Don’t Call It a ‘Boring’ Election

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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The new political narrative emerging says that 2014 is a “boring” election. (This comes on the heels of allegations it is a “Seinfeld election” about nothing.)

To be sure, there are elements of truth to this, but stressing this angle also ignores the serious policy disagreements being hashed out (ISIS, Ebola, Obamacare, etc.), as well as the fact that some fairly interesting surprises have popped up (see Kansas and South Dakota.)

The other problem is that there are consequences to this narrative. As Ana Marie Cox noted Sunday on Fox News’ Media Buzz, telling people an election is boring can depress turnout, which presumably hurts liberals. Conversely, I would suggest that part of the reason this election feels boring is that Republicans are doing all the right things they need to do to win, so this criticism feels a bit like sour grapes — or an attempt to pre-frame the narrative.

First, let’s dispel the myth that these elections should be about something big. Journalists can lament the fact that we’re not engaged in some grand debate, but we’re lucky if that even happens in presidential contests, much less Congressional ones. “All politics is local,” as Tip O’Neill said. With 1994 being an obvious exception, mid-terms are rarely about big national ideas — and when they are, they are often about rejecting those big national ideas. I don’t recall Democrats being criticized so heavily for essentially turning 2006 into a referendum on Bush’s failures with Iraq and Katrina — probably because that election also came equipped with a Republican sex scandal (see Mark Foley) and a spate of Republican resignations surrounding a corruption scandal.

Republicans spent the last three cycles blowing their chances to take the senate. Having learned their lessons, and having nominated (mostly) serious candidates this time around, Republicans are doing the blocking and tackling required to win elections. Avoiding mistakes and running serious campaigns can be boring, and this is an impardonable sin.

Sure, it isn’t glamorous, but since when were elections held in order to amuse the chattering classes? The fact that a lot of journalists crave more excitement probably tells you all you need to know about the American Idol-ization of politics. At the very least, it says as much about us as it does about the politicians.