It has long been a truism of Washington that the election years are not nearly as busy as the “off” years. And 2018 is for now on course to set a grim record, quite easily eclipsing 2014 for the least ambitious legislative agenda in modern times during a midterm campaign — just the latest reminder of how chocked the Capitol has become by polarization.
But will it matter, at least politically? If the past two decades point to the answer, it is “apparently not.” The levels of legislative intensity and accomplishment during the meat of campaign season have ranged from modest to significant — and yet at least one chamber of Congress has changed partisan hands after each of the past four midterm elections.
That means the last “stand pat” midterm was two decades ago, when the GOP stayed in full command of the Capitol even though it lost seats thanks to its highly unpopular drive to impeach a popular President Bill Clinton.