The Republicans began the 20th century as the dominant politicl party in the United States. Conservarives dominanted the Party, but the assasination of President McKinnley brought Vice President Roosevelt to the presidency (1900). He sponsored a series of progressive reforms and a more forceful role for the United States in world affairs. A split in the Republicn Party resulted in the electin of Democraric New Jersey Govenor Woodrow Wilson (1912). Wilson sponsored more progressive reforms called the New Freedoms. He also after reelection reluctantly led America into World War I (1917). President Wilson after the War hoped to prevent future wars through a system of collective security overseen by the new League of Nations. The Republican dominated Senate rejected the League. Senator Warren Harding persued what he called a return to normalcy (1920). American returned to a Republican dominated government. The economic boom of the 1920s made the three Republicans presidents ellected in the 1920s extreemely popular. The Republicans with their philosophy of laizze faire , however, failed to address major inequities in American society or to adequately regulate business. The result was the Great Depression which was made worse by flawed monetary policies. The result was a major realignment in American politics. With Franklin Roosevelt's election (1932), the Democrats became the dominant political party. President Roosevelt led the United States through the Great Depression and World War II. President Roosevelt's New Deal enacted many important reforms, but often forgotten in the glow of Roosevelt's masterful war leadership, the New Deal never suceeded in ending the Depresion. To everyone'suprise, President Truman was also able to defeat the Republicans (1948). Truman established the basic policies pursued by a series of Democratic and Republican presidents to fight the Cold War. The Republicans nominating war hero General Dwight Eisenhower finally regained the White House (1952). Eisenhower did not as some Republicans wanted, reverse the New Deal. The assasination of President Kennedy (1963) brought Vice President Lyndon Johnson to the presidency. Major liberal reforms were enacted by President Johnson, but his standing was tragically ruined by the War in Vietnam. Former Vice President Richard Nixon won two elections, but his image and that of the Republican Party was tarnished by Watergate. He became the first president forced to resign his office (1973). The presidency swung back and forth between the two parties in the late-20th century, although the Democrats maintained control of Congress. Govenor Ronald Reagan was elected (1980). beginning a notable Republican resurgency leaving the Republicans the majority party and in control of Congress by the end of the century.
The 1900 election was a rematch between President McKinley and former Congressman William Jennings Bryan. Bryan had an unimpressive political history. He had served two terms in Congress (the second with a narriow vicvtory) and had been defeated in a senate race. McKinnely has soundly defeated Bryan in 1896, but Bryan with his oritorical skills retained control over the Democratic Party. He had traveled the country giving speeches in support of Democratic candidates. While Bryan inveighed against imperialism, McKinley quietly stood for "the full dinner pail." The election was important because New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt obtained the Republican vice presidential election--largely because Republican Party stalwart Mark Hannah and New York Senator Conklin wanted him out of New York. The election was also notable because Bryan had begun his campaign within weeks of losing the 1896 election. Bryan and his wife and political confident Nary published an inpassioned account of their losing campaign. The title, The First Battle left no doubt how Bryan viewed politics and his plans for 1900. Their book proved to be a run-away best seller. Thousand of people wrote to Bryan. Mary and his brother made a list of the correspondants to build an index card (the principal data organizing system before computers) list of supporters througout the country. Bryan began approaching important figures in the state Democratic organization in 1897. The outcome was another stunning defeat. The Democrats were becoming a largely sectional party. Vryan carried a few Western states, but only the solid South voted strongly for Bryan. This was true in most post-Civil war elections, but rarely had a Democratic candidate carried so few states outside the South.
President Theodore Roosevelt was enormously popular and had no opposition at at the Republican convention (June 1904). The Democrats at their convention nominated Alton Parker of New York on the first ballot. The two nominee did not have major policy differences to contest on the major issues. The election thus turned largely on personality. And here few canddates could hold a candal to the larger-than-life Rough Rider. Roosevelt was elected President on his own in 1904 by a majority of nearly 2 million votes, the largest heretofore accorded a candidate. Parker failed to carry a single state outside the South. The Electoral College voye was 336 to 140. Despite the festering conditions in the inner cities, Socialist Candidate Eugene Debbs polled only 0.4 million votes. In a foretaste of the future, Prohibition candidate Silan Swallow polled 0.3 million votes. While polling less than 5 percent of the vote, these two cmpaigns would affect the American political agenda. Measures advocated by both would be afopted by the two major political parties. In the exuberance of victory, President Roosevelt blurted out that the would honor the two term precedence and not seek a third term. Edith knew right away that this was a serious mistake.
The Republican Convention with Roosevelt's backing nominated Taft in 1908. Taft was not a naturally gifted politican. It was no accident that he had risen with judicial and administrative appointments. He disliked political campaigns. He was not a talented public speaker. His speeches were usually well reasoned, but tedious and emotionless. He described the camaign as "one of the most uncomfortable four months of my life." He pledged his loyalty to the Roosevelt progressive program, popular in the West. The Republican Party was badly divided in 1908 between progressives and conservatives, but Taft managed to keep it together. His brother Charles reassured old guard eastern Republicans. William Jennings Bryan, running on the Democratic ticket for a third time, complained that he was having to oppose two candidates, a western progressive Taft and an eastern conservative Taft. Progressives were pleased with Taft's election. "Roosevelt has cut enough hay," they said; "Taft is the man to put it into the barn." Conservatives were delighted to be rid of Roosevelt--the "mad messiah."
The election of 1912 was one of the most interesting and significant elections in American history. Roosevelt and Taft considered themselves friends. Taft never could have become president without Roosevelt's personal intervention. Roosevelt soon found himself missing the presidency after he left office. This personal feeling was amplified when progressives began to complain to him about President Taft. Gradually the personal relationship between the two men ruptured. Here Mrs. Taft was a factor. She did not like Roosevelt and this affected Taft's opinions. Roosevelt saw Taft as weak and abandoning his legacy to conservative party boses. Taft came to see Roosevelt as a dangerous man and a threat to American democracy. Roosevelt deciced to contest the Republican nomination. Still emensely popular, Roosevelt won state primary election, including the Ohio primary. The Republican machine politicans, however, succeeded in renominated Taft. A majority of Republicans favored Roosevelt and he did well in the states with primaries. But most delegated to the Republican Convention were chosen in state conventions dominated by the party bosses. Roosevelt was angered that he and his supporters were ignored by these Republican bosses. He thus bolted the party to lead the Progressives. The Party under Roosevelt became known as the Bull Moose Party. Taft considered the Roosevelt candidacy as a personal affront from a former friend. Wilson was nominated for President at the 1912 Democratic Convention and campaigned on a program called the New Freedom, which stressed individualism and states' rights. The Republican split guaranteed Wilson's election. In the three-way election he received only 42 percent of the popular vote but an overwhelming electoral vote.
