Welcome to the fabled nation of Dismalia, where even the craziest theories are embraced, and only certain facts are banned. Here is the land where people believe that Global Warming can only be thwarted by buying Al Gore a new jet, where civil rights become valid only below a certain demographic size, so that the wants of a group less than one percent of the population can demand the majority be denied their rights, where candidates from the Dismalian Party can demand to be elected because of their race or gender while claiming to oppose discrimination on such attributes. And this fall, the denizens of Dismalia are looking forward to taking control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and to impeach and convict President Trump.
Yeah, about that … better tap the brakes. Here’s why:
The Democrats hold 193 seats in the House, and 47 in the Senate (plus there are two independents who caucus with the Democrats). So Democrats figure they only need to get to 218 in the House and 51 in the Senate to take control. That’s gaining 25 House seats and 2 Senate seats. That’s the seed of Democrat/Dismalian optimism.
But before I go further, it’s mathematically impossible to remove Trump from office by impeachment. That’s because while the House is up to re-election every two years, Senate seats come up in staggered elections, and only 33 Senate seats will be decided this year. What’s more, only 9 of those Senate Seats are held by Republicans. That means that even if the Democrats win every open Senate seat, the Republicans will still hold 42 Senate seats, and if the Democrats are able to impeach Trump, there’s no way they get to the 67 Senate votes needed for a conviction. I imagine impeaching Trump is a very big deal to the Dismalians, but there’s no value in impeaching Trump but leaving him in office. For one thing, Trump has very tough skin and won’t be intimidated, and his supporters will be enraged and become very active for his 2020 re-election campaign. The attacks on Trump have not hurt his poll numbers; in fact, it appears that the opposite happens. Impeaching Trump would likely rally independents to support him, in the same way the Impeachment of Bill Clinton boosted his support among independents.
But with that said, there is obvious value in gaining control of either the House or Senate. But the numbers in history are not as good as Dismalians would like to believe. Let’s take a look at history.
It’s long been said that the party who holds the White House loses seats in midterm elections. But that saying does not tell the whole story.
Since World war 2, there have been eighteen midterm elections. In thirteen of those elections, the Democrats went into the election with control of the House of Representatives (five for Republicans), and in thirteen of those elections, the Democrats went into the election with control of the Senate (five for Republicans), but not the same terms. Of those thirteen elections, Democrats won more House seats than Republicans eleven times (seven for the GOP), and Democrats won more Senate seats than Republicans ten times (eight for the GOP). On the face that’s good news for Democrats, but the Democrats have only taken over the House in a midterm election from Republicans twice since World War 2 (2 out of 18 is 11%), and the Democrats have only taken over the Senate in a midterm election from Republicans twice since World War 2 (2 out of 18 is again 11%). On average Democrats have won 227 House seats in midterm elections, 222 when the minority party, and the Democrats have won 18 Senate seats in midterm elections, and 18 when the minority party. If the Democrats win 222-227 seats in the House, they would claim a thin majority in the House, but in 2002 the Democrats held 209 seats going into the midterm and ended up with only 213, and in 2014 they held 201 House seats but ended up with 211, so even gaining seats in the House as a minority party is no guarantee of winning the House. As for the Senate, if the Democrats win the average of 18 elections, they actually lose position in the Senate, as there are 24 Democrat Senate seats at stake; winning 18 would mean a net loss of 6 Senate seats.
What this means is that the Dismalians‘ expectations may be very different from actual conditions. What’s more, consider that RCP’s aggregate of generic congressional polls
shows the Democrats about 6 points ahead. For comparison, in 2014 the GOP had a 3 point lead in the polls and finished with a 6 point advantage and 224 seats.
In 2010 the GOP held a 9 point poll lead and finished with a 7 point advantage and 249 seats.
In 2006 the Democrats had a 12 point lead and finished with an 8 point advantage, winning 233 seats
In 2002 the GOP had a 2 point lead in the polls but finished with a 5 point advantage and won 222 seats.
That means of the last four midterms elections, Democrats finished with vote results about 2 percent weaker than the polls indicated, meaning true Democrat strength is only about 4 percent ahead of Republicans. Given that Democrats are predominantly in high population-density states where they already hold House seats, a 4% lead in election results nationally should not be considered good news for the Dismalians.
There’s a long way to go before the midterm elections are held, and no one should get overconfident. But by the numbers, the Dismalians are likely in line for more, well, dismay.