The New Deal period was nothing short of another revolution in American history. A non-violent one to be sure, but this era transformed the public’s expectations from their government, raised taxes left and right, and dramatically expanded the federal government’s size. Welfare and Social Security were created during this period and the national minimum wage was established. These developments likely would not have been possible without substantial legislative gains, and boy did the Democrats ever get them during the Great Depression.
I cannot overstate the devastating impact on Republican influence and policy that the elections from 1930 to 1936 had. These were unquestionably the most disastrous set of elections in the history of the party. The following 26 (27% of the Senate at the time!) Republican senators would lose elections to Democrats from 1930 to 1936. Of these, only John Thomas of Idaho and W. Warren Barbour of New Jersey would return to the Senate, while John Robsion of Kentucky would be elected to the House seat he previously held.
Hiram Bingham III, Connecticut – 1932
Frederic Walcott, Connecticut – 1934
Daniel O. Hastings, Delaware – 1936
John Thomas, Idaho – 1932
Otis F. Glenn, Illinois – 1932
Arthur Robinson, Indiana – 1934
James E. Watson, Indiana – 1932
Lester J. Dickinson, Iowa – 1936
Henry J. Allen, Kansas – 1930
John Robsion, Kentucky – 1930
Roscoe C. Patterson, Missouri – 1934
George Moses, New Hampshire – 1932
Warren Barbour, New Jersey – 1936
Hamilton F. Kean, New Jersey – 1934
Tasker L. Oddie, Nevada, 1932
Simeon D. Fess, Ohio – 1934
Roscoe McCulloch, Ohio – 1930
David A. Reed, Pennsylvania – 1934
Jesse H. Metcalf, Rhode Island – 1936
William B. Pine, Oklahoma – 1930
Felix Hebert, Rhode Island – 1934
William H. McMaster, South Dakota – 1930
Reed Smoot, Utah – 1932
Wesley L. Jones, Washington – 1932
Henry D. Hatfield, West Virginia – 1934
Robert D. Carey, Wyoming – 1936
When the 75th Congress convened at the start of 1937, only 18 Republican senators remained. The political overreaches of the Roosevelt Administration combined with increasing defections on key votes from Southern Democrats would bring conservatives back as an influential force in Washington after the 1938 election. The GOP, however, was still a minority force. Up until 1995, they would only control the Senate for ten years.
The House names are too numerous to type down, but 161 (37% of the House!) Republican incumbents lost to Democrats from 1930 to 1936. As with the Senate, few of these people returned to office. The breakdown for the years:
1930 – 42
1932 – 73
1934 – 23
1936 – 23
When the 75th Congress convened at the start of 1937, only 88 Republicans held seats in the House. While the story in the House was similar to the Senate in terms of influence, until 1995 the Republicans would only control the chamber for four years.
This part of history is why I absolutely never believe doomsday prophecies about the Republicans (or Democrats for that matter). The GOP has sunk to about as low as you can get for a major party and come back.
United States House of Representatives elections, 1930. Wikipedia.
United States House of Representatives elections, 1932. Wikipedia.
United States House of Representatives elections, 1934. Wikipedia.
United States House of Representatives elections, 1936. Wikipedia.
United States Senate elections, 1930. Wikipedia.
United States Senate elections, 1932. Wikipedia.
United States Senate elections, 1934. Wikipedia.
United States Senate elections, 1936. Wikipedia.