American election histories geberally focus on presidential election. Congressional by-elections are more commonly footnotes. The 1914 Congressional by-elections were one of the times that these by-elections had a major impact. The Republican split permitted the passage of a broad range of progressive reforms. Many Americans were uncomfortable with the substantial changes. President Wilson when he was elected in 1912 was left with Congressional Democrativ majorities that allowed him to pass virtually any bill he submitted to Congress. The result was a series of progressive reforms including the Federal Reserve Act. A Federal income tax required a constitutional amendment. The 1914 elections was the irst opportunity for voters to register their judgement. The period of progressive reforms was largely ended by the 1914 by-election. The Democrats remained in control of both houses, but the Republicans greatly increased their number of seats. The Republicans had suffered major defearts in 1912, even finishing third in the the presidential voting. With former president Roosevelt not involved, the Republicans regained their broad-based electoral support. The Republicans in their campaigns charged that the Democrats were engaged in reckless spending. Democratic candidates cited the reforms and other successes of the Wilson administration. The Republican Party's victories mostly came at the expense of the Progressive Party which after the election ceased being a major factor in American politics. Roosevelt remarked that in the East, "there is not a state in which the Progressive party remains in condition even to affect the balance of power between the two old parties." Republicans gained an incredible 69 seats in the House, where they held 196 seats to the Democrats' 230. The Democrats did better in the Senate, gaining 5 seats.. This ledt the Senate balance 56 Democrats, to the Republicans' 40. But as quite a number of the Senate Democrats were conservative southerners, passing further progressive reforms became very difficult.
The Democrats renominated President Wilson and Vice President Marshall without any real opposition at the St. Louis convention (June). President Wilson's policy of keeping America out of the War while suceeding in convincing Germany to refrain from unrestricted submarine warfare. Former President Roosevelt's Bull Moose supporters wanted him to run again, but Roosevelt realised he had not chance of success, not could he now gain the Republican nomination. His Bull Moose campaign in 1912 had alienated to many Republican Party loyalists. Had Roosevelt not bolted the Party in 1912, he almost certainly would have been bominated in 1916. The Republicans instead nominated the respected Supreme Court Associate Justice Charles Evans Hughes. Thet also Charles W. Fairbanks for vice presudent. Fairbanks had been Roosevelt's vice-president. President Wilson's reelection was by no means certain. Since the Civil War, Wilson was one of only two successful Democratic candidates and unlike 1912 there was no thirdy pary spliting the Republicans. Former President Roosevelt campaign strongly for Hughes, in part to restore his status in the Republican Party, The Democrats adopted the slogan, "He kept us out of war." Wilson was uncomfortable about this as he was not at all certain that he could continue to keep America out of the War and in fact within months would sign a declaration of war. This was the decisive issue in the campaign. Hughes held view similar to Wilson, but came to be seen as the war candidate. This was primaroily because of Roosevelt criss-crossing the country and speaking in support of Hughes. Roosevelt' belicose speeches, however, left the impression that Hughes would lead America into the War. The former president was still very popular and his speeches given considerable attention in the press. The election in the end was very close. Many historians believe that Roosevelt's belicose speeches leaving the impression that Hughes was a pro-war candidate probably cost him the election. The election was held before Germany resumed unrestricted sunmarine warfare and the Zimmerman Telegram fiasco. Most Americans in 1916 were oppsed to entering the War. The election was settled in California wjhich went Democratic by a mere 4,000 votes.
America voted just 6-days before the Armistice ending World War I was declared. Had the Armistic have come a few days earlier, the electiin results probably woukd have been different. President Wilson has campaigned on a campsign of keeping the United States out of the War. German and Irish Americans in particular had not favored the War. The Republicans gained 25 seats in the House and 7 seats in the Senate. It meant that for the first time, President Wilson faced a Republican House and Senate. The new Senate Majority Leade was Henry Cabet Lodge. Lodge advised the President to include prominant Republicans in the delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. The President was reluctant to do so. He knew what he wanted and thought that having to accomodate Republicans would complicate the negotiations. Lodge differed with President on key issues. Wilson more than anything wanted A league of Nations to maintain the peace through collective security. To get this he acceeded tonAllied demands for a vengeful peace. Lodge was willing to accept the League, but wanted clear statements that League membership did not commit America to actions ordered by the League. Wilson refused to compromise and when he returned to America launched upon an extensive speaking tour to increase support for the Treaty and League. He suffered a stroke durung the tour and for the rest of his presidency was an invalid. The Senate rejected the Treaty and thus the United states never joined the League.
Warren Harding, a genial newspaper man in Ohio, remained loyal to Presudent Taft in the Rooselvelt insurection. He was choosen to delivered the nominating speech for President Taft at the 1912 Republican Convention. Harding then ran for the U.S. senate in 1914 and was elected. He found the cluby atmosphere of the Senate to be a very congenial place. He described the Senate as "a very pleasant place." An Ohio political opperator, Harry Daugherty, affter Wilson's 1916 victory, began to conceive of Harding as an attractive Republican candiadte in 1920. Daugherty explained, "He looked like a President." The front running Republican candidates in 1920 deadlocked the Convention. A group of Harding's Senate colleagues promoted Harding as a compromise candidate. Here Harding was acceptable to many delegates, in part because as he had done very little, he hadv few enemies and he had proven a staunchl loyal Republican. The 1920 presidential election of 1920 was dominated by the aftermath of World War I. Americans had already begun to question the country's participation in the War. The economic boom during the War had disappeared with a recession. The Denocrats were still arguing for American participation in the League of Nations. The Europe Ameruca left was convulsed with wars and revolutiobs of which most Americas wanted no part. Strikes, race riots, and terrorist incidents frightened many Americans. As a result, President Wilson had become very unpopular. Former President Theodore Roosevelt who hasd waged the third party Bull Moose canpaign in 1916 hoped to get the Republican nomination, but he died in 1919. The Republican nimomination became a free fight. The Republicans after a lengthy convention fight turned to Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding , a former newspaper editor, primarily because he had so few enemies. After several ballots, party bosses in a �smoke-filled room� settled on Harding. Harry M. Daugherty, Harding's political manager played a major role in these negotiations. Harding appointed him Attorney General after the election. The party bosses wanted Wisconsin Senator Irvine Lenroot as vice president, but a revolt broke out on the convention floor. The delegates chose Massachusetts Givernor Calvin Cooldige whose handling of the Bost Police Strike (1919) had made him a popular figure. The Democrats also selected another Ohio candidate, newspaper publisher and Governor James M. Cox. Harding virtually ignored Cox and ran against Wilson. He called for a return to "normalcy". While not an actual word, it proved to be a successful campaign slogan. Harding also had a huge campaign spending advantage. Harding proved a popular choice for the Republicans in 1920. Harding won the Presidential election by an impressive 60 percent of the popular vote, a Republican landslide after 8 years out of office.
