Republicans and conservatives may not have to wait until 2016 to get out from under the ravages of an ultra-liberal Obama Administration. History suggests that almost every two-term incumbent faces a sixth year curse in which his party fares terribly in the midterm elections.
In nine of the ten sixth-year Congressional elections since 1910, the president’s party has lost seats in the Senate and in the House. The average loss in the Senate has been 8.6 seats and in the House it was 30 seats. Only in the Congressional elections of 1998 did Clinton’s Democrats lose no seats in the Senate and gain five in the House. (This election was a response to the Republican overreach in trying to impeach the president).
Here’s the scorecard: –1918 Democratic President: Senate: Democrats lost six seats House: Democrats lost 25 seats
–1926 Republican President: Senate: Republicans lost six seats House: Republicans lost nine seats
–1938 Democratic President: Senate: Democrats lost five seats House: Democrats lost 72 seats
–1950 Democratic President: Senate: Democrats lost three seats House: Democrats lost 28 seats
–1958 Republican President: Senate: Republicans lost 10 seats House: Republicans lost 48 seats
–1966 Democratic President: Senate: Democrats lost three seats House: Democrats lost 47 seats
–1974 Republican President: Senate: Republicans lost three seats House: Republicans lost 48 seats
–1986 Republican President: Senate: Republicans lost eight seats House: Republicans lost five seats
–1998 Democratic President: Senate: No net change House: Democrats gained five seats
–2006 Republican President: Senate: Republicans lost six seats House: Republicans lost 30 seats
The reasons for the six-year curse are quite various but repetitive: wars gone wrong, obsession, staleness, corruption and broken promises.
Wilson lost because, after being very narrowly re-elected on the slogan, “He kept us out of war,” he promptly led us into World War I. By 1926, the Harding scandals finally caught up with the Republican Party. By 1950, reversals in the Korean War and Truman administration corruption took their toll. In 1958, the recession laid the Republicans low. Vietnam brought down Democrats in 1966, Watergate caused the Republican crash of 1974 and Reagan-fatigue led to the 1986 defeat. Iraq cost George W. Bush his Senate majority in 2006.
Whatever the immediate causes of these defeats, the deeper one is hubris and presidential overreaching. Re-election is heady vindication and presidents fall victim to their own success. As Euripides said, “Those whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad with power.”
But it was the experience of FDR losing five Senate and seventy-two House seats that may carry the most relevant portents for President Obama in 2014.
Obama followed closely to the FDR model in his pursuit of a second term. As Amity Shlaes explains in her book “The Forgotten Man,” Roosevelt despaired of dragging the economy out of depression as he faced re-election in 1936. Despite all his public works and deficit spending, joblessness remained at a stubborn 13 percent.
So FDR invoked class warfare against “economic royalists” to win re-election saying, during the campaign: “I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for economic power met their match … I should like to have it said of my second administration that these forces met their master.”
Roosevelt no longer focused on the overall economy, but carved out special interests catering separately to farmers, the elderly, blacks, labor and Jews.
Both in his invocations of class envy and his special interest appeals to women, Latinos, blacks, gays and students, Obama followed the model closely.
Will he now follow the rest of the FDR model? Right after he took office for a second term, Roosevelt tried to pack the Supreme Court and “purge” conservatives in his own party.
Will Obama’s hubris — obvious to all — lead him to overreach, setting a second term agenda that breaks the speed limits and runs the stop signs? Will his arrogance lead him to a sixth-year disaster?
To find out more about Dick Morris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.