The case has been made that we are moving closer to a parliamentary system in this country, only a lot of the voters don't realize it yet, and persist in believing that it makes a difference whether their Member of Congress is a personally decent individual or whatever.
Having said that, I find it hard to believe that personal qualities and political skill aren't very important factors in local British elections, even given the realities of the parliamentary system.
If I understand correctly, this is the first time in UK history the party leaders have had this kind of televised debate in advance of an election. It feels familiar to us because we've had presidential debates for a long time, but the actual electoral impact in the UK appears to be a mystery.
Because the UK has a parliamentary system, only a small fraction of the population will actually have an opportunity to vote for Nick Clegg or any of the other party leaders. Instead they'll be voting on a slate of local candidates.
The best analogy is if Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner had a big televised debate about their respective party agendas. It would move the needle somewhat, but how much would it affect people's decision to re-elect their local Congressperson? Hard to say. For some reason, it's hard for some Internet activists to grasp that not everyone sees their local Congressional ballot as a choice between two national ideological agendas.
There is one other phenomenon about this election that is not new, and that is the mentality that other countries' elections are all about us. Andrew Sullivan may be completely correct that Clegg's preference for a less exceptional US-Britain relationship reflects an emerging consensus among the British people, but how many voters will really go to the polls and vote for their local MP based primarily upon the type of relationship they want Britain to have with the US? As usual, the vast majority of people will vote based upon kitchen-table issues and the like, and yet our pundits will obsess over what the election results tell us about changing British attitudes towards the US.
I am just gonna whistle past the graveyard on this one, because common sense tells me that the chance of Obama losing the 2012 election to Newt Gingrich is pretty close to zero.
If some enterprising Republican wants to masquerade as a compassionate conservative, who knows, maybe. But I cannot imagine that the American people are longing for the return of the same hardcore Republican approach that they rejected wholesale in both 2006 and 2008. It is unpossible. Check back down the road and we'll see who was right.
Are the libertarian Democrats invisible to pollsters or something? Because the fact remains, the Democrats significantly increased their majority in 2008 even though the exact question you cite showed that voters felt "most members of Congress don't deserve re-election" by a whopping 52-38 margin.
That sounds like a pretty dumb poll question, since no one votes for "most members of Congress." But let's look at the historical trend to see if we can learn anything here.
The most striking thing about this graph is that the Republicans enjoy a long period of support through 2004, and then during 2005 and 2006 there's a sharp dropoff. Okay, then we have the Democratic takeover in 2006, so far so good. But then what happens?
The amazing thing about this graph is that the public, having grown extremely dissatisfied with the Republicans and having successfully turned Congress over to the opposition party, then shows no change whatsoever in their attitude towards Congress after the change in parties. Having successfully turned control over to the Democrats, they now want to get rid of the Democrats. Pardon?
Is it plausible to believe that following the 2006 election, the public wanted to throw out most members of Congress by a 52-38 margin? If that's the case, how the heck did the Democrats get voted in?
There's a further dropoff in 2008 corresponding with the decline in the economy. That's an indicator of the current political climate and it's a basis for concern. But rather than looking at the raw numbers of 28-65 and saying good gravy, it's important to remember that the baseline was already pretty negative. Democrats added to their majority in a major way in 2008 even though a large majority of the public was saying that most members of Congress deserved to be thrown out.
I think it's very difficult to learn anything from this poll. I also feel quite confident that no matter how unprecedented and historic and blah blah blah this anti-incumbent sentiment is, a lot less than 65% of the voters will be voting against their incumbent.
Earlier this week, Chief Justice Roberts basically dared the administration to take this step. The case involved the important question of whether the NLRB can legally continue to function with only two members (it has been using a loophole to do so for a couple years, cause no one can get nominations through the Senate). Towards the end of the government's argument, the following exchange occurred:
JUSTICE GINSBURG: There are -- there are two nominees, are there not?
MR. KATYAL: There are three nominees pending right now.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: Three?
MR. KATYAL: Yes. And they have been pending. They were named in July of last year. They were voted out of committee in October. One of them had a hold and had to be renominated. That renomination took place. There was a failed quorum -- a failed cloture vote in February. And so all three nominations are pending. And I think that underscores the general contentious nature of the appointment process with respect to this set of issues.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: And the recess appointment power doesn't work why?
MR. KATYAL: The -- the recess appointment power can work in -- in a recess. I think our office has opined the recess has to be longer than 3 days. And -- and so, it is potentially available to avert the future crisis that -- that could -- that could take place with respect to the board.