a thumping. Just how big a thumping is, of course, a matter of discussion. During the past few months, many people have raised the possibility that the Democrats could lose control of the House of Representatives. Now, some are wondering if they might lose the Senate as well. That possibility is certainly less likely, since only a third of the Senate is elected at a time. For the Republicans to gain control, they would basically need to win every competitive seat while not losing any that are considered safe for them.
Turnouts are always lower for midterm elections than for those that also include presidential voting. Indeed, mechanisms for getting supporters to actually vote are a key part of electoral tactics. That can include things like incorporating referenda on issues that fire up your base, whether they are on banning gay marriage or trying to simplify unionization. Another is to instill fear in your supporters that their opponents are about to triumph. Indeed, one reason why members of the Obama administration have been hinting about the possibility of Republican victories in November is to try to frighten Democratic supporters to the polls.