The campaign for the midterm US election Tuesday is coming to an end under the shadow of an intractable and deepening economic crisis and the evident inability of the Obama administration to develop any policies to overcome it.
All 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 36 of the 100 seats in the Senate and governorships in 39 of the 50 states are at stake. The Democratic Party, which holds a 59-41 edge in the Senate and a 255-178 edge in the House, is expected to lose a significant number of seats in both houses, with media projections of a Republican takeover of the House but not the Senate.
These predictions are highly uncertain, however, since the exact scale of a Democratic Party defeat depends on the turnout, particularly among those groups, such as youth and minorities, who voted in huge numbers for Barack Obama in 2008.
Moreover, there is an enormous degree of manipulation in the media speculation about an impending "wave" election that would return the Republicans to power after two elections, in 2006 and 2008, in which they were repudiated massively by the American people and lost control first of Congress and then the White House.
The media coverage, particularly the incessant promotion of Tea Party elements as the supposed harbingers of a major shift in public opinion to the right, seems to be directed towards producing the desired result: a Republican takeover of at least the House of Representatives.
Careful examination of the opinion polls suggests a more cautious projection, with some 20 to 25 House Democratic incumbents significantly trailing their Republican opponents, little over half the 39 seats required to deliver a majority to the Republican Party.
The outcome for both House and Senate could come down to the counting and recounting of ballots for dozens of closely contested seats, with the inevitable appeals for court intervention to include or exclude ballots.
This is an increasing trend in American politics. The vote on November 2 comes ten years after the stolen election of 2000, when right-wing elements in the Republican Party, the military, the media and the US Supreme Court stepped in to suppress the counting of ballots in Florida and award the White House to George W. Bush.
If the Democratic Party does contrive to lose control of the House and/or Senate, it is fundamentally because of the widespread and justified sense of betrayal among working-class voters. The greatest disillusionment comes over the refusal of Obama and the Democrats to take any serious action to deal with the growth of mass unemployment, the explosive increase in foreclosures and evictions, and the spread of poverty on a scale not seen since the Great Depression.
In the election campaign that is concluding, the Democrats and Republicans have sought to conceal the objective realities of the capitalist crisis amid a barrage of media manipulation, distortion and mudslinging, fueled by an unprecedented outpouring of corporate cash.
More than $4 billion have been expended for and against the candidates of both parties, with the population bombarded with attack ads, smears and diversions whose effect is to deepen the alienation of the people from both parties and the entire electoral charade.
The election campaigns of the two big business parties have entirely avoided such critical issues as the war in Afghanistan, the continued US occupation of Iraq, the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico brought about by BP, and the intensified assault on the democratic rights of the American people carried out in the name of fighting "terrorism."
If the Republican Party is expected to make political gains, it is not because of any growth in popular support for its right-wing program of tax cuts for the wealthy, the slashing of spending on Social Security and Medicare, deregulation of business and increased militarism.
Pre-election polls have consistently shown that the Republican Party is even more despised than the Democrats, and that increasing numbers want an alternative to the existing political system. Nor is there any great upsurge of support for the Tea Party, an ersatz "movement" largely bankrolled by a handful of ultra-right billionaires.
The Republicans will profit from the failure of the Obama administration because the two-party system keeps the working class effectively disenfranchised, with official politics limited to the alternation in office of two right-wing, pro-Wall Street parties.
The Republican candidates have denounced the Obama administration for its failure to address the rising tide of joblessness. Obama and the Democrats have responded that their opponents want to turn the clock back to the policies of the Bush administration, which created the conditions for the Wall Street crash of September-October 2008.