CHQ - What 1946 Can Tell Us About 2010

What 1946 Can Tell Us About 2010 | 07 April 2010

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What 1946 Can Tell Us About 2010
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by Michael Barone | The American

Recent polls tell me that the Democratic Party is in the worst shape I have seen during my 50 years of following politics closely. So I thought it would be interesting to look back at the biggest Republican victory of the last 80 years, the off-year election of 1946. Republicans in that election gained 13 seats in the Senate and emerged with a 51-45 majority there, the largest majority that they enjoyed between 1930 and 1980. And they gained 55 seats in the House, giving them a 246-188 majority in that body, the largest majority they have held since 1930. The popular vote for the House was 53% Republican and 44% Democratic, a bigger margin than Republicans have won ever since. And that's even more impressive when you consider that in 1946 Republicans did not seriously contest most seats in the South. In the 11 states that had been part of the Confederacy, Democrats won 103 of 105 seats and Republicans won only 2 seats in east Tennessee. In the 37 non-Confederate states, in contrast, Republicans won 246 of 330 seats, compared to only 85 for Democrats.

There are some intriguing similarities between the political situation in 1946 and the political situation today.

First, Democrats were promising (or threatening) to vastly increase the size and scope of government. Government's share of gross domestic product had risen to over 40% in World War II, and it was obvious that there would be some scaling back. At the same time, the Allied victory in World War II had enhanced the prestige of the state, just as the 1930s Depression weakened faith in free markets. In Britain, the 1942 Beveridge Report urged creating a welfare state after the war, and the Labour Party won a resounding victory in the July 1945 election and promptly proceeded to adopt the Beveridge recommendations and more.

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