February 13, 2005

Historical Party Breakdown - US House

I create charts and graphs for fun, and have done so for some time. I just use MS Paint, but they still come out okay in the end. Here is my latest one, on the breakdown of the US House from 1856 to 2004. For the full statistics, see an earlier chart of mine here. I'll be doing the Senate version the next few days (I do every dot on the chart by hand, pixel-by-pixel, because I am pathetically OCD - it takes a while to complete). I chose 1856 because it's the first year the GOP elected people to Congress - thus the origin of the two parties, Democratic and Republican. I also like to compare the Democrats of 2004 to the Democrats of 1856 and 1860, because I am an unrepentant Yankee.

The chart depicts the margin of majority control. What it shows us is that the recent GOP 'domination' is actually quite tame compared to our history - even compared to Democrat majorities just a few decades earlier. What that REALLY means is that the Democrats are a bunch of sissy whiners who think that a dozen seats in the House is the end of the world.

You'll also notice the minor parties underneath the first chart. This is always interesting to me because it shows how active third parties were at one point. If you check the second chart I linked, you'll see that the young Republic had quite a bit of third party activity prior to 1856. I have theories on why and how the two-party system continues in place, but that's for another time.

Now, I do think the Democrats are in real trouble due to a serious lack of ideas and a horrible case of buying their own bologna. But I also think that the Republicans are still in the early stages of a long-term, large-scale comeback, and the Democrats are already whining about it. Just imagine what they would have done were they in the GOP's position from 1959 to 1995 - a period where the Republicans never did better than 192 seats and the Democrats never did worse than 242 seats. In other words, for forty years ('55-'95) the Democrats controlled the House uninterrupted, and for thirty-six years ('59-'95) the Democrats never had a majority of fewer than fifty seats. Even the slimmest margins for those forty years of control were 29 and 33 seats, respectively ('55 and '57).

It's just pathetic that the Democrats are whining so horribly now. I do think it's time for concern when the party's newest ideas come from Clinton's '92 campaign, but this is hardly a fascist takeover, a one-party state or anything else for the GOP. Cripes, get a life. This is part of their problem - they have this mentality of the underdog.

They seem to believe that all their victories in legislation and the welfare state were torn from the jaws of defeat by heroic activists that barely overcame the terrifically evil forces of conservatism and the GOP. The reality is that the Democrats aren't the underdog; for forty years they WERE the status quo,a nd to a large extent they still are today. Most of their current arguments are based on defending the status quo - defending the tax code in place, defending current gun control laws, defending the institution of abortion, defending Social Security unchanged, etc. They ARE the status quo, but they have themselves convinced that they're underdogs. This is what I mean by buying their own BS.

This graph ought to slap some sense into them. Wake up - you had the Congress for forty years. You were not the underdogs. The New Deal and Great Society are still entrenched into the budget. The worst part is that you guys KNOW you're the status quo - on abortion, on guns, on taxes, on welfare. That's exactly why the Democrats are freaking out. They know they're the status quo and they think the GOP seeks to threaten it. So remember, if you're looking for conservative political opinion, seek out your local Democratic Party branch office. The Democrats represent an unchanging status quo resistant to reform, reduction or reason.


Blogger abg82 said...

I agree with you - I think today's political climate needs to be put into a historical context before rushing to judgment or fear-mongering (from any party, not just the Democrats). Back in the late-1990s during the Clinton impeachment scandal, Democrats liked to play up the attacks of the Republicans. Paraphrasing, "The Republicans' witch-hunt of President Clinton is the worst example of dirty politics in American history!" Now, anybody that knows anything about the political scene of the early Republic (hell, the whole 19th century!) understands that, comparatively speaking, the late 20th century was relatively tame as far as "dirty politics" go.

I also like how your chart illustrates that this (only very recent) Republican majority is fairly minor in strength and scope when compared to the Democrats' powerful and longstanding congressional majorities all throughout the 20th century. You've made the whiners look ridiculous, of course, but maybe I can offer a stupid theory for why this happens at all. You provided the first one: the victim mentality. If the Democrat Party wins, it feels it loses. And when it loses, the loss confirms the mentality and paranoia. The Republicans are the "establishment," the powerful, the oppressive, the conservatives trying to hold back minorities and women from the 'actualization of their potential,' etc. The second reason, I believe, is that a lot of young people are leading these rallies and spreading (misguided) ideas about a huge Republican takeover that CANNOT POSSIBLY BE STOPPED! The election of 2004 was the first or second presidential election in which they voted. Their most recent political examples are Clinton's second term and Bush's first term. Young voters are too new on the scene to understand that politics cycles regularly. Our parents and grandparents have been voting long enough to get this eternal truth - no party dominates forever. But if you've only been politically aware for two presidents' administrations and have only voted in two elections (both that resulted in Bush's victory), you might feel kind of hopeless, that Republicans are taking over. The 18-24 crowd needs to take a step back and get some perspective about the 2004 election. Bush isn't the worst president, he isn't the most corrupt, the politics of this election weren't the dirtiest, his win isn't a sign of the apocalypse, eventually a Democrat will retake the White House and Congress, and even if it isn't for another 30 years, just remember that the Democrats royally screwed over the Republicans for a great portion of the 20th century. You guys can take a little defeat.

February 13, 2005 3:00 PM  

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