How likely is a "wave" election for Democrats? I muse on this below. But despite popular wisdom, waves have become much more the norm in recent years, and there is good reason to think 2016 could be another.
It is useful to consider that out of the last 5 elections -- 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 -- 4 were "wave" elections (the one exception being 2012).
This goes to my oft belabored point that the underlying assumptions on which most conventional wisdom about elections is based is shifting as a result of massive demographic change as well as other factors.
The patterns in all these waves have been the ability of a political party to (a) direct the overall anger and frustration of the electorate; combined with (b) persuade the voters that do turn out that voting for your party will actually materially improve their lives by putting the party with the "right" ideas/philosophy in charge. (Please do not waste time talking about how Democrats or Republicans won't really make people's lives better blah, blah, blah. just assume your usual cynical or anti-R or anti-D comments have been made and move on. Trying to talk freaking *patterns* here.)
The important realization is that mere anger and frustration are not enough. Anger and frustration can motivate some, but without the belief that voting for a particular party (as opposed to simply against a particular party) will have impact, the general impact of anger and frustration is disengagement. That *can* be a contributing factor to a wave. Democrats benefited from Republican disengagement in 2006 and 2008, and Republicans benefited from Democratic disengagement in 2010 and 2014.
Democrats certainly have the opportunity for a wave. There are a lot of people who normally vote Republican who are absolutely furious at Trump and the system that enabled him to win the Republican Primary. The question is whether Democrats are not only able to extend that outrage to the entire Republican party, but whether they can provide these voters with a rationale for why they should vote for Democrats.
There are a number of possibilities that are currently circulating. One is the "only an absolutely crushing defeat can get the party to stop nominating people like Donald Trump." This is, in game theory, the logic of a "punishment round." I talked about this a bunch during the Dem primary -- which got lots of die-hard Dems very upset (because, of course, game theory gives a crap about how you feel). But the idea is that if you are a college educated white Republican who believes that the Republican party needs to change so that the 40% who voted for Trump in the primaries keep dictating the party policies and directions, then you are willing to take a 4 year Clinton Presidency and a 2 year Dem Senate (and possibly Dem House) as a prerequisite to getting the Republican Party to stop letting its crazy racist misogynist wing run things. (Again, Dems and others, PLEASE don't bother to say "but crazy racist misogynist is the Republican party blah blah. Yeah, I get it. For some of you it's a freaking conditioned reflex. Remember, trying to talk about understanding electoral dynamics and principles here.)
So Dems could have a wave in 2016 if they persuade enough voters who lean R or who identify R that they need to take a punishment round in the fight for the soul of the Republican Party. That would have to extend not simply to Hillary, but to the Republican party as a whole. There is some modest evidence that this is happening already, as seen from this article.
But the other alternative is for Dems to aggressively message their positive agenda to enhance voter turnout. Clinton, for example, has been cranking out policy proposals on things like "how we will fight deep poverty" and so forth, which would potentially motivate people to think Democrats would actually do stuff to improve their lives. (Once again, Rs and others, please don't bother saying that Democrats tax and spend, over regulation, totally dishonest, Bill Clinton, Benghazi LEONARD BERNSTIEN end of the world as we know it etc.) I will refer to my previously posted link to this study that young Black and Latino voters are just not that into Clinton even if they totally hate Donald Trump because they don't think Clinton will do much for them. http://www.vox.com/…/7/13187114/hillary-clinton-young-voters
So I think the preconditions are right for a wave election, which frankly has become the new normal. The question is whether Democrats will actually be able to get their shit together over the next 25 or so days to make it happen, or whether Dems will keep playing small ball.