It has been widely noted that last night’s election represented the largest party shift in the House of Representatives since the election of 1948. But that’s a misleading comparison, as that shift coincided with Truman’s reelection and was part of his electoral mandate.
The correct historical analogy is earlier, and more telling. Prior to last night, the largest midterm shift against the party in power was in 1938, and it effectively ended the New Deal.
As a result of all this, in the midterm following, Republicans picked up 80 seats in the House and six in the Senate.
Democrats still controlled Congress and FDR went on to be reelected in 1940, but the expanding course of the New Deal was over.
As Churchill said after avoiding absolute defeat at Dunkirk: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
— Matthew Spalding is director of the Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies.