“Cancel the Midterms”

Probably like a lot of Political Animals who encountered the above headline in the op-ed pages of the New York Times, I laughed out loud. Yeah, at the end of this dispiriting cycle, it’s tempting to just say “let’s call the whole thing off.” But the Duke professor and student who wrote the NYT piece were deadly serious, and brought back a once-perennial idea I hadn’t heard in a long time: giving U.S. House member four-year terms to coincide with the presidential term. With a corresponding adjustment to Senate terms to make them last either four years or eight, that would have the effect of abolishing the midterms for federal offices, though presumably a majority of states would continue to elect their statewide officers on a non-presidential schedule.

The Dukies argue that the ancient pattern of midterm losses by the president’s party indicates that the midterms operate mainly to weaken the presidency. I’d note (as I often do) that for the moment at least something more systemic is going on: an alignment of the midterm electorate with the Republican Party, probably no matter who occupies the White House. Since there’s a corresponding pro-Democratic tilt to the presidential electorate, the alternation between the two really is something of a recipe for perpetual gridlock. But I hardly think the GOP is going to allow “its” election cycle to go the way of state legislative election of U.S. Senators (which, come to think of it, a decent number of Republicans want to bring back!).

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.