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April 29, 2014 1:22 PM Small Swings And Big Narratives

By Ed Kilgore

Buried in Alec MacGillis’ take on Sasha Issenberg’s important analysis of the Democratic midterm strategy is this observation, which is stunning once you remember how the 2010 elections were perceived at the time:

[E]ven in the historic midterm “rebuke” sweep of 2010, fewer than six percent of 2008 voters went for the opposite party in their congressional vote two years later.

The CW about 2010 was that Barack Obama’s performance in office disappointed vast numbers of 2008 supporters who believed his talk of bipartisanship and “Red, White and Blue America” and tilted to the GOP in the midterms to rebuke him or restrain him and his “overreaching” party—a phenomenon strengthened by the advent of a new citizens movement called the Tea Party which emerged from the ranks of independents unhappy with both parties.

A “swing” of six percent of 2008 voters can hardly sustain this narrative of triumph and betrayal, can it?

Some observers got this but still attributed 2010 to an “enthusiasm gap” between discouraged Democrats and excited Republicans.

What Sasha Issenberg is telling us is that an awful lot of the 2010 “swing” was actually baked right into the demographic cake, and would have happened had an awful lot of the events of 2009-10 turned out otherwise. That means a lot of pundirrific words uttered before, during and after 2010 were so much wasted air—and are in danger of being repeated this year as well.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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