November 4, 2002


One of the dynamics to be aware of in the elections tomorrow is that for the first time since the 1930s, this has a chance to be a genuinely realigning election. In the 30s, of course, America transitioned from seventy years of Republicanism to a fifty year (at least) reign by Democrats. Twice--in 1980 and 1994--the nation has taken steps towards returning to Republicanism, but in both those elections, because no one expected big GOP gains, the candidates who won were of rather dubious quality. In 1980, for instance, the country was so anxious for change that it discarded an entire group of vetern Democrats who were considered quite safe (see below with their first year of election in parentheses). But the Republicans who replaced them, who had basically been considered sacrificial lambs, were simply not heavyweights. Most of them, in fact, promptly lost their first re-election bid (see those below with an *). [Note that four of the losing Democrats were similarly weak sisters, who were only carried in by the anti-Watergate tidal wave of 1974, and one (Donald Stewart) was actually unelected, filling out the term of the deceased James B. Allen]:
Democrat incumbents defeated in 1980:

Birch Bayh of Indiana (1962)
John Culver of Iowa (1974)
Frank Church of Idaho (1956)
John Durkin of New Hampshire (1974)
Mike Gravel of Alaska (1968)
George McGovern of South Dakota (1962)
Warren Magnuson of Washington (1944)
Robert Morgan of North Carolina (1974)
Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin (1962)
Donald Stewart of Alabama (appointed in 1978)
Richard Stone of Florida (1974)
Herman Talmadge of Georgia (1956)

The freshman Republican class of 1980:

Paula Hawkins of Florida*
Jeremiah Denton of Alabama*
Frank Murkowski of Alaska
Mack Mattingly of Georgia*
Steven Symms of Idaho
Dan Quayle of Indiana
Charles Grassley of Iowa
Alfonse D'Amato of New York
John East of North Carolina*
Mark Andrews of North Dakota*
Don Nickles of Oklahoma
Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania
James Abdnor of South Dakota*
Slade Gorton of Washington*
Robert Kasten of Wisconsin

But, this time around the situation is quite different. By maintaining control of Congress since 1994, with the exception of the infamous Jeffords switch, Republicans made it possible, really for the first time in decades, to recruit quality Congressional candidates. So tomorrow, rather than a John East or a Jeremiah Denton, decent men but not professional politicians, you have guys like John Thune (SD), John Sununu (NH), and Norm Coleman (MN) who were solicited by the President himself, precisely because they are so attractive and electable, to run in what were even then considered to be tough races. Should they win, there's every reason to believe that, unlike the accidental Republican Senators of '80 and '94, they would be formidable when they come up for re-election in 2008. Of such factors are enduring majorities made. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 4, 2002 1:37 PM

Speaking of Jeffords, whose name I have heard like twice in last six months, how d'ya think he's feeling about now?

If things go as I think they will, we can refer to him as Jim Jeffords (I - Siberia).

Posted by: Andrew X at November 4, 2002 5:02 PM

At least he has another Independent to caucus with for a week or two--and he has seniority over the guy.

Posted by: oj at November 4, 2002 5:12 PM

Amazing, the amount of thought and analysis that everybody puts into this stuff -- drawing sweeping historical trends, assigning grave import to it all -- when the truth is, 99 percent of the people out there just vote for the party they've always been associated with, or the prettiest name on the ballot.

Posted by: Tom at November 4, 2002 10:42 PM

Which is why voted Dick Swett out of office in this district.

Posted by: oj at November 5, 2002 6:44 AM

Tom: a "realigning election" is where significant portions of the electorate change their voting habits. I gather, but am not sure, your post indicates that you disagree with Orrin.

Posted by: Tom Roberts at November 5, 2002 7:10 AM

and America has been ripe for a realignment since the end of the Cold War announced the official collapse of socialism,

Posted by: oj at November 5, 2002 8:55 AM

Hey, Tom, go spend the morning at your local polling place. I just did and spent 20 minutes waiting in line while all around me people were engaged in debate about the canidates and proposed amendments. And I doubt my polling place gets all of the 1% informed voters you talk about. Plus, as a bonus, you experience the lovely buzz at a polling place on election day, the feeling in the air that you're doing your part and you're making decisions about the future. And you also get a nifty "I Voted" sticker.

Posted by: Buttercup at November 5, 2002 10:49 AM

Hello. I love your blog. We also have a blog on our site and we would love to get a running blog community going. We are going to put your blog on our site at If you are interested in adding to the running blog community it would be great if you could put ours on yours. Thanks!

Posted by: aaron at April 22, 2004 10:33 PM
« IF YOU AREN'T WITH US...: | Main | GRAY OUT: »