What the People Want

In each of the last three off-year elections — 2006, 2010 and 2014 — voters have flipped control of one or both houses of Congress away from the incumbent president’s party.

And they will do it again in 6 weeks.

What can this possibly mean but that voters subconsciously don’t want the national government to work? It’s obvious that with a president and a congress working at cross-purposes, there will be one stalemate after another. Yet voters keep engineering this situation time and again.

The main reason why the nation-state model is doomed is that people themselves want it gone. They want “the exhilaration of fluidity” (as Jim McGuigan says) even though it comes with a set of enormous risks.

We have to look at the evidence, folks. If you have a different way of interpreting this information, let me know. But I’m not seeing any other explanation.

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4 thoughts on “What the People Want”

  1. “What can this possibly mean but that voters subconsciously don’t want the national government to work?”

    This typical result in off-year congressional elections is usually interpreted to mean that most voters don’t want either party to be in total control of the government, because then the zealots in that party start trying to veer the country too far left or right.

    Interestingly, the stock market tends to do better when the government is divided — perhaps because businesses that have to make long-term decisions feel comfortable with the status quo.

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  2. Popular was Democratic last time so if it’s Democratic this time it won’t be a change. But generally, changes at midterm are a reaction to what the President has been up to and also a result of organizing the vote. I don’t think it’s necessarily a result of people wanting to stick to the center, or stay schizophrenic. I’d also bet it’s a result of only having 2 parties. With more of them, or a parliamentary system, you’d get more nuance; with another voting system, priority voting, proportional representation, etc., you’d also get a more nuanced result. With only 2 parties and winner takes all, a shift in attitude looks and for practical purposes acts like a bigger shift than it may actually be.

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  3. I don’t know about wanting the government not to work. My hypothesis is that there is so much mistrust of the government across the political spectrum, that people always get reactionary then their “side” loses. I think this is consistent with relative outsiders/newcomers like Trump and Obama winning the last presidential elections, some disenfranchised working-class voters crossing the aisle to vote for Obama then for the anti-Obama, and Sanders getting a fair bit of traction, particularly when these candidates ran on a platform of change (in whatever guise). This is also why I think the democrats desperately need to run one of their fresh faces for president, and not someone with more than a term or two of baggage on the national stage.

    The thing I am most unsure about is how a candidate/party can deliver enough change to restore faith in government and thus minimize the mid-term reactionary vote. Particularly when the government/two party politics is as dysfunctional as it is now. I fear things have to get worse before they get better.

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