Red Wave

By Ben Chamberlin

So, despite the so-called “midterm curse” over the past 100 years, the total number of seats that could swing is going down overall.

     With the midterm elections approaching some people believe a red wave is very likely to hit. At almost every midterm election for roughly the last 100 years, it looks like that the president’s party, has lost seats or lost Congress, reports an article by Tom Murse, titled “Why the President’s Party Loses Seats in Midterm Elections”. Whether one feels President Biden is doing a good or poor job, using history as a guide, the Democrats are likely to lose seats in Congress this November. But are we in for a massive red wave of Republican wins as some are hoping?

Riding on coattails

     There are a few theories as to why Congress flips at the midterm election. One theory as discussed in Tom Murse’s article is the “presidential penalty” and the other is the “coattails effect.” The “presidential penalty” explains that voters are angry, and are more likely to go vote because of their anger which can flip the majority in congress. The “coattails effect,” explains that if the president is popular enough then people will cast a straight ballot to one party, and the other candidates will be voted for on the “coattails” of the president. After riding in on the “coattails” of the president, many voters would have had some time to think, and see how their congressman actually act and flip their votes.
According to Politico’s Steve Shepard “2022 Forecast,” the only true toss-up states are Wisconsin, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, with the majority of states leaning or likely going to the GOP. Most of the states in contest are in areas which are either already Republican or less likely to flip. Shepard stated,

“When the year began, it looked like the national environment would trump a difficult map for the GOP: Of the 35 seats up in 2022, 21 are already held by Republicans. And all of the 14 Democratic seats are in states that also voted for now-President Joe Biden in 2020 — limiting Republicans’ offensive opportunities.”

The “midterm curse”

So, despite the so-called “midterm curse” over the past 100 years, the total number of seats that could swing is going down overall. NPR noted that there were 124 swing seats in 2002 and only 99 in 2012. The Cook Political Report suggests that there are only 32 true toss-up seats (versus states) in 2022, and, when adding seats that lean left or right, that number only goes up to 58. With the number of swing seats going down, over time, the size of red and blue “waves” should go down.

     Like the Democrats during the Trump administration, the Republicans may be in for a smaller wave than they are expecting. That doesn’t mean the party is failing, it means that the trend of there being fewer moderate states and seats is going down for everyone.
The polarization of politics in America is a striking event. The more courteous, dialogue- oriented politics of our parents is not the world we are inheriting, and districts have become powerfully entrenched in their affiliations. The number of swing states and seats going down a vote means more now than it did 20 years ago. Now more than ever voting for your congressman matters.

Ben Chamberlin is a junior at Grove City College with a major in political science and a minor in business. Ben is a contributing writer to the Collegian, plays intramural soccer, is an avid snowboarder, and was a resident assistant over the 2021-2022 school year. In 2022, Ben was a summer associate at the Vogel Group, a bipartisan lobbying firm, in Washington, D.C.

Ben is foremost a Texan, but he has moved 9 times over his life, including living in Shanghai China, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. Through his travels, he has enjoyed connecting with people in many different cultures, and he values dialogue and debate. He looks forward to the opportunity to engage with ideas, culture, and public policy through IFF, with a view to serving Christ in politics or the legal profession after college.