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The Specter Switch—Republicans Unable To Get A Hold On Senate Since 1929 Crash

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The switch of Arlen Specter from Republican to Democrat leaves Republicans with just 40 Senators in the 100 seat Senate. After Al Franken is seated in Minnesota there will be 58 Democrats and 2 independents who mostly vote with the Democrats in the Senate.  

( Above–Arlen Specter with Martin Luther King. Please click here for the best Martin Luther King reading list on the web.)

This weak Republican presence in the Senate is not out of line with Republican membership in the Senate since the 1929 stock crash. Beginning with the 1930 election, the first after the crash, Democrats have reached 60 or more seats in the Senate 11 times. Mr. Franken’s seating will make that 12 times.

The peak of Democratic control was the 76 seats won in the 1936 election.

(Below–Charles McNary of Oregon was leader of the very small Republican Senate minority after the 1936 election.)

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The Republican high since 1930 is just 55 seats. This mark was reached in the elections of 1996, 1998 and 2004. The last time Republicans were as strong in the Senate as are Democrats today was after the election of 1920 when they had 59 seats. The Senate at that time had only 96 seats as Alaska and Hawaii were not yet part of the union.

Democrats have won more than 55 seats in the Senate 20 times since 1929 in contrast to the inability of Republicans to win as many of 56 seats since that year.

( Here  is the link to the web home of the U.S. Senate. There is a lot of information to be found at the Senate site. Here is a link to the divisions by party going back to the beginning of the Senate in 1789.)   

The last time Republicans reached 60 seats was the election of 1908. Republicans won 60 seats that year in what was a 92 seat Senate.

Democrats have had two main periods of dominance in the Senate since was 1929.  In the years between and including the first election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, and his final election in 1944, Democrats never fell below 57 seats.

( Below—Republican Robert Taft of Ohio was Senate Majority Leader at the time of  his death in 1953.

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In 1958 Democrats won 65 seats and in 1978 they took 58. In between those years, they never went lower than 54 and seven times eclipsed 60.  

(Below–Mike Mansfield of Montana was Majority Leader of the Senate 1961-1977. That is the longest tenure in that position.) 

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Republicans have only had two stretches since 1929 where they’ve won control of the Senate in consecutive elections. 

In the Reagan years, Republicans ran the Senate after the 1980, 1982 and 1984 elections. After the Republican Congressional landslide of 1994, Republicans won at least 50 seats each election up to and including 2004.  Though after the 2000 election Republican control was ended when Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched to the Democrats giving Democrats a 51-49 edge.

( Below–Howard Baker of Tennessee served as both Majority Leader and Minority Leader of the Senate.)

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A qualification to all this could be that many Democrats in the years of Democratic control since 1929 were Southern Democrats who often voted with Republicans. True control of the Senate often eluded the more progressive elements of the Democratic Party.

There is truth to that qualification. But it must be said that the New Deal and Great Society programs that conservatives would like to undo were passed in these years. Civil Rights legislation also passed in these years though it took a long time and required the principled support of some Republicans in the Senate.

Today’s strong Democratic majority has moderate members, but nothing like the segregationists of the past. 

For 40 years, since the Sunbelt driven election of Richard Nixon in 1968, we’ve been hearing about the supposed realignment of American politics towards Republicans. Well–Where is it?

( Please click here to read about the Senate’s art collection.) 

Today’s Democratic majorities and the states that Barack Obama won come from all around the nation. In the South, Mr. Obama won North Carolina, Virgina and Florida. Senator Specter’s switch only adds to the 80 years and counting slump of the Republican Party in the U.S. Senate.

( Coming soon -A look at membership of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1929. The story is much the same as it has been in the Senate.)

(Below—Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia has seen a lot of Senate history since he entered the Senate in 1959.  He is the longest serving Senator ever.) 

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April 29, 2009 Posted by | Art, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Noriega & More—Texas Political Notes And Thoughts

Some political notes and thoughts from Texas and Harris County—

(Above is the harbor at Palacios in Matagorda County. George Bush won 65% of the nearly 12,500 votes cast in Matagorda in 2004. But I’m certain that four years of calm seaside reflection has given the good folks of Matagorda a new view of things for 2008.) 

Noriega Senate Race

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rick Noriega of Houston is polled by Rasmussen as running only 4 points behind far-right incumbent John Cornyn. In this polling snapshot, the race is seen as 47% for Mr. Cornyn and 43% for Mr. Noriega.  

Mr. Noriega is a Texas State representative.

I recall early numbers from 2002 that had former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk running ahead of then Texas Attorney General Cornyn. At the time, Mr. Kirk’s favorable name recognition in the Dallas metroplex was a source of his strength.  

Mr. Cornyn won that race 55% -43% in a Republican year. 

This time around, it may be that some Texans are reconsidering allegiance to Republican party ( As well they should.) and that demographic changes in this majority-minority state are finally catching up to the ballot box.

Mr. Noriega’s 51% showing in the Texas Democratic primary was not impressive. Yet, Mr. Noriega will no doubt establish himself among Texas Democrats as November approaches. If the broader climate in Texas is moving towards Democrats, than Mr. Noriega may have a shot.  

Here is Mr. Noriega’s campaign web home.   

Harris County Races

Recent reports on racial disparities in application of the death penalty in Harris County, and reports from Dallas county about long-term inmates being set free after being proved innocent show the importance of a new justice team in Harris County.   

The new Democratic District Attorney in Dallas County has made such a positive difference in that part of Texas.   

Electing C.O. Bradford as District Attorney and Adrian Garcia as County Sheriff would be a good start towards the more fair practice of justice in Harris County.   

The Harris County Democratic coordinated campaign will be led by Bill Kelly.

I’ve seen Democratic coordinated campaigns in other parts of the country that involved walking around money for local pastors and others, and mailings into minority communities featuring white politicians linked up with black politicians.

These mailings were meant to aid white politicians by associating them with black candidates in areas where many black voters live. Yet it never seemed to work the other way of mailings into mostly white areas as a way to boost black candidates.    

One of the many reasons I’m glad to hear about the appointment of Mr. Kelly is that I know it portends real change in Harris County.    

Change for the Harris County Democratic Party as it moves to full inclusion of the voters who are the backbone of its local support, and, after success at the ballot box, changes in public policy such as the immediate need for a better justice system.  

In addition to the $500 breakfast listed on the web page of the Harris County Democratic Party, I look forward to a more broad based campaign kick-off event to generate excitement about the November ticket. 

This post is also at my Houston Chronicle blog where I’m one of eight featured political bloggers.

(The Houston Ship Channel is a big deal in Harris County. Harris County voted 54% -46 % for George Bush in 2004. There were just over 1.05 million votes cast. 2008 may be a more successful year for Harris County Democrats. ) 

   

May 6, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Houston, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yesterday’s Elections & The Prospect Of John Howard’s Defeat In Australia

A few observations for yesterday’s elections—

Please click here for the Houston Chronicle’s election roundup. )

I was glad to see passage of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District levy in Harris County. That part of the county revolves around affordable housing for families and support of schools is very much needed.  

When the runoffs are completed, Democrats will sweep all five Houston at-large Council seats. I’m not certain how many of the 15 seats will be held by Democrats, but it will certainly be a majority.

The Chronicle should stop subscribing to the fiction that these people don’t have a party identification and provide readers with a party lineup on Council. The Harris County Democratic Party should celebrate the Democratic gain in picking up Michael Berry’s Council seat and the party should consider injecting open partisanship into 2009 city races.

The only bond issue voted down in Harris County was the one for a new jail. It’s hard the know the reason why and the margin was thin, but this rejection may serve as one more clue that Harris County will be voting Democratic in 2008.  

It was good to see the success of bond issues for a number of purposes in Harris County and in the statewide Texas issues. You can’t have needed services unless you are willing to spend some money.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, the new City Council is the old City Council with all nine incumbents returned. The Council of five Democrats, two Republicans and two third-party Charterites is a bit to the right of the city as a whole. Two, and maybe three, of the Democrats are fairly conservative. Also, again there will be just two blacks on the Council in what now must be a majority black city.

It was good to see a Democrat win the Kentucky governorship.

In Australia, interest rates have been raised just a few weeks before the upcoming late November election. Right-wing Prime Minister John Howard is on the ropes and this is not expected to help. Mr. Howard’s defeat and a Labor government in Canberra would be excellent.  

November 7, 2007 Posted by | Cincinnati, Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Will America’s Democrats Face Same Questions And Problems As Germany’s Social Democrats?

The Economist reported recently about problems facing Germany’s Social Democratic Party. This is the main center-left party of Germany. At current, the S.D.P is the junior partner in a grand coalition government led by Christian Democratic Chancellor Angela Merkel.  

The threat rising against the S.D.P is the new Left Party. The Left Party is pulling away many working class voters who have long supported the S.D.P.

The appeal of the Left Party comes mostly from economic issues such as low pay, job security and retirement age. The party is strong where steel plants and coal mines have shut down.

In short, the Left Party does best where globalization has hit hardest.  

The Left Party was formed in the former East Germany from the remnants of the former Communist Party. Despite those roots, The Economist cites a recent book maintaining that Left Party leaders are fully democratic.

Up to now, these Communist beginnings are a reason the S.D.P has been reluctant to join in coalition with the Left Party.  

(An exception is an S.D.P/Left coalition governing Berlin under openly gay S.D.P Mayor Klaus Wowereit.

While strongest in the east where economic conditions are toughest, the Left Party has been gaining elsewhere in Germany

In current German polling, the Left Party stands at about 10%. This puts it roughly even with the Greens. With the S.D.P at under 30%, the Left Party might be needed by the S.D.P to form a coalition government in a future federal election.  

Could America’s Democratic Party face the same problems Germany’s Social Democrats are confronting? The recent agreements at General Motors and Chrysler institute a two-tiered wage structure.  New hires will receive far lower pay than long-term employees even given the difference in duration of employment.

How are our blue collar people going to be able to live decent lives? 

Some German voters apparently feel the S.D.P does not have the answers to the effects of globalization in an advanced economy.

It is not hard to imagine that Democratic voters in the United States will soon begin to ask some of the same tough questions now being asked of the established left in Germany.     

October 19, 2007 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments