Today I am rounding out the west with the states of Nevada and New Mexico as well as covering Illinois, Alaska, and Hawaii.
Since Alaska was only admitted in 1959, its political timeline is shorter, and it was originally more willing to elect liberal Democrats than it is now. Its first delegation was entirely Democratic, with its senators being Bob Bartlett and Ernest Gruening, who had been the foremost advocates for statehood. However, as the 1960s shattered the American postwar consensus it also shattered the Democratic dominance in Alaska and in 1966 the voters elected their first Republican to Congress in Howard Pollock. After the death of Bartlett in 1968, Republican Ted Stevens was elected to the Senate, where he would serve until 2009. He became an institution in the state, particularly through his ability to deliver pork barrel projects only rivaled in the chamber by Robert Byrd (D-W.V.). The conservatism of the state was rising, and in 1973 the voters elected to the state’s only district Republican Don Young after the untimely death of incumbent Democrat Nick Begich when his airplane disappeared. Young currently serves as the Dean of the House, and himself developed a strong reputation for pork projects. The state’s alliance with the Republican Party (although a bit less so on conservatism) has been strong since 1980, when the state’s other Senate seat flipped Republican.
MC-Index for Current Congress Thus Far: 70
Strangely enough, Republicans were more willing to admit Hawaii than they were Alaska and part of this was due to the state being inclined to the Republicans when it was a territory, but by its admission in 1959 this was weakening. Although in 1960 Richard Nixon almost won the state, it has since been quite a liberal state, with its voters picking the Democratic candidate in the 1968, 1980, and 1988 elections, in which the voters nationwide favored conservatives. Although the voters at the start of statehood elected a moderate Republican (Hiram Fong) as one of its senators, by 1977 the entire delegation was Democratic with only a brief interruption in said dominance by moderate Republican Pat Saiki of the 1st district. There seems to be no road in the foreseeable future for the GOP or conservatism for that matter to get a lasting foothold in the state.
MC-Index for Current Congress Thus Far: 1
Ah, Illinois: the Land of Lincoln, although in his time it could be more accurately regarded as the “Land of Douglas”, as in Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. However, after the Civil War, the state developed a strong relationship with the Republican Party and its candidates often prevailed on the state and national level, and they were often able to do well even in Chicago. However, the New Deal began to change the state with the rising power of the Democratic Party in Chicago. Although the state turned against FDR’s policies during the 1940s as it was the home of many non-interventionists as well as the staunchly conservative Chicago Tribune under Colonel Robert McCormick, this wouldn’t last and the Democratic Party would only grow in the long run. The preeminent Illinoisan in the 20th Century was Republican Everett Dirksen, who made his greatest mark as senator through the power he was able to wield as Minority Leader. He was instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but was also concerned about the growing influence of the now staunchly Democratic Chicago under the regime of Mayor Richard Daley. Particularly, he unsuccessfully tried to stop any judicial efforts to require that state legislative reapportionment be based on population only as he believed the politics of Chicago would overwhelm downstate, as indeed they have. Although Illinois had a brief Republican bounce during the Obama Administration, it is the most solidly Democratic of the Midwest states and is not even on the radar for Republicans in the 2020 presidential election.
MC-Index for Current Congress Thus Far: 20
Nevada has a history of swinging as a state from Democrat to Republican. In 1932, the voters sent packing both the state’s sole Congressman and its previously popular Republican Senator Tasker Oddie. Although from 1933 to 1947, its entire delegation was Democratic, there was a distinct floor on liberalism thanks to Senator Pat McCarran, the most influential Nevada politician in the 20th Century who reveled in his independence much to the consternation of Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. His independence was even responsible for securing mediocre Republican Senator George Malone a second term in 1952. During the 1960s, the state underwent a shift to the right but since the Reagan Administration it has become quite competitive with Republicans and Democrats meeting with success in different places: Senator Harry Reid became quite prominent and would end up leading the Senate’s Democrats for twelve years, while Republicans would govern the state from 1999 to 2019. Currently, however, the state is on a Democratic kick, with conservatism at seemingly its weakest point with the governor, both senators, and all but the 2nd district’s representative to Congress being Democrats.
MC-Index for Current Congress Thus Far: 17
New Mexico, like Nevada, was for a time dominated by the Democrats and seems to be back in that same situation except even more Democratic. For New Mexico, from 1935 to 1962 all of its federal elected officials were Democrats. Republican Governor Edwin L. “Big Ed” Mechem tried to stay in office after losing reelection in 1962 by appointing himself to the Senate after Democrat Dennis Chavez died, but the state’s voters weren’t ready for a conservative Republican to represent them in the Senate and his vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn’t help. However, with the end of the 1960s came a growing conservatism in the state and from 1969 to 1983 both of the state’s representatives were to the right and in 1972 the voters elected to the Senate Pete Domenici, a moderate conservative, who would serve until 2009. The state hit peak conservatism from 1977 to 1983, when both senators were Republicans. Republicans did reasonably well there until the end of the Bush Administration, when the state went entirely Democratic in its delegation and Obama won the state by 15 points. Although the state had a Republican governor from 2011 to 2019, they haven’t been able to translate much success to the national level lately and now we’re back to having a full Democratic delegation.
MC-Index for Current Congress Thus Far: 6