So, many commentators have been rambling about how the Democrats will suffer genocide in DC this year at the hands of voters. Well, they’re probably right that the Democrats will lose seats. The question is, does that mean anything? Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t. With few exceptions, the president’s party loses seats in at least the House and often the Senate after his first midterm election.
That’s just how the American electorate operates. The one thing they hate more than Congress doing nothing is Congress doing too much. Americans are uncomfortable with any party having too much power.
Below is a chart showing how many seats the president’s party has lost during his first midterm elections.
You will notice that the ‘Republican Revolution’ in 1994 wasn’t all that impressive when viewed historically, and wasn’t as big as 1946 for the Republicans. Importantly, since then, Democrats have chipped away at the lead created that year, and took control of both Houses in 2006.
You’ll also notice that 2002 seems to be an important exception, and it certainly is. The only time a post-WWII president has gained seats in the House during his first midterm election conveniently took place just over a year after September 11, 2001. Coincidence? No. The nation was stirred into patriotism and stood behind the president, his party, and the military operations in Afghanistan occurring at the time.
What’s my point? Well, so what if the Democrats lose a few seats here and there. Knowing the collective and historic nature of the American electorate, one couldn’t expect anything else. Especially since the Democrats had big gains in both 2006 and 2008. It’s simply time for the pendulum to swing the other way. From a governance point of view, it may matter how many seats the Republicans pick up, but otherwise this year will simply be another reminder of how fickle the American voter can be.
Nonetheless, no matter who or what you support, go to the polls and vote.
1. Harry Truman took office after the death of Franklin Roosevelt. Since he took office in April of 1945 he had plenty of time before the next midterm elections of 1946. So the 1946 elections are counted here as his presidency’s first midterms elections.
2. Although Johnson took office in 1963 after the assassination of Kennedy, it was after Kennedy’s midterm elections. He was elected in his own right in 1964. As such, 1966 is counted here as his presidency’s first midterm elections.
3. Gerald Ford also took office on short notice. However, he took office in August of 1974, in time for a midterm election. As such, the 1974 elections are counted here as his presidency’s first midterms elections.