Two years after Warren Harding was elected president in 1920, voters went to the polls and knocked out 77 Republican members in the House and seven seats in the Senate.
While Harding’s party maintained control of both chambers, the message was clear: Presidents should expect a bloodbath for their party by the time mid-term elections roll around.
And for the most part over the last century, that has been the case. Out of 27 mid-terms between 1910 and 2014, the sitting president’s party has only gained seats in the House three times — in Franklin Roosevelt’s first term in 1934, in Bill Clinton’s second term in 1998, and in George W. Bush’s first term following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Otherwise, members of the president’s party are looking over their shoulders when it comes to the ballot box — many times allowing congressional control to flip.
With an unpopular president in the White House now, many are expecting Democrats to make significant gains in Washington. But there’s something different this time around — in a mixture of state and federal special elections leading up to November, Democrats have captured seats not just where they were expected to, but also in places considered unstoppable Trump country, like Doug Jones’ Democratic victory in the Alabama Senate race that had previously been quite comfortably Republican.
No one knows if this “blue wave” will continue into actual mid-term elections, but it has many lawmakers concerned they’re on the wrong side of the wave running scared.
And that includes a few Democrats, like members of what appears to be the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference in the state senate. Last year, Sen. Jeff Klein and his ragtag group of breakaway Democrats had agreed to switch their allegiance from the Republican leadership to a Democratic one, while keeping the IDC intact.
But seemingly out of nowhere last week, Klein switched gears and chose to dissolve the IDC instead, and rejoin the Democratic minority with the hopes of taking over after special elections.
If the 2016 election of Donald Trump proved anything, it’s that no dynasty — or incumbent — is safe, no matter how powerful they are. And election after election over the past year continues to prove that, all with an anti-Trump air.
This move might be enough to protect Klein and his former IDC for now — but they must really prove themselves ready to vote on progressive legislation they allowed to stall (and conveniently blamed on the very Republicans they empowered).
Can Klein survive the “blue wave”? We’ll find out when primary voters head to the polls in September.