CARLISLE, Pennsylvania — IIt’s been called the political storm of the century. It would end with the greatest power shift in American history – and one for ages.
It was the fall of 1894. People were still feeling the effects of the Panic of 1893, which had crippled most of the economy and plunged the nation into a catastrophic recession, with every segment of the country in a world of pain . Farmers were disgusted with the cost of wheat; workers were desperate for jobs and higher wages.
The biggest punch of all, the Pullman Strike, had prompted a massive nationwide boycott of all trains that carried Pullman passenger cars. He pitted workers against the company, the press, the federal government and President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat in the first half of his second nonconsecutive term.
When Cleveland called in the US military to quell the strikers, the die was cast for his party. Just four years earlier, Democrats had won 86 House seats and a majority. On election night in 1894, Republicans won 130 seats, or 35% of the lower house, which totaled 357 seats at the time. Democrats lost 125 seats outright, with Republicans also winning third seats. It remains the biggest numerical loss for a political party in history, according to the House Historian.
Newspaper accounts at the time spoke of dancing and celebrating in the streets, with headlines that said, “The crowds have gone wild” and the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette writing, “Thousands of them lined the streets of Pittsburgh last night to cheer the comebacks. They have also indulged in all the infernal artifices to make noise that the diabolical mind of man could invent.
Here in Cumberland County, the headlines read that Republicans won a plurality of 200,000 votes in the state. It foreshadowed the demise of Tammany Hall in New York, as Democrats there too were driven from power.
The Democrats had unfortunately managed every crisis that came their way that year. And their use of the press as a weapon against the people had backfired. America was in the middle of the Golden Age – when agricultural markets collapsed, the railroads were the next domino to fall, then the steel industry, then manufacturing.
Cleveland hesitated to act. When he finally tried to repeal the law on buying silver in order to strengthen gold, it was too late. His decision caused a run on the banks and a stock market crash, unemployment approached 20%, and voters wanted his party’s fate kicked out.
Compounding the problems of the Democrats was a new populist movement – a left-wing faction of the party that was siphoning off support from farmers and workers in particular. They were furious that Democrats were in bed with big business.
The Populists not only cost Democrats even more seats, but their politics had a lingering effect on the Democratic Party. It would be 16 years before the Democrats again won a majority in the House.
The eruption also affected their presidential prospects. Despite the massive midterm election loss, Cleveland would attempt to run for office for the third time. He failed, losing his fame to incendiary populist Rep. William Jennings Bryan (D-NE). He would run for president and lose three times as a Democrat.
In the past 128 years, we have never seen a majority swept with such vigor and breadth as in 1894. In truth, it is unlikely to happen again. However, that doesn’t mean Democrats aren’t striving to break that record, or at least the most recent set in 2010 by Republicans.
It’s amazing to witness the message that Democrats in Washington, DC think their constituents — especially Democrats in swing districts — should use to keep their seats or win new ones. Most Messaging calls out to extremist and insurgent Republican members of QAnon who are transphobic and want to take away women’s reproductive rights.
That’s a lot of wasted spaghetti thrown at the wall, especially since none of these posts even attempt to address the many issues that are driving voters away from the Democratic Party.
Democrats treat crime like it’s a board game. Spend time listening to police scanners in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, or Chicago, and you’ll find that the problem is real and out of control. The blame falls squarely in the hands of Democrats, who thought it was a great idea to spend two years calling for the elimination or defunding of police in their cities.
The Democratic negligence on the border is also having an effect — not only on Texans in the Rio Grande Valley, but also on parents in suburban Shaker Heights, Ohio, and Butler County, Pennsylvania. They suddenly discover that fentanyl has entered their circles and taken over their children or their friends. Democrats seem to misunderstand that voters are seeing a crisis with no plan to address it.
Meanwhile, no one is getting rid of inflation as a passing phase – it’s real, and it’s hurting us all. The hardest hit are the working poor and the middle class. No one in the Biden administration or the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate seems to get the message that they are in control of this — that there is some sense of a clear economic plan, at least to get things done on the right path.
The only message President Joe Biden has given people about inflation is that it’s Putin’s fault – an insulting premise to anyone who has seen prices rise rapidly over the past 12 months.
Suburban parents are on the move, even if they don’t want to, because the Democrats have overdone on classroom control, questionable curriculaand excessive mandates.
Even the issues surrounding Roe vs. Wade are very unlikely to save them. Indeed, depending on how they play it, the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision could actually cost them votes. Messages about abortion are quite perilous. The more you advocate for it, and the more you do it emotionally and graphically, the more you turn people off.
Grover Cleveland, like Joe Biden, has remained both stubborn and stuck up — both leading up to this midterm election and during his final two years in office. He tried to arm the press against farmers and the working class. He continued to hold the same positions, including a commitment to free trade, which turned voters away from him.
The day after November 6 midterm elections in 1894, the chairman of what was then called the Democratic Committee of Congress, Senator Charles Faulkner of West Virginia, cried as he told the Chicago-based daily Inter Ocean“I did the best I could.”
Cleveland, for its part, said nothing for days. He left the White House early on Election Day to escape to his country home on Woodley Lane. His first appearance came in the form of a proclamation do november 29 a day of “thanksgiving and prayer”. He never forgave his party for abandoning him two years later.