Picture it: Upper East Side of Manhattan, November 9, 1994. There is a buzz throughout the halls of Regis High School, and it’s not just because today is student exchange day and there will actually be girls in our school. The previous night the Republicans had won control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years, and my friends and I – little Republicans in training that we all were – were quite joyous.
First period was US History, and our teacher knows that I am certainly excited about the election. So he writes on the board the following:
His point? As was the case in 1946, the Republican victory would be short-lived. Republican gains in 1946 were wiped out – and then some – in 1948. On top of that, Harry Truman was re-elected. History would repeat itself.
I scoffed at this ridiculous notion. There was certainly no way that Slick Willy Clinton could possibly earn a second term as US President. I had been counting the days to his 1996 electoral humiliation since roughly November 7, 1992. Surely this was the first stage on the road to that inevitable defeat.
Fast forward to November 5, 1996. Needless to say I was as disappointed on that night as all us Regians were at the end of that November day in senior year. (I mean come on, we’re talking about a bunch of nerdy kids from an all boys school. It took most of us a full year of college before we could properly talk to members of the opposite sex.) Mr. Anselme was right.
But not entirely. Though Bill Clinton had indeed won re-election, the election was not a total repeat of 1948. The Republicans lost a few seats, but in the end they retained control of both houses of Congress – something they had not done in successive cycles since the Hoover administration.
History is informative, and we certainly should be aware of the lessons of elections past when we think about what will happen down the line. But we should refrain from assuming that events will necessarily repeat themselves. Read the rest of this entry »