Analysts have regularly been anticipating the results of yesterday’s election with comparisons to 1994 and 1982, the midterm elections of Clinton’s and Reagan’s first terms. Here is another comparison.
Elections to the United States House of Representatives were held in 1862, mostly in November, in the middle of President Abraham Lincoln’s first term. His Republicans lost 22 seats in Congress, while the Democrats picked up 28, for a net swing of 50 seats (or 27 percent) out of a total House membership of 185.
As I write, with 13 races undecided, yesterday’s net swing in the House for Republicans (60 seat gain), 120 seats in a House membership of 435, is 27.6 percent.
The mid-term elections in 1862 brought the Republicans serious losses due to sharp disfavor with the Administration over its failure to deliver a speedy end to the war, as well as rising inflation, high new taxes, ugly rumors of corruption, the suspension of habeas corpus, the draft law, and fears that freed slaves would undermine the labor market. The Emancipation Proclamation announced in September gained votes in Yankee areas of New England and the upper Midwest, but it lost votes in the ethnic cities and the lower Midwest. While Republicans were discouraged, Democrats were energized and did especially well in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and New York. Elated Democrats from the Northwest hailed the elections as a repudiation of the emancipation heresy..
Oh, but it got personal.
A typical result came in Lincoln’s home district of Springfield, Illinois, where John T. Stuart, a Democrat and one of Lincoln’s former law partners, defeated the Republican incumbent. Anti-black sentiments that overwhelmingly favored forbidding immigration of freed slaves and preventing black suffrage was primarily responsible. [All emphasis added]
- Take heart, Barack: Honest Abe had a rough midterm too (salon.com)
- History, And The Wave (andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com)