With midterm elections just around the corner and the economic recovery finally gaining steam, the big question confronting America is whether Washington will still be gridlocked in 2015.
In the past few years, we’ve witnessed incessant quarreling in Congress that’s hampered worthwhile legislative action. 2013 was an especially rough year. Remember the government shutdown in October? The fiscal cliff scare that lifted us all from our seats the very first day of the year? Let’s not forget the historic altering of filibuster rules. So many memorable moments. So many lurching halts to the economic recovery.
Such a cold political climate in Washington has left midterm voters mistrustful of both parties in Congress. But because neither side gleams over the other in the eyes of its constituents, experts disagree on whether tensions will ease as well as what effects they’ll have on our wallets.
“I expect that [Congressional infighting] will take a somewhat different, less dramatic and highly visible form through the next year,” said John W. Cioffi, an associate professor of political science at the University of California at Riverside. “However, if there is a wave of successful primary challenges to GOP incumbents, this dynamic will likely shift back quickly to scorched-earth budget warfare.”
It wasn’t always this bad in Washington. But it may be getting worse, according to some experts.
“In 1976, when I was a Congressional Fellow, Democrats and Republicans could and did find common ground on legislation that was good for the country, their state, their region or their congressional district,” said Al Shockley, a professor of political science at Los Angeles Valley College. “Today, it seems there is genuine anger and dislike for members of the other party, which may reduce civility and with it the chance for widespread cooperation.”
Economic Impact of the Current Political Climate
Recently, we’ve seen a rise in payroll figures and fall in unemployment numbers. But many Americans are still worried about their wallets and employment prospects. In light of the upcoming midterm elections, a Pew Research-USA Today survey released in late April highlighted the top voting issues: Jobs are their number one priority.
And though the Great Recession is officially behind us, its effects evidently are still being felt today. The general sentiment among experts is that economic recovery efforts have not operated at full capacity and will dominate both parties’ platforms in the midterms.
“Partisanship will continue to be a factor as both parties try to win points against each other,” Shockely said. “However, if, as I believe, economics will be the dominant theme for this election year, Republicans and Democrats alike need to pass legislation they can both claim as good for the country. This could lead to positive legislation that does not do damage to either party’s ideological base.”
With that hopeful message, we can expect to see less soap opera and more legislating from all sides come 2015.
Ask The Experts: Expectations of the 2014 Midterm Elections
Given the political tensions that have escalated in Washington in recent years, one can’t help but wonder just how particularly dynamic, or perhaps disruptive, the 2014 midterm elections will be.
Below, we’ve expanded the discussion with predictions and reflections from various experts in the fields of politics and public affairs. Will Americans continue to witness debilitating infighting in Congress? To what extent will political partisanship continue to hamper the economic recovery? Our experts share which issues they anticipate to be the biggest points of contention among politicians. And finally, they respond to the possible impacts that the midterm elections can have on our lawmakers’ conduct. Check out their bios and comments below.
- Partisanship Effects on Economic Recovery
- Midterm Elections’ Effects on Politicians’ Behavior