The Midterm or offyear election. Often the election that gets only a fraction of the turnout the Presidential elections get, which is unfortunate because many races which would eventually impact on the political climate during the main election year often get started in an off-year. This year portends to be substantially different. Come Tuesday we’ll all know. Come the following Wednesday we will conduct the traditional post-mortem discussions, and either nod heads that the turnout was much lower than expected, or gasp in astonishment that all the predictions had come true. Either way – it’s a tradition and it happens every four years.
The 1954 United States elections were held on November 2, 1954. The election took place in the middle of Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first term. In the election, the Republicans lost the Congressional majorities they had won in the previous election.
In the House, the Republicans lost eighteen seats to the Democratic Party, losing control of the chamber. Republicans would not re-take the House until 1994. The Republicans also lost control of the U.S. Senate, losing two seats to the Democrats. Republicans would not re-take control of the Senate until 1980.
In 1954, the major reason, or one of the major reasons, for the Republican defeat was the backlash against the Army-McCarthy Hearings, in which prominent Republican Senator Joe McCarthy accused countless political and intellectual figures of having Communist ties, usually with no evidence. Another issue was the Dixon-Yates contract to supply power to the Atomic Energy Commission.
Sam Rayburn of Texas became Speaker of the House, exchanging places with new Minority Leader Joseph W. Martin Jr. of Massachusetts; they went back to what they had been before the 1952 U.S. House elections. Notable freshmen included future House Speaker Jim Wright, future Senator Ross Bass, future Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, future Governor of Kansas William H. Avery, and future Lieutenant Governor of Michigan Martha Griffiths.
The United States Senate elections of 1954 was a midterm election in the first term of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidency. Eisenhower’s Republican party lost a net of two seats to the Democratic opposition. This small change was just enough to give Democrats control of the chamber with the support of an Independent (Wayne Morse of Oregon) who caucused with them.
The elections resulted in a divided government that continued to the end of Eisenhower’s presidency and a Democratic majority that would last until 1981.
So lest you think your vote doesn’t matter, the distance between 2018 and 2020 isn’t that great.
As a reminder of what other off-year elections were like, here is an episode of The American Forum Of The Air, first broadcast on June 13, 1954 – the topic of discussion was “What’s At Stake In The Fall Elections”. And as was evidenced by the preceding paragraphs; a lot.