The Republicans were worried about their prospects for the 1924 elections. After Hardings's death scandals had tarnished the Republicans. To the suprose of many, the laconic Coolidge was an ibstant hit with the public. The Roaring 20s had brought good times to many and the public saw it as the "Coolidge Prosperity". The Party remominated him on the first ballot at their Cleveland Convention. They also nominated Charles G. Dawes of Illinois for vice-president. The Party emerged from the Convenbtion united and confident about the election. The Convention was notable for being the first to be broacast on radio. The Democrats met in New York. They still maintained a two-thirds vote rule which made it virtually impossible to achieve agreement on a nominee. The leading candidate was the progressive govenor of New York--Alfred E. Smith. Franklin Roosevelt who had been strucken by polio made his first appearance in public since his illness when he delivered a stirring nomination speech for Smith. Govenor Smith was opposed by the southern Democrats who saw Smith as a Yankee, a Catholic, and the product of corupt political machine politics. His leaading opponent was William G. McAdoo of Tennessee who was less outgoing, but was a Protesant. He generated little enthusiasm among the northeastern delegates. The Democrats held over 100 ballots, a convention record. The Ku Klux Klan became an especially devisive issue at the Convention. John Davis of West Virginia eventually emerged as compromise candidate. Robert LaFollete of Wisconsin ran a third party campaign as the candidate of the Progressive party. The Republican's campaign slogan was "Keep Cool With Coolidge". The heady properity of the 20s along with the division of the Democrats helped ensure a Coolidge victory. The Harding Administration scandals did not affect Coolidge. He received 54 percent of the popular vote and a massive Electoral College victory.
The 1926 Congressional by-election was held during presidency of Calvin Coolidge. It was Coolidge's second term, but as he suceeded President Harding, it was the first by-election from his own victory in 1924. President Coolidge struck a cord with the American people and was enormously popular. The party holding the presidency usually loses seats in by-elections and this is what occurred in 1926. No major issue dominated the campaign. The issues fought out by the Congressional candidates primarily concerned business and labor issues and the extent the Federal government should interfere. The Republicans lost seats, but retained a hold on both houses. The Republicans continued to hold a firm grip on the House. Despite the President's popularity, the Democrats made substantial gains in the Senate, but only minor gains in the House. The Democrats gained 6 seats in the Senate, a substantial achievement. The Republicans held the Midwest, except Oklahoma. The Democratic gains were mostly in the northeast and border states. Labor issues helped the Democrats in both New York and Masachusetts. Even so, the Republicans retained a narrow hold in the Senate. The Republicans only lost 9 seats in the House. Primarily because of the small populist Farmer-Labor Party, the Democrats gained 11 seats. The gains were mostly in the Northeast abd unlike the Senate races in the Republican Midwest stronghold. This showed the growing importance of labor, but also increasing farm problems.
President Coolidge remained very popular and could have easily secured the Republican nomination. He decided, however, not to run. This threw the Republican nomination wide open. The Republicas at Kansas City nominated Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover. The Democrats with little optimism nominated long-time candidate Governor Al Smith of New York. He was the first Catholic nominated by a major party and this became a major issue in the Democratic stringhold of the South. The Republicans in the early 20th century were the majority party. Ands short of a split in the Party or a major scandal, the Republicans were the odds on favorite. Economic prosperity made a Republican victory a virtual foregone conclussion. Secretary Hoover set the tone of the campaign in his acceptance speech, "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of this land... We shall soon with the help of God be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this land." In the end it was the economic properity that led to Hoover's victory. Protestant attitudes toward Catholics made it a landslide. Secretary Hoover received 21.4 million (58 percent) popular votes and a commanding 444 electoral votes. Governor Smith received only 15 million popular votes (41 percent) and 87 electoral votes. Smith managed to carry only Rhode Island and Massachsetts and the Deep South. Several Southern states like Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina for the first time since Reconstruction went Republican. Here Smith's Catholcism hurt him badly. And his home state of New York went Republican. Desguised in the landslide was the fact that the Democrats carried most large northern industrial cities. One of the few Democratic bright spots was thec election of Franklin Roosevelt to replace Govenor Smith in New York.
President Hoover began his presidency with the Congress firmly controlled by the Republicans. The New York Stock Market crash (October 1929) resulted in an economic down turn that grew worse during 1930.
Although the dimensions of the economic problem was not yet clear, this was an important factor in the Congressioal and state house races. It might be thought that the Stock Market and economic downturn was the principal election issue. The country had experiebced economic cycles before and by the time the election was held the dimensions of the economic problem was not yet fully understood. One researcher suggests that prohibition, farm policy and the Smoot Hawley Tariff were more salient issues than the economic downturn. [Stevens] We think this is probably correct, in part because the Congressional Democrats were no more sure as to what needed to be done than the Republicans. We do believe, however, that the dimensiins of the Democratic victory were substantially causd by the worsening economic conditions. The Democrats made substantial gains in both the House and Senate. This was the first of four consecutive elections (1930, 32, 34, and 36) during the Depression in which the Democrats made major gains in both houses. The 72nd Congress marked the rise of Texas Democrats to national status. The most important state house election occurred in New York. Franklin Roosevelt had narrowly won the givernorship of New York in the Republican landslide of 1928 as a reform Democrat. He ran and won again in 1930. His initiatives to address the economic down turn attracted national attention. While the economic downturn did not dominate the 1930 campaign, it certainly wood in 1932. By the end of the 72nd Congress the nation was facing a financial crisis of unprescented dimesions with massive unemployment, bankrupsies, and home and farm foreclosures. Thousands of banks on the verge of colapse which could have brought the nation to financial collapse.
