November Anniversaries:

A midterm election that brought change

A midterm election that brought change

Analysts describe midterm elections in dramatic terms. Elections bring on seismic shifts or give parties a shellacking. But when it comes to real change, it's hard to top the midterms of 1914.

     Previously, senators were elected by state legislatures, but the 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913, changed all that. "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years,..." the amendment said. So in November 1914, Americans voted for their senators for the first time.
     In truth, midterms lack the excitement of a presidential election, and voters often pass up the opportunity to cast their ballots. But midterm elections can be significant:

  • Nov. 6, 1934: Democrats scored wins despite the troubled economy. The morning after the election, The New York Times proclaimed, “TIDE SWEEPS NATION; Democrats Clinch Two-Thirds Rule of the Senate.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt had been handed an endorsement for his New Deal, the article reported: “A record-breaking number of voters for an off-year election gave the president a clear mandate to proceed with his policies in his own way, and, in giving that mandate, they literally destroyed the right wing of the Republican party."

  • Nov. 2, 1954: Democrats blamed Republicans for a recession. Not surprisingly, Republicans lost 18 seats in the House and one seat in the Senate during the midterms, according to NPR.

  • Nov. 5, 1974: This midterm fell just three months after the Watergate scandal brought the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Democrats looked forward to a win, and they got one. Republicans lost 48 House seats and five Senate seats. 

  • Nov. 8, 1994: In what became known as the Republican Revolution, the GOP won control of both houses of Congress. The party added 54 seats in the House of Representatives and eight seats in the Senate. The Republicans had proposed a “Contract with America,” a list of promises which prominently included tax relief and welfare reform.

  • Nov. 7, 2006: With the economy struggling and voters growing weary of wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Democrats took control of the House and Senate. Prominently, James Webb, a Virginia Democrat and outspoken opponent of the Iraq War, won a narrow victory for the senate seat held by the commonwealth's former governor, George Allen.
  • Nov. 2, 2010: Two years after the election of Barack Obama, the economy was still a central issue for Americans. In the Senate, Democrats lost six seats but still held a majority -- 53 seats. In the House of Representatives, the balance of power shifted to Republican control. The GOP ended the night with 242 of the 435 seats. That election also reflected the rise of the tea party.


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