THE DEMOCRATIC DEBACLE last November came as no surprise to Senator Evan Bayh. The Indiana Democrat could see disaster looming and decided a year ago not to seek reelection. He began issuing warnings to fellow Democrats even before the passage of Obamacare, only to see them ignored. He told the Wall Street Journal his party's liberals were "tone deaf" to the fact that they'd "overreached" in their agenda. "For those people," he said, "it may take a political catastrophe of biblical proportions before they get it." Now that the votes are in, Bayh still isn't sure they will.
Bayh knows something about high-water political floods. As a 24-year-old law student he helped run his father's 1980 Senate re-election and saw him go down to defeat under the Reagan landslide. In 1994, Bayh was governor of Indiana and thankful he wasn't before the voters when they revolted against Bill Clinton. "Every 14 or 16 years we seem to have to relearn this lesson," Mr. Bayh said. "I do have a sense of déjà vu, and the movie doesn't have a happy ending."
This year more voters than ever will cast ballots before Election Day. The result may be that in a world where everything seems to move faster we will get final election results later than ever. It's possible we won't know which party controls either house of Congress for days or even weeks because of all the disputes and delays caused by absentee ballots.
More than 30 states now allow anybody to cast an absentee vote. Several other states also allow early voting at government buildings or even grocery stores. This year, it's expected that nearly one in three Americans will vote before Election Day. For people who can't make it to the polls, absentee ballots are necessary.
But for others voting early is like judging the winner of a 15-round boxing match in the 16th round.
If control of Congress hinges on a few close races, don't expect to know the final outcome on Election Night. While early votes cast on electronic machines are easily integrated into the totals from traditional polling places, paper absentee ballots are typically counted only after the others.
No one would ever argue that the Service Employees International Union, the government worker-dominated union, lacks clout. It has come to symbolize Big Labor's political muscle in the Democratic Party. Andy Stern, the just retired head of the SEIU, was found to be the most frequent guest at the Obama White House last year, stopping by 22 times between January and September, more than all congressional leaders and cabinet members.
For such a powerful group, the SEIU has largely ducked serious scrutiny. Key SEIU locals in Chicago and New Orleans were controlled by ACORN, the discredited community organizing group now under investigation by Louisiana's Democratic attorney general, and Stern had made SEIU the largest single donor to ACORN.
But SEIU was able to walk away from the wreckage of ACORN with little notice.