America less than a year after Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover's impressive victory was struck by the Wall Street Crash (1929). President Hoover's misjudged the seriousness and nature of the economic decline. He also showed an unwillingness to act decisevely. As a result America lapsed into the Great Depression. The Republicans stuck with President Hoover, but withoyt enthusiam--in sharp contrast to 1928. The economic devestation virtusally preordained that the Democrats would win the 1932 election. The question was only who would win the Democratic nomination. Following his reelection as governor in 1930, Roosevelt began to campaign for the presidency. While the economic depression damaged Hoover and the Republicans, Roosevelt's bold efforts to combat it in New York enhanced his reputation. The Democrats met in Chicago. They nominated Roosevelt on the first ballot. Roosevelt broke with tradition and flew to Chicago to accept the nomination in person. The Republicans renominated President Hoover. Govenor Roosevelt campaigned energetically calling for government intervention in the economy to provide relief, recovery and reform. President Hoover's campaign was lackluster. This was in parrt areflection of his personality, but the deepening economic crisis was also a factor. Despite the situation, President Hoover continued to resist massive Federal envolvement in the ecoinomy. Roosevelt's activist approach and personal charm helped to defeat Hoover in November 1932 by 7 million votes. The land-slide Democratic election victory resulted in a major realignment of American politics. A great deal has been written about President Roosevelt's New Deal. At first historians were mosly lauditory, but in recent years some economits have claimed the New Deal prolonhed the Depression. That is difficult to assess. What many New Deal critics fail to pappreciate is how bad the econonomic situation was when President Roosevelt took office. Tge social fabric of the nation was fraying. The danger that more radical figures might have gained influence if bold action had not been taken.
President Roosevelt's New Deal succeeded in stabilizing the financial system, but it did not end the Depression. Important steps were taken to ameliorate the suffering and enact social reforms enacted--especially Social Security. The major reason for the New Deal--the Depression continued. Despite this, President Roosevely continued to be emensly popular with the American people. The Democrats at their convention in Philadelphia enthuiastically renominated President Roosevelt. The President had not solved the Depression, but most Americans believed he was concerned about them and making things better. The Republicans in Cleveland nominated Kansas Governor Alfred M. Landon. Landon and the Republican attacked the New Deal while supporting its objectives. President Roosevelt conducted an active campaign, traveling by train and speaking on the radio. The President's use of radio was nothing short of masterful. His Fire Side chats had made a personal connection with the American people that would remain unbroken throughtout his presidency. Most Republicans failed to understand that their had been a sea-change in how Americans viewed government. They made a major issue out of the New Deal, focusing on Social Security. It was passed in 1935 and due to go into effect in 1937. The Republicans charged that Social Security was a fraud. This was the first time the Republicans took on Social Security, but it would not be the last. Roosevelt resonded with a robust defense of Social Security just a few days before the election. A Literary Digest poll predicted a Republican victory. The pole was conducted over the telephobne and no one thought of correcting the results for Democratic voters who could not afford a telephone. The President easily defeated Govenor Landon in one of the greatest landslides in American political history. Along with his personal victory, the President helped widen the Democratic margins in the House and Senate.
The 1938 Congressional By-election was in many ways a repudiation of President Rooselvelt, largely because of the so-called Roosevelt recession. It essentially marked the end of the New Deal. The Court-packing fisco was a factor. Another factor was the President's attempt to purgethe Democratic Party of recalcitrant conservatives. Not only did he fail, but the voters voted out many liberal loyalists. What ever the cause, it brought to Washington Republicans who with the southern Democrats created a conservative Congressional majority eager to oppose the President on liberal domestic issues. The majorissues dominating the election was the faltering domestic economy. Ominously, the election took plave just after the Munich Conference in Europe. many of those Republicans were prone to oppose the President's efforts to stand up to the Dictators that were threatening world peace. This greatly complicated President Roosevelt's ability to challenge the Dictators and aid the Allies in the developing European crisis. Ironically, many of the southern Democrats he attempted to defeat prived to be valuable allies as the President shifted from domestic New Deal politics to international efforts to stop the march of Fascistdictators and increase defense spending. The election resulted in the defeat of many liberal New Dealers and the return to Washington of many conservtive Republicans--many with strongly isolantist views. The Democrats retained majorities in both houses, but a substantial part of that majority was conservtive Southern Democrats. The President's one area of maneuver was that the Southern Democrats while opposed to liberal New Deal legislation and suspious of foreign entaglements were supportive of national defense measures. This enabled the President to move ahead on needed measures such as rearmament and the repeal of the Neutrality Act, although his Congressional margins were often very narrow. His measures could only be passed with the support of the southern Democrats and they were also dead set against immigration reform.
The 1940 presidential election may have been the second most important election in American history, second only to the 1860 elrction bring Abraham Lincon to the White House. The first American President, George Washington, retired after two 4-year terms. This set a precedent that every other president had followed. FDR because of the international crisis decided to run for a third term which became a campaign issue. The national debate over neutrality and isolationism that had been raging since the mid-1930s reached its height. There were powerful spokesmen on both sides. Isolationist groups, such as the American Fist Committee, opposed any risks that could lead to war and shaply attacked the President's policies. International groups and an increasing number of average citizens demanded more active aid to Britain. His Republican opponent was a surprise choice, Wendell Willkie, a wealty busniessman who had swept the Republican primaries. Willkie did not crticise FDR's support for the democracies, by the time of the camapign only England. His nomination was an indication of the shift in public opinion toward intervention.
There was not doubt as to who the Democrats would nominate in 1944 with World War II still raging. The President had left the Democrats in doubt as to his intentions in 1940. This time there was no Roosevely chcanery. The only question at the convention was who would they would nominae for vice-president. Vice-President Henry Wallace was unpopular with party professionals, especially in the South. President Roosevelt allowed the Convention to choose his running mate. Senator Truman was chosen as Vice President at the 1944 Democrtaic Convention, primarily because party bosses were concerned about left-leaning Vice President Henry Wallace. Truman was at the time relatively unknown to the American people. The state of the Presiden's health was not widely known at the time. Few Americans realized just how consequential this choice would be. There were three major Republican candidates: Wendell Willkie who won the nomination in 1940 candidate; Ohio Senator Robert Taft who was the most prominant conservatives; and New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey who was noteable for his crime-busting efforts. Taft withdrew from the contest. And in the important Wisconsin primary, Dewey decissively defeated both Wilkie and General Douglas MacArthur. The Republicans nominated Dewey at their convention. The President's health was obviously declining. You can see it in the photographs taken in 1944. The public seems to have dismissed this. Govenor Dewey attempted to raise the issue, but to little effect. The War was going well both in Europe and the Pacific. The Republicans could only snipe at the President, actually taken on his wll known dog--Falla. Primarily they attacked the New Deal. These attacks had little resonance in a country absorbed with the War. And voters remembered that it was the President who warned about Hitller and the Japanese militarists when the Republicans were largely isolantionists. Roosevelt easily defeated Govenor Dewey in the election to win his fourth term. Curiously other than Maine and Vermont, the only states Dewey carried were in the Farm Belt of the Mid-West and West. These seems an unusual accomplishment for a suave New York govenor, especially as President Roosevelt's New Deal had attempted to address the farm problem. It would be Dewey's failure to hold the Farm Belt that would cost him the presidency in 1948.
