1982 Midterm Elections—When Tip O’Neill Got The Better Of Ronald Reagan
A satisfying midterm election was held in 1982. In 1982, House Speaker Tip O’Neill got the better of Ronald Reagan. Democrats gained 26 House seats. This enabled more-liberal Democrats to take effective control of the House back from the coalition of Republicans and Southern Democrats boosted by the Reagan landslide in 1980.
Speaker O’Neill was maybe the only politician who often got the better of Reagan. People did not worry if O’Neill was a liberal. He said over and over that he was a liberal. He put forth a clear vision of a government that should help people. In the recession year of 1982 this was a message people were willing to hear.
It is a message people are always willing to hear if they feel they need help.
Another reason things went well in ‘82 was clever redistricting by Democrats after the 1980 census. People complain today about Republican redistricting strangling the process. I don’t agree. What I want is for people I agree with to control the process. Many on the left who complain now would’ve been happy enough to take the gains back in ’82.
The victories of 1982 helped maintain a firm Democratic House majority for the remainder of the Reagan years. Tip O’Neill’s leadership and coherent worldview was an important foundation of Democratic strength in the House in the 1980’s.