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The Party That Controls Congress Controls

Thursday, 03 Apr 2008 08:04 AM

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Yesterday, Republicans couldn’t win the presidency.

Today, it’s Democrats biting their nails.

The leviathan lurking in the living room, though, is who will control Congress. Masscomm wizards have gone so ga-ga over the race for the White House it’s easy for mere mortals to forget this is a year when a third of the senators and every member of the lower House are elected. Therein lies great danger.

At the moment, congressional races are ignored as bush-league distractions; yet now, rather than after it is too late to do much about it, is the time to get serious about the 2008 congressional elections on Nov. 4.

First, a little electoral history couldn’t hurt. Keep in mind that terms begin in the year following election:

  • 1980: Ronald Reagan, Republican, was elected president. Democrats retained control of the House of Representatives, but lost control of the Senate to Republicans.

  • 1982: Democrats retained control of the House. Republicans retained control of the Senate.

  • 1984: Reagan, Republican, was re-elected president. Democrats retained control of the House. Republicans retained control of the Senate.

  • 1986: Democrats retained control of the House and took back control of the Senate from Republicans.

  • 1988: George H.W. Bush, Republican, was elected president. Democrats retained control of both the House and the Senate.

  • 1990: Democrats retained control of both the House and the Senate.

  • 1992: Bill Clinton, Democrat, was elected president. Democrats retained control of both the House and the Senate.

  • 1994: After 40 consecutive years, Democrats lost control of the House and, after eight consecutive years, lost control of the Senate to Republicans.

  • 1996: Clinton, Democrat, was re-elected president. Republicans retained control of both the House and the Senate.

  • 2000: George W. Bush, Republican, was elected president. Republicans retained control of both the House and the Senate.

  • 2001: On May 24, Democrats took back control of the Senate from Republicans when Vermont Sen. Jim R Jeffords switched his affiliation from Republican to Independent. That changed the Senate from 50-50, with Republican Vice President Dick Cheney, as president of the Senate, able to cast tie-breaking votes, to 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one Independent.

  • 2002: Republicans retained control of the House and took back control of the Senate from Democrats.

  • 2004: Bush, Republican, was re-elected president. Republicans retained control of both the House and the Senate.

  • 2006: For the first time in 12 years, Democrats took back control of both the House and the Senate from Republicans.

    Thus, since the 1980 election, only three times did one party control the presidency and both houses of Congress — for 76 months out of the past 327. And what has such “bipartisan balance” between executive and legislative produced? Mostly stalemate and stagnation, pork and partisan rancor.

    Voters may not be thinking seriously about whom to send to Capitol Hill, but interest-groups ladling out campaign contributions are. They know that regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, who controls Congress controls.

    Despite its novelties, so far this looms as just another same, old, same election year. One of these election years, maybe the American people will tire of waiting for next time . . . if only this country could wait that long.

    John L. Perry, a prize-winning newspaper editor and writer who served on White House staffs of two presidents, is a regular columnist for Newsmax.com.

    Read John Perry's columns here.

    © 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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