The 1946 Congressional By-elections were the first election in 14 years where Franklin Roosevelt was not a factor, It was also the first election without the Depression or World War II. As part of both, the New Deal had introduced sweeping social reform along with expanded Federal regulations and sharply higher taxes. The Reoublicans asked the electorate, 'Had enough?'. Franklin Roosevelt was a hard act for Vice-President Truman to follow in terms of popularity and image. The policy of adjustment to the post-War was a difficult one. Companies had to retool factories and jobs had to be found for returning sevicemen. Prices rose sharply. The result was substantial Repoublican gains. The Republicans won 55 House sears and 13 Senate seats. This might be classified as a wave election. It gave control of both houses to the Republicans for the first time since 1930 when the Depression had begun under the Hoover Administration. Some wave elections determine politics for a decade or evem a generation. The Republican gains, however, proved ephemneral and were erased in the next election.
Vice-president Truman inherited the presidency from Presidnt Roosevelt in 1945. The problems of adjusting to peace caused many economic dislocations. Truman became very unpopular and many Americans blamed him for those probems. The campaign was fought at a time that the Cold War emerged as a result of Soviet imposition of Communist dictsaytorships in Western Rurope and the Presidents efforts to save Berlin with an Airlift. The Republicans renominated the urbane Govenor of New York--Tom Dewey. He had run a surprisingly strong campaign against President Roosevelt in 1944. Most delegates thought that they were nominating the next president. President Truman, despite the adverse polls, was determned to win the office on his own in 1948. The Democratic Convention in sharp contrast to the Republicans was listless. Few delegates thought President Truman could win reelection. Both the liberals led by former Vice-President Henry Wallace and the Dixiecrats led by South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond walked out on Truman and the Democratic Party. Walace despite the aggressive Soviet actions, argued for cooperation. Thurmond was outraged by Truman's Civil Rights Bill. After his nomination, Truman in the early morning hours gave a stem-wifing acceptance speech. He surprised the delegates by calling a special session of Congress and dared the Republicans to enact the proposals they made in theor convention platform. The Republicans smelled victory, no longer having to face Roosevelt. They renominated Governor Thomas E. Dewey. There seemed to be no way that the embattled President could win the election. All the pundits were convinced Truman would lose, most thought it would be a landslide for Dewey. THe Republicans counted on the traditionally Republican farm vote in the Mid-West for victory. President Truman took his campsaign into the Republican hearland and addressed their problems. He managed to win over many farmers in his feisty campaign. Dewey essenially ignored this Republican stronghold. Truman's success in the Mid-West enabled him to win the most stunning political upset in American history. And the Democrats not only won at the top of the ticket. The Democrats gained 75 House sears abnd 7 Senate seats and control of boyh Houses. While Republicans would win the White House in some years after 1948, the Democrats would diminate Congress until the Ginrich 1994 Revolution.
President Truman unexpectedly won the 1948 election, but in part because of the stalemate in Korea, his popularity had declined sharply. He realized that he could not win another election. He tried to convince war hero General Dwight Eisenhower to run for president as a Democrat. He was not uninterested. Apperances as early as 1950 show that he was preparing to run. Republican emissaries to his headquarters near Paris persuaded him to run for President as a Republican. With his war record and a winning smile, he was the ideal candidate. He easily won the Republican nomination, sweeping aside luminaries in the party like Senator Robert Taft of Ohio. Eisenhower's conduct during this period lends little credit to him, his behavior toward President Truman and especially Secretary of State Marshall was less than honrable--a rare such event in his career. Especially his failure to come to Marshall's defense when anti-Comminist zealots made scandalous charges. The Democrats turned to Govenor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. Stevenson was a leading liberal figure in the party. He was nominated on the third ballot--the last convention that a nominating contest went beyond the first ballot. The campaign was dominated by the protracted Korean war and charges that the Democrats were "soft on communism". Eisenhower's strategy was the K1C2 formula-"Korea, Communism, and Corruption." He vowed to go to Korea to end the war. Eisenhower's running mate--California senator Richard Nixon--became an issue when it was discovered he used a fund created by California millionaires to pay for personal expenses. Nixon appeared on national television\, delivering his "Checkers" speech. Checkers was adog and his references to his daughters and his wife's Republican cloth coat resulted in a wave of public sympathy. Eisenhower proved enormously popular and an instant success with American voters. The slogan "I like Ike" and that irresistible smile appealed to voters. Eisenhower won a sweeping election victory in 1952.
The 1956 presidential election was a rematch of 1952. The Republicans renominated President Eisenhower. The Democrats renominated Govenor Stevenson. Sentator John F. Kennedy helped build his national reputation with a book--Profiles in Courage. Actually it was his second book. The first was Wild England Slept which repudiated the isolationist views of his father, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy. Kennedy was more of an editor of , but it won him a Pulitzer prise and helped burish his reputation, almost winning him the Democratic vice-presidential nomination in 1956. The 1952 and 56 elections marked the beginning of a shift in American politics. The Semocrats beginning with Franklin Roosevelt's 1932 electioin in the middle of the Depression began an era of Democratic control. The Republican victories began a more competive period. Even so, the Democrats mosrly controlled the Congress and Eisenhower was more of a war hero than a Republican Party stalwart. Major Republicans like Robert Taft wanted to roll back both the New Deal and America's expansive international involvement after World war II. Eisenhower both in the campaign and during his administration made no move to do either. The election was a landslide for Eisenhower, but not for Republicans.
1960 Presidential Election
Senator Kennedy's book Profiles in Courage and his good looks and carisma helped make him a star in the Democratic Party. He was a much sought after speaker in Democratic events, helping to build contacts throughout the country. This made him an early front-runner when he announced his candidacy. It was to have a major impact on American politics. One major inniovation was Kennedy's skillful use of television. And he helped break the religious issue wide open. He was the first successful Catholic candidate for the presidency. He also revolutionized how presidential candidates run their campaigns. Candidates before the 1960 election financed their efforts to obtain the nomimation. Than the campaign was largely financed by their party. Kennedy changed this. The failure of the Democratic Party to match the fund raiseing prowess of the pro-business Republicans was a factor in several Demnocratic losses. Senator Kennedy was blessed with a wealthy father whose financial support had been a major factor in his Congressional and Senatorial campaigns and in winning the Democratic nomination--especially the primary victories over rival Senator Hubert Humprey. Ambassador Kennedy had reportedly spent over $1 million even befor the 1960 primary season. Kennedy's innovation was a highly organized campaign staff. Kennedy set up a 9-room headquarters near Capitol Hill. From here staffers made contact with Party leaders all over the country, especially Party bosses and potential convention delegates. Large wall maps plotted the successes. The headquarters was essentially a corportae effot including not just political experts, but accountants, lawyers, and communicatiins specialists. A byword for successful campaign staffs became a rapid resppnse to events and moves by the opposing camp.
