Watershed American Elections

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Nobody knows what the final outcome of today's midterm elections will be. After all the opinion polls and punditry and talk of washout and watershed, it is the voters' day to decide.

But the sizzle around this campaign season has grown from the expectation that this might be a big one — one of those congressional elections when Americans collectively say "hold on, too much, no way" — and vote a change. The vote will tell.

But history shows us when and how and why it's happened before. Giant political swings that have changed the course of the nation — in 1810 and 1974, 1894 and 1994 — around war and shock and scandal.

Hear about watershed elections in American political history, and what they've meant.

Quotes from the Show:

"Midterm elections are about local affairs." Charles Stewart

"One thing that leads to a watershed election is big shifts in the electorate." Charles Stewart

"One of the most important watershed elections was that of 1918 when Democrats lost both Houses of Congress. That election nullified President's Wilson's objective to join the US in a concert of nations." Jack Beatty

"The 1994 election qualifies as a watershed election with the loss of 54 seats. What made this one special was an unusual effort by Republicans to contest more seats than was usual." Linda Fowler


Charles Stewart, Professor of Political Science at MIT and author of "Analyzing Congress."

Linda Fowler, Professor of Government at Dartmouth College and author of "Political Ambition: Who Decides to Run for Congress, and Candidates, Congress and the American Democracy

Jack Beatty, On Point News analyst and Senior Editor of The Atlantic Monthly magazine.

This program aired on November 7, 2006.


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