What's the worst thing about the current 113th Congress which has been marked for accomplishing next to nothing legislatively in 2013, elevating the phrase "partisan gridlock in Washington, DC" as the most notable topic of political discussion of the year?
The worst part is that the squabbling and dysfunction are likely to continue through to the 2014 midterm elections and likely beyond.
At least that's the finding of an analysis published in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that shows—even though numerous polls reflect a consistent and "unprecedented level of contempt for Congress"—that a majority of voters "dislike members of the other party most" which in turn means that "any partisan shift in November's election will be modest."
And because political gerrymandering has been so scientifically executed in recent years, without a radical shift in public thinking or a populist groundswell capable of overwhelming the status quo, the idea that one party will vastly overpower the other seems unlikely, according to a focus group study conducted in Ohio, a state often cited as representing national political trends.
As the LA Times reports:
... selective [public] outrage works against the sort of throw-the-bums-out election that would produce wholesale, across-the-board upheaval in the House. After several elections that produced considerable turnover, including Republicans' 63-seat gain in 2010, the likeliest outcome in 2014 is a comparatively modest partisan shift.
Democrats need to win 17 seats to regain control of the House, which they lost in 2010, the first midterm election under President Obama. That is not a huge number by historical standards but one that could prove insurmountable given the head winds Democrats face with the botched rollout of Obama's signature healthcare program, his middling standing in polls and voters' tendency, in off-year elections, to punish the party in the White House.
More significantly, there are far fewer takeover targets, since the number of competitive House seats has plummeted. Two decades ago, there were 99 crossover seats — that is, House districts that voted for one party for president and the other for Congress. Today there are 26, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which tracks elections nationwide.
Put another way, 93% of Republican House members represent districts carried by Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 and 96% of Democrats represent districts won by Democrat Obama, according to Cook. That partisan sorting leaves exceedingly few seats up for grabs.
Progressive analysts and observers have indicated that a resurgent left could shift the ground this year.
It remains to be seen, however, whether or not the labor struggles that have been best represented by low-wage workers demanding better working conditions and increased pay can actually create a working coalition and shared political call with climate justice activists concerned with global warming, women's rights advocates pushing back against the assualt on reproductive choice, and the broader call that has focused on strengthening U.S. democracy by getting the outsized contributions of corporations and wealthy individuals out of politics and reforming voting rights laws to allow more robust poll access and increase election turnout.