The Republicans were generally hopeful to chip away at the substntial Democratic majorities in both houses. Since the New Deal, the Democrats with a few exceptions had remained in control of Congress. The elections were important fir the Kennedy Administration. Although it had Democratic majorities in both houses, conservative Deocrats ven without potential Senate fiibusters had bottled up their legislative agenda which included Medicare, a farm bill, Civil Rights, public works, mass transitand, and other bills. Conservative southern Democrats held key leadership roles in both the House and Senate and were oten more of a problem for President Kennedy than the Reoublicans. This of course was especially the case for Civil Rights legislation. The Administration had amaster lkegislator on their team--Lyndon Johnson. But they declined to use him him in any constructive way. Kennedy urged voters to give the Democrats more seats, arguing that it could make the difference for passage of the Administration social agenda. He did not, hoever, tke on consrvative southern Democrata as President Toosevely had done in 1938. Rather the President continue to speak out against the Reoublicans anf he had done in his successful presidenbtial campaign. At one of his press conferences he described Congressional Republicans as both negative and unimaginative on domestic matters (July 23). His personal popularity seems to have helped shoft the debate in the favor iof Congressiinal Democtats who began to think that they might avoid the normal losses sustained by the president;s party in these mid-term elections. The President was weakest in the south, but the Democrats there were among his critics. The Republicans primarily concentrated on foreign policy and national security issues. The raised the issue of both the Administration's will and competence to resist the Communists. This had been the very issue that Kennedy had raised in the 1960 campaign. The mishandled Bay of Pigs invasion opened Kennedy up to criticism. Since that time a flood of Cubans had sought refuge in Cuba and Castro admitted tio being a Communist. And addig to the ferment was were reports of Soviet arms flowing into Cuba.
Congressional Republicans charged that the Administration was weak on national security. Some Republicans, including California gubernatorial candidate and former Vice President Richard Nixon, called for a full-scale American invasion of Cuba to stop the Soviet military build up there. It is unckear how these changes ould have played out. Just weeks before the election, President Kennedy came on the television and announced that the Soviet were installing balistic missles in Cuba and ordered an embargo (October 1962). That was the beginning of the Cuban Missle Crisis, the most dangerous American-Soviet confrontation of the Cold war.
Some Republicans charged that the Administration had manufactured a crisis. The Soviet decesion to withdraw the missles and the public's assessment that the President had dftly handeled the crisis undoubtedly had a major impact on the election. Americans had been terrified by the threat of nuclear war. Few incliding Administration officials themselves knew just how close they had come to a niclear holocaust.
The election was held with the Cuban Missle Crisis and the President's handling of it very fresh in the minds of voters (November 6)., The Democrats only lost four House seats, far below the average losses. Their majority declined
from 263 to 259. The Republicans went from 174 to 176 Repreentatives a still smll minority. And more importantly the Democrats gained four Senate seats giving them a comfotable majority of 68 Senators. One if the bew Democratic senators was the President's brother Teddy. This gave the President a little more flexibility in Congress. The gubernatorial race did nit change the destribtion of power with 34 Democrat and 16 Republican governors. One highly publicized race was in California. Democratic incumbent Pat Brown, defeated former Vice President Richard Nixon. Nixon famiously after the election gowled at the press, "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more."
The 1962 mid-terms did not change the Congress sufficdmtly to hve enabled President Kennedy to forward his legislative prigram. His tragic assasination, however, brought his sude-lined vice president to offuce. And President Lyndon Johnson would take that same Congress and produce the landmark Civil Rights Law of 1964.
The Democrats still stunned by the assasination of President Kennedy nominated President Johnson at their convention in Atlantic City by acclamation. The Republican nomination was contested by conservative Senator Barry Goldwater from Arizona and liberal Republican Nelson Rockefeller from New York. The convention chose Goldwater on the first ballot. Govenor Rockefeller was seen as too liberal. Senator Goldwater promised to offer Americans "a choice and not an echo". And he did just that in the course of the campaign. He proposed the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Vietnam if required. He indicated that he would make deep cuts in spending, especially social programs. He wanted to sell the Tennessee Valley Authority--a New Deal darling. He opposed the civil rights legislation. And he dared to challenge Social Security, suggesting it should be made voluntary. He was the last Republican to take on Social Security. President Johnson campaigned on the Great Society social programs and a limited involvement in Vietnam. The major issues were socil programs nd civil rights. Vietnam played only a minor role. The campaign was the most ideologically oriented campaign since 1932. The interevening elections were primarily decided on the electorates assessment of the candidate's character and image. The Democrats stressed President Johnson's social programs and charged that Senator Goldwater was recklass. They ran a notable advertisement with a nuclear explodion. President Johnson won a huge electoral mandate. Senator Goldwater, however, layed the foundation for reengerizing the conservative movement within the Republican Party.
President Johnson was elected in a landslide over his Republican challenger Senator Barry Goldwater (1964). Johnson pursued his Great Society social reforms, but his popularity was destroyed by the Vietnam War.
Anti-war senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota challenged the President for the nomination. His showing in the New Hapshire primary convinced President Johnso not to run for reelection. Senator Robert Kennedy and later Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey announced their candidacies. Both Kennedy and McCarthy ran against President Johnson's war in Vietnam. However, McCarthy's supporters were more likely to be fervently anti-war. Kennedy and McCarthy contested the primaries in close races. Senator Kennedy's victory in the important California primary seemed to insure the nomination for him. Tragically after he delivered his victory speech, Palestinian nationalis Sirhan Sirhan assassinated him. This set up a dramatic convention. Vice-President Humphrey had before the convention obtained the support of a majority of delegates without contesting the primaries. Senator McCarthy and his supporters were determined to challenge the Vice President's nomination. They showed up at the Chicago convention in strength. Thousands of anti-war protesters protested outside the convention. The violent actions of the Chicago Police was broadcast along with convention coverage on national television. McCarthy delegates also demonstrated inside the convebtion hall. The convention eventually nominated Humphrey along with Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine as his vice presidential running mate. The Republican primaries were much less evenful. Former presidential nominee Richard M. Nixon emerged as the leading candidate. Other candidates were California governor Ronald Reagan and New York governor Nelson Rockefeller. Nixon was nominated on the first ballot at the Republican convention. Nixon then selected Governer Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland as his running mate. For the first time in many years, a thirdy party played an importan role in an American presidenyial election. Segregationist leader Govenor George Wallace of Alabama ran for President as the American Independent Party candidate. He stressed states' rights as the major issue which was apolite way of saying segregation. He also stressed anti-Communism.
