Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 3, 2010

SOME VISUAL CONTEXT.... It's not unfair for Republicans to characterize the midterms as "historic," at least as far as the House is concerned. The GOP not only made massive gains, they'll enjoy their largest House majority next year in more than six decades.

But as is my habit, I thought I'd put the elections in charts. Here, for example, are the midterms of the modern political era, with losses per cycle for the president's party (blue columns represent Democratic presidents, red columns represent Republican presidents).

housemidterms.jpg

You'll notice, of course, that the 2010 midterms were the worst for any incumbent president's party since FDR's drubbing in 1938. Also note, this chart only reflects the results of yesterday's elections through the available data. (Several House races have not yet been called, so the results may yet get slightly worse for Dems, though it does not appear they'll match the 1938 totals.)

On the other hand, Senate losses for the White House's party -- at this point, it looks like Dems have lost six seats from their majority -- were fairly mild by modern standards. Indeed, while Obama's House losses were greater than Clinton's, Clinton's Senate losses were greater than Obama's.

senatemidterms.jpg

In some cases, the results are a little misleading, in part because the president's party went into a midterm cycle with smaller congressional minorities, and didn't have much further to drop.

That said, I think the visual context helps.

Steve Benen 9:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Republicans have never held a 435 seat body of congress by more than 20 seats since the 40's????

Why do these guys think so much of themselves?
At the height of their popularity, they hold on by their fingernails.

When they are most beloved, they are tolerated. This is a terribly enlightening observation. Thank you, Mr. Benen.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on November 3, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

The graveyard for House Bills held for the Democrats, so legislation will slow to a crawl, or less.

No big stuff from congress in the next two years unless the Senate Democrats cave in.

The earth shakers over the next two years are likely to come from the Supreme Court.

Posted by: Dredd on November 3, 2010 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Like Steve said in the last post, there will be a lot of beltway-insider Monday morning quarterbacking about the election result. For my part, I can't help thinking that race is at the roots of this Democratic loss. Look at the turnout at Stewart and Colbert's rally, for example. An overwhelmingly white majority. These were not the people who needed to be told to go out and vote for Democrats. On the other hand, blacks came out in droves to vote for Obama in 2010, but it looks to me like they stayed home this time.

Of course all the screeching about the deficit and socialism is a smokescreen. What you have is a combination of the Republicans successfully tapping into unspoken racial resentments on the part of whites (the real reason for teaparty success), and blacks either feeling let down by Obama or just not quite feeling sufficiently enfranchised to care about voting in midterms.

Posted by: DelCapslock on November 3, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

This is the result of the half-a-loaf strategy.

Posted by: Joe Friday on November 3, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

On the other hand, blacks came out in droves to vote for Obama in 2010, but it looks to me like they stayed home this time.

How do you 'know' this? And isn't your so-called observation 'racist' in its conclusion.

I hang out at WSY (WeeSeeYou) and have since its inception. It's a "black blog" and let me tell ya, these are go getters when it comes to GOTV, voting, and reporting on voting.

I think a lot of people stayed home because as one person told me yesterday, "I only vote in the presidential elections." Oh.


Posted by: Wordsmith on November 3, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

No big stuff from congress in the next two years unless the Senate Democrats cave in.
I've got a bad feeling about this.

Posted by: Jose Hipants on November 3, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

I think this election was (among other things) a bit of a relief valve for frustrated right wingers - so, why not give them the pleasure of celebrating their victory (which, since they didn't take the Senate, is only a partial victory) and let them blow off some steam, while reminding the newly elected Republicans: "OK, you won - now you have the responsibility to actually govern, and get America out of the ditch, and you have less than 2 years to do this."

With victory comes responsibility. They have as great a stake in the recovery of the American economy as does Obama and the Democrats.

Posted by: delNorte on November 3, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

I knew the Dems were toast when I saw the poll that said people thought Obama raised their taxes, when he in fact cut them. That is a monumental failure of Obama's communication team.

Posted by: Green Machine on November 3, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

@ delNorte:

The repubs do not have any responsibility. They will pass crazy shit, which the blue dogs will vote for, and then blame the Senate and Obama for everything. This will work until the democrats stop behaving like pussycrats.

Posted by: Green Machine on November 3, 2010 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Let's see what we can make of this. In 1932, FDR came to power supported by an electorate that desperately wanted "change." FDR quickly implemented a wide swath of liberal policies -- not all of which were successful, but demonstrated a clear attempt to fix the problems, namely getting people back to work. In 1934, the Democrats then enjoyed the largest mid-term gain by an incumbent President's party.

Then, after 1936, the depression-era equivalent of the DLC took over and the Democrats focused on deficit reduction over job creation. In 1938, an unhappy electorate handed the Democrats' asses to them.

