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How Bad Will the Shellacking Be?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The Democratic Party is, historically, in trouble in the midterm elections next week. Not only does the party in power nearly always lose seats in the midterms, but usually not even a popular president can save them. An unpopular president will nearly always cause his party to be trounced. Let’s go back to the 1930s and see what generally occurs.


The Great Depression hit the country in 1929. Republican Herbert Hoover was the president that year, and even though he really had nothing to do with the coming of the Depression (his response to it was horrific, though), still, he was president, so the Republicans suffered. In 1930, they lost 52 seats in the House and eight in the Senate. Since Hoover’s response to the Depression only made it worse, not only did he lose the presidency to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 by a huge margin, but the Republicans lost 101 more seats in the House and 12 more in the Senate. After that, except for 1946 and 1952, the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives consistently until 1994.

FDR was probably the greatest politician in American history. That isn’t intended to be a compliment. My point here is, he was a masterful coalition-builder, able to buy votes more successfully than any other politician in our country’s history. His policies, domestic and foreign, were, by and large, disastrous (ask Eastern Europe), but he was the consummate “Teflon” president and won the presidency four times. The strain finally killed him in 1945.

For all the fake history that teaches Roosevelt “got us out of the Depressio,n” this is simply not true, and the country knew it at the time. In 1937, unemployment, which had never been less than 12 percent under Roosevelt, dipped back to 20 percent, and in the 1938 midterms, the Democrats lost 81 seats in the House and seven in the Senate. In 1942, after FDR had won an unprecedented third term as president, the Democrats still lost 46 seats in the House and nine in the Senate. After FDR’s death, Harry Truman didn’t do any better: -45 in the House in 1946, and -12 in the Senate (the Dems lost 29 and six in 1950). Even the popular Dwight Eisenhower couldn’t stop this kind of bleeding. While he lost “only” 18 House seats and one Senate position in 1954, it was 48 and 13 in 1958. Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats lost 47 House seats in 1966. Gerald Ford and the Republicans lost 48 in 1974 after Watergate and the Nixon resignation (it’s amazing it wasn’t worse). And on and on it goes.


Since 1938, there have only been two instances when the party who occupied the presidency gained seats in the House of Representatives. (It has happened five times in the Senate, including 2018 when the Republicans under Trump gained two Senate seats. We always must remember, in Senate races, how many seats from each party need defending.) In 1998, the Democrats under Bill Clinton gained five House seats, though the Senate composition remained the same. Interestingly, this was after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. In 1994, Clinton lost 52 Democrats in the House, giving the Republicans their first majority in that body in 42 years. Democrats lost eight seats in the Senate that year.

The only other time since 1938 the sitting president’s party gained House seats was 2002 under George W. Bush. The Republicans gained eight House seats and two Senate seats that year (Bush lost 30 and 6 respectively in 2006). Barack Obama lost 63 and six in 2010 and won re-election in 2012. In 2014, the Democrats lost 13 and nine. Trump lost 40 House seats in 2018, but, as noted, gained two Senate seats. The party in power, regardless of the popularity (or lack thereof) of the sitting president, nearly always loses seats. Even Ronald Reagan, in two midterm elections, lost 31 seats in the House and seven in the Senate. The fickle voters.


What does all this mean? Well, maybe a few things.

1. Absolutely nothing. What happened in the past can give us some hints (and hopes) for what might happen in the future. But history does not control the future and can’t tell us what will happen. Nobody, not even Mr. History, knows what will come to pass on November 8, 2022.

2. But there are those suggestive “hints.” IF, a mighty big IF, the “trend” of history continues next week, the Democrats will lose. How big will they lose? That is impossible to determine exactly. Joe Biden isn’t very well-liked outside of Washington, D.C., New York, and California, and that always signals losses for his party. But it can’t tell us how many. If any.

3. Don’t forget there’s always the possibility of funny business in the election. Could voter fraud sway a few seats? Probably, but not enough to save the House for Democrats. Several Senate races are tight and still could go either way.

History favors the Republicans, but history is what happened, not what WILL happen.

Author's Note: Christmas is coming!  My 2nd Rob Conners western novel, River Bend, is now available.  Honestly, I think it is much better than my first book, Whitewater.   Both are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Eliva.com.  Get a 10% discount on the paperback at info@elivapress.com.  And check out my blog at thailandlewis.blogspot.com.



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