Vice President Humphrey's biggest problem in the campaign was his support for the Vietnam War. As the sitting vice-president, he could not bring himself to repudiate President Johnson. Senator McCarthy refused to endorse him. Thus Nixon from the beginning was the frontrunner. Nixon ran an effective campaign. His basic pitch was that that he had a "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War. Humphrey was tarred as a tool of President Johnson. Popular aditudes began to swing in October. Only days before the election two developments helped to set upa very close vote. President Johnson announced a cease-fire in Vietnam. It is likely that the Vietnamese were concerned about a Nixon victory. And Senator McCarthy finally, grudgingly endorsed Humphrey. Humphrey carried most of the traditional Democratic string-holds in the Northeast as well as Michigan, Hawaii, Minnesota, Washington, and Texas. Wallace carried five Deep South states. Nixon took the rest of the country, although the vote in California was very close.
The Democrats hoped for a sizeable sweep in the Congressional mid-term elections. Protest to the Vietnam War increased in intensity, but had not yet been endorsed by the general public. The public was concdrned about the War, but the protestors may have alienated many voters by the increasinly anti-American tone of their protests. Many working-clas Americans turned to candidates epressing Hawkish positions. Democratic liberals were forced to distance themselves from the protestors who most actually agreed with. Adalai Steveson II took to wearing American flag pins and endorsing the Chicsgo Seven procecutor and 'law and order'. Ted Kennedy denounced the protestors as 'campus comandos'. [Schoen, p. A17.] The President's party often loses elections in by-elections. This proved to be the case in 1970, but the losses in the House were only 12 seats, rather modest given the intensity of the protests. The Republicans lost 12 seats, most in the traditionslly anti-War Midwest. And in the Sente the Democrats lost 4 seats, although the Republicans only pivked up 2 seats. Republican losses have been sighted as fatigue with the War, but were not out of line with normal voting patterns in mid-term elections.
President Nixon had little opposition in the Republican primaries and was easily renominated at the Republican Miami Beach Convention. The Democratic primary race was more turbulent and included some bruising primary contests. Senator Muskie and Senator Humphrey withdraw from the campaign. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota with the most anti-War record was nominated by the the Democrats on the first ballot at their Convention. The focus wa on Senator McGovern'a anti-War stance. Less notuiced at the time was the increasingly leftward drift of the Demiocratic Party and McGovern's support for sweeping changes. There was support for the Senatorr's anti-War stance, but not for the increasingly leftist drift of the Democratic Party. President Nixon in accepting the nomination said, "It has become fashionable in recent years to point up what is wrong with the American system. The critics contend that it is unfair, so corrupt, so unjust that we should tear it down a substitute something else in its place. I totally disagree, I believe in the American system." The Republicans successfully depicted Senator McGovern as too liberal for America. He was unable to shake that depiction. Senator McGovern failed to achieve traction with the American public. Even his anti-War position won him few votes despite the increasing unpopularity of the Vietnam War. Reports of unfair campaign practices surfaced, but appeared in the back pages of newspapers. Two weeks before the election, Secretary of State Kissinger announced that "peace was at hand". President Nixon won reelection in a huge landslide. Soon after his reelection with a huge mandate, newspapers and television news began giving more attention to the Watergate breakin and the connection with the President's reelection campaign. This would eventually lead to his resignation. He was replaced with Vice-President Gerald Ford. Most failed presidential candidates rapidly fade from the political scene, President Nixon's comeback was an exception. Senator McGovrn would, however, have a huge impact on the Democratic Party, remaking it as a much more leftist oriented Party.
President Ford was selected by President Nixon to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew when he had to resign. Ford had been the Republican Minorirty Leader in the House of Representatives. Form then replaced Nixon when he had to resign because of Watergate. President Ford was a decent man who helped heal the very signoficant wounds resulting from Watergate. He won the Republican nomination for the Presidency in 1976. As a Republican and appointed by President Nixon, Ford was dogged with Nixon's Watergate legacy. His decission to pardon Nixon in particular hurt in the campaign. His peformance in the televised debates also hurt him, especially his asertiin that the Soviet Uniin did not control Eastern Europe. This was a curious exchange because he certainly did not believe it. Ford lost the election to his Democratic opponent, former Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia. On Inauguration Day, President Carter began his speech: "For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land." A grateful people generally concurred.
The Republican conservative movement had begun with Senator Goldwater in the 1960s. A conservative candidate with real vote gathering abilities emerged in tge person of California Govenor Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan won the Republican Presidential nomination in 1980 and chose as his running mate former Texas Congressman and United Nations Ambassador George Bush. Voters troubled by inflation and by the year-long confinement of Americans in Iran swept the Republican ticket into office. Reagan won 489 electoral votes to 49 for President Jimmy Carter. The seizure as hostages of the U.S. embassy staff in Iran dominated the news during the last 14 months of the administration. The consequences of Iran's holding Americans captive, together with continuing inflation at home, contributed to Carter's defeat in 1980.
President Regan inherited a weakening economic situation from President Carter when he took office in 1981. By the Congressiional by-election, America was deep in recession and unemployment rose above 10 percent. Even so the Republicans lost only 26 Houses seats, about average for a mid-term election and surprising no Senate seats. The reason seems to be that the President and his policies (cutting both taxes and spending as well as firing the air traffic who in violation of the kaw consucted a strike) were popular. Republican losses in the 1982 Congressional by-election, although moderate, gave hope among Democrats that President Regan was vulnerable for reelection.