In 2008, Obama came to power supported by an electorate that desperately wanted "change." Obama failed to push for or implement a wide swath of liberal policies -- not all of which would have been successful, but would have demonstrated a clear attempt to fix the problems, namely getting people back to work. Rather, the Democrats focused on deficit-reduction and, in 2010, an unhappy electorate handed the Democrats' asses to them.

What can we learn from this pattern?

Posted by: square1 on November 3, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Wordsmith:
How do you 'know' this? And isn't your so-called observation 'racist' in its conclusion.

I don't "know" this; it's why I said "it seems to me". But I bet I'm right.

"racist" is the left's equivalent of the right's "socialist". It's a bludgeon you whip out whenever you want to kill honest discussion.

Posted by: DelCapslock on November 3, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Looking at these charts...mostly makes me feel old.

Posted by: Mark on November 3, 2010 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

er, DelCapslock, consider for the moment - "whites do not have to be told". So, are you implying African-Americans do "have to be told"?

Possibly racist, but, definitely patronizing.

Posted by: berttheclock on November 3, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Berttheclock:

in your knee-jerk effort to sniff out "racism", you completely missed the point. There was hugh complaining from the left that Stewart didn't ask the crowd to go vote on Tuesday. I was saying he was preaching to the choir.

You did however make my point about how the left employs the term "racism" as a bludgeon to stifle honest discussion. What is it about discussing race honestly that frightens you so?

Posted by: DelCapslock on November 3, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Note that the Dems did really well for an off-year election in 1934, which is arguably more comparable to 2010 than 1938. Why? Because they were perceived as having taken decisive steps toward responding to the Great Depression.

I don't say this to wave the bloody shirt against Obama and moderate/conservative Dems. We have a big tent; the Rs don't. Perhaps the biggest factor in this election cycle was the Republicans' success at spin control and astroturfing. They unplugged Obama's "new" New Deal with remarkable speed.

If you think this is because Obama wasn't "progressive" enough, note that Feingold's loss illustrates how even a rock-solid progressive can lose due to money, spin and astroturfing.

We need to stop blaming each other and start figuring out how to up our game.

Posted by: Dr Lemming on November 3, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

It's a bludgeon you whip out whenever you want to kill honest discussion.

No, actually - it was a question (forgot the mark). And what you said was this: "On the other hand, blacks came out in droves to vote for Obama in 2010, but it looks to me like they stayed home this time."

Now - THAT looks to me like you're blaming blacks for not voting. When, in fact, just as many OTHER people stayed home. Many people for whatever reason don't vote in midterm elections. Not me - I vote on everything. The person who made the comment to me about only voting in presidential elections is white. I'm white.

Oh wait - you're saying that the WHITE voters elected the WHITE candidates. Gotcha....wink, wink. Well, except for that week-end Nazi dressing guy in Ohio. Go figure.

Posted by: Wordsmith on November 3, 2010 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I heard Boner on the RayDeeOh this morning use the mandate word. First they gotta roll back the health care advances, then crank up the investigations and hearings...

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on November 3, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Dr. Lemming wrote: "They unplugged Obama's 'new' New Deal with remarkable speed."

Please. Obama didn't even attempt anything resembling the New Deal. At best, he attempted "A Slightly Better Deal".

Obama is a "kinder and gentler" corporatist technocrat, a "compassionate conservative" who firmly believes that the American people deserve a few scraps from the rich folks' table, instead of the kick in the teeth that the Republicans would give them.

And he tried to negotiate with America's corporate ruling class towards that end, with mixed results.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on November 3, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

The results were expected. If we didn't inject the amount of stimulus needed to get the economy going by this November, Dems were going to lose, as the GOP has been losing during the Bush years, as the Dems lost in the Clinton years.

The only surprise was that Dems may have lost 60, which is more than I would have expected.

This outcome was not set yesterday, but when the stimulus passed. Everything else was about managing the losses - which could have been less with a coherent message that touted, rather than ran from, their accomplishments since then.

Posted by: Memekiller on November 3, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Wisdom from the Krug Man:

So, we’re already getting the expected punditry: Obama needs to end his leftist policies, which consist of … well, there weren’t any, but he should stop them anyway.

Posted by: Joe Friday on November 3, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

As always, your charts are much appreciated! I wouldn't mind seeing how they would look if you expressed it as a percentage of caucus lost.

Posted by: Ryan on November 3, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

I think the visual context helps.

Steve, Steve, the so-called "liberal media" has a narrative to push, and they're going to push it. You're wasting your time citing facts.

Posted by: Gregory on November 3, 2010 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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