With the parties at virtual parity and the ideological gulf between them never greater, the stakes of majority control of Congress are extremely high.
Party and ideology routinely trump institutional interests and responsibilities. Regular order – the set of rules, norms and traditions designed to ensure a fair and transparent process – was the first casualty. The results: No serious deliberation. No meaningful oversight of the executive. A culture of corruption.
Second, the President’s popularity has not translated into increased support for the Republican party or for the policies and approaches on domestic policy championed by the President.
Mandates are not objective realities but subjective interpretations of elections sold successfully by the winning candidate or party.
America is an outlier in the world of democracies when it comes to the structure and conduct of elections.
Redistricting is a deeply political process, with incumbents actively seeking to minimize the risk to themselves (via bipartisan gerrymanders) or to gain additional seats for their party (via partisan gerrymanders).
In the House, Republican prospects have been buoyed by several successful rounds of redistricting, which have sharply reduced the number of competitive seats and given the Republicans a national advantage of at least a dozen seats.
Private sector labors unions continue to suffer losses in their membership while public sector and service unions grow.
All of this suggests that while citizens became more comfortable with President Bush after September 11 and thought him to have the requisite leadership skills, they continue to harbor doubts about his priorities, loyalties, interests, and policies.
The country has sorted itself ideologically into the two political parties, and those partisan attachments have hardened in recent years. It will take an extraordinary event and act of leadership to break this partisan divide. I thought 9/11 might provide such an opportunity, but it was not seized.