10.10.2014 1

How Democrats lost the economy

Train Wreck Cartoon-Warren

By Robert Romano

It was 1932 all over again. The economy had collapsed right before the 2008 election, and, as a result, Democrats swept to commanding majorities in the House and Senate, and claimed the White House from an unpopular incumbent Republican.

It had all the makings of a generational, political realignment.

Yet two years later, Democrats would lose the House. And now four years after that, appear poised to lose the Senate.

In poll after poll, Republicans are more trusted on the economy than Democrats. Incredible. But why was this time different?

After Herbert Hoover’s demise and the onset of the Great Depression, Republicans were politically all but extinct. In addition to losing the White House, Democrats picked up 12 seats in the Senate, and a whopping 97 seats in the House, building on the majority they had regained in 1930.

Things did not get any better in 1934 for the GOP. Democrats picked up another 9 seats in the Senate, taking them to 69 seats, representing a 44 seat majority. In 1936, it was a 76 to 16 majority.

In the House, after 1936, there were just 88 Republicans left in the House, compared to 334 Democrats.

So bad had the economic collapse and the ensuing joblessness been, it nearly annihilated the political party that had ruled almost uninterrupted since the Civil War.

It is fair to say that Republicans are still recovering from that experience in many ways. Except for 1946 when they reclaimed Congress (they promptly lost control again in 1948), it would not be until 1994 that they would again hold both chambers of the legislature, and not until briefly in 1952 and again in 2002 when they would control both Congress and the Presidency.

Yes, there were times Republicans had the Presidency, but they were almost always hampered by Democrat majorities in either or both chambers of Congress. Except for 1953 and 1954, it was a de facto 72 year exodus from a true majority.

But by 2008, it had already come to an end. After a massive financial crisis, Republicans were once again wiped out.

Yet, like a phoenix, the GOP came soaring back. What changed?

For starters, the timing of the economic downturn was not the same. Hoover and his party had to suffer through three years of collapse before 1932 came along. The 2008 collapse was just a few months old when Barack Obama assumed office.

Hoover and Republicans lost in 1932 less so because there was a collapse, than because they had no proper response to the ensuing calamity.

Second, the financial bailouts of 2008 were a bipartisan affair that was universally despised by the American people. It generated a citizen uprising that eventually became the tea party on the right, and later, the occupy movement on the left. This helped neutralize the partisan effect of the downturn to a single cycle.

Add to that the power of better communications and the Internet, and conservatives were able to provide an account that the financial crisis had been caused as much by government policies as anything else.

It also laid the groundwork for reform candidates in the Republican Party to say they had learned the lessons of the past and were ready to take power again. Very rapidly, Republicans became an opposition party again, and were able to take advantage of tea party-led bailout outrage as Democrats began rapidly expanding the welfare entitlement state upon taking power.

Finally, after nearly six years in Democrat rule, and trillions of dollars of deficit spending, quantitative easing, and bailouts, the economy is not much better. Incomes are flat, it’s still really hard to find a job, and growth is quite sluggish. Americans are still suffering under a mountain of household debt. The recovery has not been what was promised.

Under Roosevelt, it did not matter that persistent high unemployment prevailed until World War II. Republicans had universally been blamed not just for the depression, but for failing to turn things around. Then, perception was key.

Now, Democrats are getting their share of blame for not making things better.

In a September 25-30 Gallup survey, 89 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of Republicans said good paying jobs were a top priority issue. 86 percent of Democrats and 91 percent of Republicans said the economy was a still a top concern.

Six years after the financial crisis, the recovery is not as good as the Obama administration said it would be, and we’re practically due for another recession. The fiscal and monetary stimulus failed. The jobs are still not there for young Americans just getting their start. Older Americans are still having trouble retiring. In short, the economy is just not delivering for the average American.

Apparently, a reputation once broken is not easily mended.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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