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Election of 1930


The midterm election of 1930 was the first in a four-election cycle (1930, 1932, 1934, and 1936) following the 1929 stock market crash that ended an era of Republican Party domination, forged the New Deal coalition, and established the Democrats as the dominant party in the United States. The election was also pivotal to the careers of such important Depression-era politicians as Floyd B. Olson, elected Farmer-Labor governor of Minnesota; Huey Long, elected democratic Senator from Louisiana while still serving as governor; and Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose election to a second term as governor of New York made him the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination of 1932.

On the eve of the elections of 1930, the editors of Business Week warned that the economy was "sliding further into the final stages of depression, under the weight of still unbroken financial fatalism, business inertia, and popular fear." Predictably, voters punished the party in power. Republicans lost a net of more than fifty House seats, eight Senate seats, six governor's mansions, and at least one chamber of the legislatures in five states. With stunning ideological precision, voters rebuked the conservative economic consensus of the 1920s by dismissing dozens of conservatives, but not a single progressive Republican from Senate and House seats. Although it appeared after the election that Republicans would narrowly hold both chambers of Congress, special elections gave Democrats a narrow majority in the new House, while Republicans clung to a single vote margin in the Senate.

The 1930 elections marked a new era in American politics as a revived Democratic Party launched the permanent campaign that continued for the four years between presidential elections, with no deference paid to the incumbent president. The Democratic National Committee set up the first enduring national party publicity bureau. Under the direction of journalist Charles Michelson, it laid down a barrage of anti-Hoover propaganda that staggered an administration unprepared for incessant political war. Still, the Republican Party suffered relatively modest losses for the party holding the White House in a slumping economy. And Republicans still led Democrats by large margins in the party affiliations of registered voters. The most optimistic of Republicans believed that both the Depression and their political fortunes had reached rock bottom and would turn upwards during the next two years. But history was not to vindicate their belief that by 1932 a revived economy would return Americans to their senses and restore the nation's normal Republican majority.



Lichtman, Allan J. "Critical Election Theory and the Reality of American Politics, 1916–1940." American Historical Review 81 (1976): 317–351.

Mayer, George H. The Political Career of Floyd B. Olson. 1951.

Williams, T. Harry. Huey Long. 1970.

Allan J. Lichtman

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