The Case Against the Midterms is the Case for the Midterms


Writing in The New York Times, on the eve of what many expect to be a punishing midterm loss for Democrats (the timing is surely coincidental), public policy professor David Schanzer of Duke University and Jay Sullivan, a junior at the same school, argue that America's midterm elections should be cancelled

Here is the core of their reasoning:

But the two-year cycle isn't just unnecessary; it's harmful to American politics.

The main impact of the midterm election in the modern era has been to weaken the president, the only government official (other than the powerless vice president) elected by the entire nation. Since the end of World War II, the president's party has on average lost 25 seats in the House and about 4 in the Senate as a result of the midterms. This is a bipartisan phenomenon — Democratic presidents have lost an average of 31 House seats and between 4 to 5 Senate seats in midterms; Republican presidents have lost 20 and 3 seats, respectively.

The realities of the modern election cycle are that we spend almost two years selecting a president with a well-developed agenda, but then, less than two years after the inauguration, the midterm election cripples that same president's ability to advance that agenda.

Basically, their complaint is that the midterms reinforce the notion that the president's agenda is not the only one that matters, allow the public a chance to express their opinion about that agenda by voting at the midpoint of a presidential term, and that Congress has significant power to shape, slow, or even block that agenda through the legislative process (and might even respond with an agenda or agendas of its own).

This strikes me as a better case for the midterms than one against it.