With many in the media finally saying the Republicans will control the House for the next two years, I found myself listening to pundits from both sides of the aisle and seeing too many social media posts about the doom and destruction this will bring to our country. One side lamented the loss of Democratic control of both Houses and pointing fingers at how the Republicans will now do all they can to obstruct Biden’s policies. The other side rubbed their collective hands together and grinned like a movie villain as images of going after Hunter Biden like the Dems did Trump danced in their heads. A third group bemoaned the probability that government would grind to a stop because no one would agree on anything. Frankly, I want to take all of them and beat their heads against the wall.
Look, Washington has been a swamp for years, more than most of us have been alive. Even when we’ve had a unified government, unless the majority parties held more than a few seat lead in both houses there was little agreement on major legislation. Even when a solid majority was present, that didn’t mean the sitting president got his way because of party divisions.
More than that, it didn’t mean that president enjoyed widespread public support for his policies (look at Jimmy Carter).
So I thought I’d take a look at some historical data to see how often we’ve had a unified government. According to the data, since 1857 and going through to the 116th Congress (2019-2021), “the government has been unified 47 times, 22 under Democratic control and 25 under Republican control.”
What this means is the party controlling both the House and Senate also held the White House during those congressional sessions.
But there is more data to look at. Let’s start with the fact that there were also 16 (if I counted right) times when the House and Senate were controlled by different parties.
Let’s look at more recent data. Since 1961, the Dems have controlled both Houses as well as the White House. The Republicans have done so four times (remember, these are not presidential terms but congressional sessions). There have been 18 divided sessions. Both Obama and Trump–and now Biden–saw their unified administrations turn into divided ones the last half of their first terms. The last president who enjoyed a unified government for their entire time in office was Jimmy Carter.
So, whether we like the results of the election or not, this isn’t anything new. Nor is it a given that the non-presidential party will flip both houses in the mid-term elections.
Does this mean nothing underhanded went on behind the scenes? No. It just means we need to remember history as well as keep our eyes and ears open. It means we can’t simply point and scream “fraud” because the election didn’t go as we want. I have no doubt there was some fraud along the line.
What happens going forward will help set the stage for the 2022 elections. The Republicans have to put forth a candidate for POTUS who will unite the party and bring in the non-committed and libertarian votes if the party wants to reclaim the Oval Office. If the party is split, we might even see a repeat of what happened in 1992 when H. Ross Perot ran a strong Third Party candidacy for POTUS.
So I’m going to get back on my soapbox and repeat what I’ve been saying all along. If you don’t like how the election went, get involved on the local and state levels. Volunteer to be a poll watcher. A number of states now allow each party to have observers in the room as votes are counted. Be there. Get involved in the campaigns of those candidates you feel will best serve your community’s interests. If you don’t like a candidate, consider running for office yourself. Simply sitting on the sidelines, bitching and moaning, will change nothing.
Stand up. Speak up. Rise up. Let your voice be heard.