In 33 of the 36 midterm elections held since the end of the Civil War, the party in the White House has lost seats in the United States House of Representatives.
We need to recall this as the 2010 midterm elections approach. There are underlying patterns in all things. This historical fact and pattern of midterm losses for the party holding the Presidency is one that has impacted both major parties over many years.
Beginning with 1866, only in 1934, 1998 and 2002 has the party holding the White House gained in the U.S. House.
In 1934, Democrats picked up nine seats to add onto an already large majority, as President Roosevelt remained popular and Republicans continued to be associated with the 1929 crash.
In 1998, Democrats won five new seats as part of the backlash against the Republican vote for the impeachment of President Clinton. Despite the Democratic pick-ups, Republicans retained narrow control of the House.
In 2002, Republicans gained seven House seats in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and due to the widespread public support of President George W. Bush at that point. This allowed Republicans to expand a slight House majority.
(Below–Dennis Hastert of Illinois was selected House Speaker in 1999 and held the office through 2007. Mr. Hastert was the longest serving Republican Speaker in Congressional history.)
What each of these elections has in common is that they took place in the shadow of larger history-making events. The Great Depression. A vote to impeach the President. The September 11 hijackings.
While in some cases the party occupying the White House has lost only a few House seats, the trend is unmistakable. Midterm elections offer voters a chance to vent against the party holding the Presidency.
In terms of a switch of party control in the House, this has occurred ten times in the 36 post-Civil War midterms. This is something I’ll be writing about in an upcoming post. I’ll also soon be discussing Senate results in midterms.
Liberals and all Democrats should recall that what is taking place today is is often how it is in our politics. It is difficult to see republicans doing well for the moment, but there is reason for hope in the days ahead.
Liberals and all Democrats should also recall that the election has not yet been held.
Consider donating or volunteering in the weeks ahead to the Democrat of your choice.
Here is some history of the House from the House Clerk. You can find, among many other things, the party breakdown for each session of Congress at this site.
A useful book is House–The History of the House of Representatives by Robert Remini.