Writing for The New York Times, Carl Hulse opens a story on Colorado's Senate primaries with this line:
Two Senate primaries that were supposed to be tranquil affairs have turned into roaring Rocky Mountain shootouts that could provide the best test yet of how deeply anti-establishment, anti-Washington sentiment is running this year.
The rest of the piece is fine, but this is a pretty lazy way of framing the narrative; there's no way you could generalize "anti-establishment, anti-Washington sentiment" from two elections in one of the nation's smaller states, even if officials are expecting higher-than-usual turnout.
Slate's Christopher Beam made this point last week, but it's worth repeating: There's no meaningful way in which this year's elections are anti-incumbent or anti-establishment; of the 282 federal-level incumbents up for re-election, only six have lost their seats. That number goes up if you include those defeated in primaries, but only slightly. Indeed, even wave years like 1994 and 2006 saw House re-election rates of 90 percent and 94 percent, respectively.
Voters are angry, yes, but as noted by the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato, this isn't an "extraordinary level of discontent." In all likelihood, November will prove to be as pro-incumbent as usual; the vast majority of incumbents will cruise to re-election, and somehow, media figures will spin this as a repudiation of the "establishment," even when no such thing took place.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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