President Reagan was unchallenged for renomination as the Republican candidate for President. Former-Vice President Walter Mondale was the front runner foir the Democratic nomination. He was challenged by Senator Gary Hart of Colorado who embrased new ideas. Other challengers were Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson of Washington a more conservsative Democrat stressin national defense issues. Reverand Jesse Jackson who had worked with Dr, Msrtin Luther King was the first serious Black candidate for President. Mondale was nominated on the first ballot at the Democratic convention in San Francisco. He chose Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro for his vice-presidential running mate. Ferraro was the first women on a major party ticket. The election campaign focused on the Federal budget deficit and tariff barriers, an issue that had not been prominant for msny years. Surprisingly the traditional party positions flipped. The Democrats criticised President Reagan for growing budget deficits. The Democrats feeling foreign industrial competition, demanded higher tariffs. Prsident Reagan performed well in the debates. Criticised as too old for another term. He told Senator Mondale during the debate that he would not use age as issue--he would not criticize Mondale's youth and inexperience. Mondate took amore serious approsch. A renewal of national self-confidence by 1984 helped President Reagan and Vice President Bush win a second term with an unprecedented number of electoral votes. Their victory turned away Democratic challengers Walter F. Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro. President Reagan won reelection with an enormous 18 point margin. Regan cut deeply into the traditional Democratic union vote.
Many Democrats were confident that after President Reagan's two terms that they could regain the White House in 1988. Vice-President George Bush was the early favorite for the Republican nomination. He was shicked by a third-place finish in the Iowa caucases (after Bob Senator Dole and Reverend Pat Robertson).
Convincing victories in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries convinced his opponents to withdraw from the race. Bush chose Indiana Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana as his running mate. This proved to be the only issue at the Convention. Many saw Quayle as not only young, but ill prepared on the issues. The Democratic nomination was wide open. Senator Gary Hart was an early favorite for the Democratic nomination, but withdrew as a result of charges concerning sexual improprieties. Many Democrats wanted New York Govenor Mario Cuomo to run, but he refused. Gradually Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis emerged as the front-runner. Jesse Jackson was the only other active candidate by the time of the Convention in Atlanta. Dukakis won handily on the first ballot. He chose Texas Senator Loyd Benson as his running mate in the hope of carrying Texas. After the two conventions and at the start if the campaign, public opinion polls gave Dukakis a substantial lead. Many presidential races are won or lost with the choice of candidates. Historians generally conceded that Dukakis conducted one of the worst campaigns in Americam presidential history. In an effort to demostrate his that he was not weak on national defene, he had himself photographed in a tank. The photigraph released made him look rediculous. Bush on the other hand waged on the most effective campaigns, although Democrats charged that he played the race card. At issue were campaign ads the Republicans ran about a convicted murder, Willie Horton. These ads are still a matter of contention, but the issues involved are often not fairly stated by party paetisans. There is no doubt that the ads played a role in the reversal of fortunes in the polls.
Vice-President Bush emerged victorious in the general election. The Republican victory was overwealming, 426 electoral votes to 112 for the Democrats. The Republicand 42 states. The Semocratic states were mostly clustered in the Northeast (New York and Connecticut), Upper Mid-west, and Pacific Northwest. The Republicans won all the battle-ground (swing) states.
The Republicans renominated President Bush. The Democrats nominated another southerner, former Arkanasa Governor William Clinton. Despite unprecedented popularity from military and diplomatic triumph, Bush was unable as the end of his termof office to withstand discontent at home from a faltering economy, rising violence in inner cities, and continued high deficit spending. He lost support from conservatives for not keeping his campaign pledge, 'Read my lips, no new taxes.' Federal Reserve policy had a major imapct on the election. Govenor Clinton proved to be a charming camaigner. Bush lost his bid for reelection to Clinton. Third-party candidate Ross Perot was a factor in the race, drawing more votes from Bush than Clinton.
The Republicans beginning with the Eisenhower election (1952) had considerable success in presidential elections, but much more difficulty in the Congressional races. Here the Republican rise was both episodic and gradual. A key to that rise was a steadyv shift to the Republicans in the South. This had been a key prt vto the Roosevelt coalition tht proved so successful to the Democrats sincec 1932. President Clinton during his first term had a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. The Democrats had dominated Congress with few exceptions since President Roosevelt's New Deal. Some had come to see Democratic control of the House as permanent. This was, however, the first time in 12 years that both the White House and Congress were held by the Democrats. This changed, however, in the Congressional elections of 1994 when the Republicans behind Newt Ginrich's Contract with America obtained control of Congress. It is often classified as a 'wave' election. Often major reverses are caused by a weakening erconomy. This was not the case in 1994. A major reason for the Republican's success seems to have been Mrs. Clinton's health care program which was generally seen as part of a left-wing agenda that many people had not expected. In the end Congress never even voted on the program. There were also scandals in the House incolving some of the Democrartic leasdership. Problems at both the the Congressional Post Office and House Bank were widely publiczed. Longterm Democrstic Conressman and Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Dan Rostenkowski, would go to prison. The Republicans picked up 54 House seats. Evem House Speaker Tom Foley lost his seat. It was a major turning point in American politics. After the election, President Clinton admitted in his State of the Union address, "The era of big government is over." The President pivoted ideologically and persued more moderate policies such as welfare reform. The Republicahns would control Congress for 12 years.
President Clinton was challenged by Republican Senate stalwart Bob Dole. President Clinton despite the Republican Congressional triumph in the 1994 mid-term election and personal failings won reelection in 1996, in large measure because of the recovering economy. Some authors describe the over-reach by the House Republicans. Americans were generally disturbed by President Clinton's personal conduct, but did not think it justified Republicans impeaching the President.
Popular presidential candidates help their party carry House and Senate seats in competitive districts. The number of seats is variable and there are if couerse many other factors bes\ides the presidential candidate's popularity. Generally speaking, the party of incumbent presidents lose seats in the by-elections when the president is not on the ticket. This has varied over time, but since World War II which is a good beginning point for modern elections, the president's party lost an average of 24 House seats and four Senate searts. Again there are many factors for elections exceeding or running below these averages. A major factor is often the popularity of the president and his policies. Economic trends can have a major impact, but a popular president (such as President Regan in 1982) can mitigate the impact of bad economic news. One observer notes that the the elections after 1980 do not appear on the list of epecially consequential ones. [Mayhew] He suggests that gtowing affluence, and the creation of a safety net, and the lack of major wars involving lrge numbers of draftees were reasons for this. This may well be the case, but like most academics he fails to preceive that the American safety net, like the one in Europe, is bing paid for with borroiwed money. And unlike some European countries, many Americans seem oblivious to the long term consequences constantly expanding entitlemebts however well ententioned.
Mayhew, David. "What was the most important election ever?" Washington Post (February 19, 2012), pp. B1, B5.
Schoen, Douglas. "Polling the occupy Wall Street crowd," Wall Street Journal (October 18, 2011), p. A17.
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