2010 election fairly mirrors that of the election of 1930 except that the Democrats were the party gaining seats in Congress and the Republicans were the losers.
Voters of 2010: Welcome to the Past -- Echoes of The 1930 Election
Eerily Similar Outcomes From Economic Upheaval -- Only Then GOP Lost
November 14, 2010
Leave A Comment
By: Dave Rogers
Everything changes; and yet everything is the same.
So it was with last week's national election. It fairly mirrors that of the election of 1930 except that the Democrats were the party gaining seats in Congress and the Republicans were the losers.
By 1930, just weeks after the stock market crash, the country was awash in tumultuous, sometimes violent politics. Socialists and Communists were active nationwide.
Farmers in Bad Axe who were losing their farms banded together to stop foreclosures. In one report, Herman Myers of Pigeon was charged with criminal syndicalism after allegedly threatening auctioneer Herbert Haist. More than 2,000 farmers had ganged up and forced sale of a farm, cattle and equipment for $6.13! Obviously, the farmer could then regain his property legally with virtually no cost.
The American Civil Liberties Union was defending seven Bad Axe farmers on similar charges.
The last time the minority party took control of the House and yet failed to seize the Senate as well was 80 years ago in 1930.
Conditions were alarmingly similar: the Great Depression had descended on the nation the year before with the Stock Market Crash of 1929 -- much like the financial crisis of 2008-2009.
This time something very rare happened. The party on the outside - the Republicans - took control of the House of Representatives but left the Democrats in control of the Senate. The last time that happened was 80 years ago in the midterm election of 1930. The roles of the parties were reversed, but the outcome - a new majority in the House and the old majority in the Senate - was the same.
Donald Ritchie, the U.S. Senate historian, recalled recently on National Public Radio (NPR) that in the 1920s, the Republicans held the majority by large margins. But in 1929, the stock market crashed and the nation went into a depression, and the party in power took the blame for the economic collapse.
Actually, the Republicans held on to a very slim majority in both the Senate and the House on election night.
Ritchie recalled: "In fact, the speaker of the House had the only car that the House of Representatives had. And he always took the Democratic minority leader with him to work in the morning. And they exchanged telegrams saying, whose car is it? And the Democrat said, I think it's mine, but I'll be glad to let you ride."
For a brief time, at least, the Republicans had a technical majority by about two votes. But in those days, there was 13 months before the next Congress would begin, being before the Constitution was amended to change the date when Congress convened.
And during the interregnum, 14 House members died, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Every special election the Depression had worsened and the Democrats won more and more elections. By the time the Congress convened there were three more Democrats than Republicans, giving Democrats had the majority in the House.
President Hoover actually asked the Republicans in the Senate to let the Democrats organize the Senate, Ritchie recalled. "So the Democrats would be in charge of both houses and would bear some responsibility for what was getting the country out of the depression. But the Republicans said no - once you have the majority, you don't give it up, and they held on to it."
A similar situation is arising today in that Democrats are conjuring a strategy to blame the House Republicans for any failures to change the economic direction of the country. If conditions improve, President Obama will be able to take credit and ride to a second term victory.
"Everyone in Congress wanted to do something to stop the downward slide, and the Democrats in the House, actually, proposed to cooperate with the president," said Ritchie. "But Hoover decided that his best strategy was to veto legislation coming up from the Congress and to campaign against Congress in the 1932 election. So he actually declined the cooperation that was offered to him."
Did what happened in 1930 set the stage for what would be the huge Democratic landslide of 1932 when FDR was elected president and the Democrats took both houses? interviewer Robert Siegel asked.
"In hindsight, of course, we know that things got worse," responded Ritchie. "At the time, President Hoover kept thinking that things were going to get better, but, in fact, 1932 was the worst year of the Depression and the electoral swing was enormous."
Ritchie summarized: "The Democrats picked up almost a hundred seats in the House of Representatives in 1932. They gained a dozen seats in the Senate and came very close to two-thirds majorities in both bodies. And, in fact, they won even more seats in 1934 and 1936. So in 1936, we had the largest political majority ever in American political history.
"I think that economic situation has a huge impact on voters. Voters changed back and forth depending on whether they think the incumbent party has helped them in an economic hard time, and that was true in the 1930s. It's true all throughout American history. Actually, in the 1890s, there were huge swings between the parties because of a major economic depression that was going on at the time."
Donald Ritchie is the author of the book "Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932."
Government Article 5365
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at email@example.com)
More from Dave Rogers
Send This Story to a Friend!
Letter to the editor
Link to this Story
Printer-Friendly Story View
--- Advertisments ---