Saturday, October 18, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 1918 Mid-Term Elections Deja Vu?

On November 5, 1918 American voters went to the polls for
the mid-term elections during President Woodrow Wilson’s
second term. Six days later, World War I would end. In that
month a worldwide pandemic of “Spanish” influenza was

In 1913, a constitutional amendment changed the election of
U.S. senators from election by state legislators to direct
election by all state voters. The first national direct election
of senators had occurred in 1914. The senate, because of its
constitutional powers of confirming presidential appointments
and its role in foreign policy was the key election that year. The
Democrats had 50 seats, the Republicans had 46. Control of
the senate was crucial to the direction of post-war foreign
policy, control of the U.S. supreme court, and the outcome of
the 1920 presidential election that would follow two years later.

When the votes were counted, the Republicans had picked up
a net of six seats, and had control of the senate 52-44. (There
were only forty-eight states in 1918, and thus only ninety-six

A year later, President Wilson suffered a stroke in office, and
his wife became the de facto president. In 1920, Republicans
won the presidency, and held the White House for the next
twelve years. (Ironically, the defeated Democratic vice
presidential candidate in 1920, Franklin Roosevelt, would win
back the White House for the Democrats in 1932.)

The circumstances of 1918 are very different from those of 2014,
although there is the curious coincidence of an international
pandemic occurring during both years. For example, in 1918
the Democratic senators from the South were segregationists.
Most black voters voted for Republicans, as they had since the
Civil War. In 1918, women did not have the right to vote.
Democrats had blocked this for decades. Historically, the
Republicans were the champions of women's rights, and the
election of 1918 made possible the passing of a constitutional
amendment in 1920 giving U.S. women the right to vote.

What is similar, of course, is the vital question of who controls
the U.S. senate, and the implications for the next presidential
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Another striking similarity -- Obama's personality is very similar to that of his fellow college professor Woodrow Wilson. Both are personally rigid introverts who do not like politics. Steve Schier