The Atlantic posted an article online by Jack Beatty earlier this week entitled “War and the American Voter.” Beatty looks at the historical parallels between this year’s Congressional elections and previous Congressional elections during wartime. Beatty’s conclusion? Things don’t look good for the Grand Old Party:
In the five wartime congressional elections since 1860, the “war party”—the party of the president—has always taken a shellacking, averaging a loss of thirty-six House and five Senate seats. This year, the GOP is fighting that rooted electoral trend; more than the Mark Foley scandal, more even than Republican corruption in the era of Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, Bob Ney, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Dennis Hastert, and Curt Weldon, if the Republicans lose on November 7, Iraq will be why. If, as seems increasingly unlikely, the GOP hangs on to the House in the face of public opinion about the war, as well as the Democrats’ twenty-three point lead on the “generic ballot” question (which party do you want to lead the next Congress?), then incumbency, gerrymandering, and money will have aborted the self-correcting mechanism of democracy.
On C-SPAN’s invaluable Washington Journal, patriotic callers frequently despair that Americans won’t rally behind their president in a time of war. But Americans don’t do that. They don’t suspend politics “for the duration.” They punish the war party for war—for getting the country into it, for its objectives, conduct, duration, inconveniences, and cost.
Beatty’s historical analysis of voting trends during wartime is fascinating, and I’m curious to see if the polling trends hold true come election day.