Is the United States on the Verge of Becoming a Single Party Democracy?

The above chart shows who controlled the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Presidency from 1855 to 2021. As can be seen, there are two periods where one party dominated. From 1859 to 1933 the Republican Party dominated. The Republican Party was formed in 1854 and first took the Presidency in 1861 under Abraham Lincoln. During that period, the House of Representatives was under Republican control for 52 out of the 74 years. The Senate was under Republican control for 62 out of 74 years. The Presidency was under Republican control for 52 out of 74 years. Republican control ended with the Great Depression. The Republicans had control of all three (House, Senate, and Presidency) for 40 of those 74 years. The Democrats had control of all three of these for six of those years.

Then the Democrats took control for the better part of 48 years (1933-1981). They controlled the House of Representatives for 44 out of 48 years, the Senate also for 44 out of 48 years and the Presidency for only 32 out of 48 years. There was only one brief period of two years where the Republicans had control of all three and for 30 of the 48 years, the Democrats had control of all three.

We have then had a period of contested control from 1981 to 2021. This 40 year period started with Reagan’s election, although the Democrats retained control of the House. The Republicans controlled all three for only six years during that time while the Democrats controlled all three for only four years of that time. The rest of that time, for 30 out of these last 40 years, control of the government was contested, with House being under Democratic control for 20 of the last 40 years, the Senate being under Democratic control for 18 of the last 40 years, and the Presidency being under Democratic control for 16 of the last 40 years. This is part of the reason why partisanship has been such an issue. 

So, the question is: are we now entering another period of extended control of the national government by a single party? In 1861 the Republicans took control of the Senate and Presidency, having already taken the House in 1859. The next shift happened in 1933 when the Democrats took the House, Senate and Presidency, ending Republican control of all three for 14 years. The shift in 1980 (when Reagan was elected) only took the Senate and Presidency, with the Democrats holding the House for another 14 years and reclaiming the Senate after six years. Now we see Democrats taking House, Senate and Presidency again. Is this the signal for the change, and does changing U.S. demographics ensure that this change sticks (subject of my next posts)?

I will address this further in follow-up “a-political” postings (as I really hate to get into political debates on this blog…they are best done over a beer).


P.S. I did start preparing the first draft of this post before the events of 5 and 6 January (the Georgia senate elections and the certification of the electoral college votes).

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About Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience. ... Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation. ... His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024). ... Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

4 thoughts on “Is the United States on the Verge of Becoming a Single Party Democracy?

  1. Every time in our recent history that one party looks like it is going to dominate, they proceed to shoot themselves in the foot. Obama looked unstoppable at one point, but Hillary ran into the perfect storm (to some extent she actually ran into the storm – lol) .

    The Republicans did extremely well beyond the presidential race. There was a surprising amount of ballot splitting.

    Obviously, the events of the 6th could very well destroy the current Republican party. But when the Whigs died, it didn’t take long for the Republicans to step into the breach. Of course, what replaces the Republicans is a really big question. Presumably something a little less corporate friendly?

    • Well, as I started drafting this before the 6th, I do think there are a number of issues that appear to be creating a long-term change in the landscape. We are looking at periods of dominance of 74 years followed by one of 48 years. The period of 40 years of contested control is kind of the exception.

  2. We will probably have a 50/50 split in the electorate for awhile longer; so, any “control” (especially if a 50/50 split with tie breaking by VP in the Senate is counted as control) will be tenuous (every election to be “a nail biter” as well as every retirement or death to be a momentous occasion).

    Even demographic trends won’t be certain with regard to how the split is affected, with Cuban Americans thinking differently than Mexican Americans and even with divisions existing within narrow demographic groups.

    Even political nuances are developing while demographic and cultural trends are having their influences; for example, more pro-life women currently in Congress than previously was the case.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same; the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Just having two major parties (or even a single major party) obscures the many differences within the electorate, and we can count upon the hubris from singular power stimulating counter attacks and internal divisions.

    The Republicans should re-read the moral about The Emperor Who Wore No Clothes (because of a need to re-examine what they are offering) and the Democrats should re-read The Boy Who Cried Wolf (because of a tendency to overstate their case through their overplaying their hand by the spin that they put on words).

    We are in interesting times!

  3. Russell, I think that you are correct in thinking that what might replace the Republican Party is a big question. I think that groups who have kowtowed to the Republican Party in order to have a share of the power for promoting their group interests might take the opportunity to more “purely” express their primary concerns by forming their own party parties of more pure ideologies (with those parties perhaps late merging together to obtain more power at the cost of their souls, i.e. trading purity for parity in the exercise of political power).

    Russell, what do you think of this as one example of what might emerge within the boundaries of such a vacuum:

    “Political Party of Covenanted Constitutionalists” is established by what the journalists refer to as Evangelicals or what Pew Research and others refer to as Believers (Pentecostals, Charismatics, Born-Gain Believers, etc.) rather than their continuing to try to influence, or to be co-opted by, the two major parties in the USA. Such a gathering of believing politicians and believing voters would only have to adhere to two principles in order to be members of the new party: (1) explicitly base the motivation for legislative/executive/judicial decisions upon principles found in the New Testament (and the Old Testament when the N.T. affirms particular principles found in the O.T.) and (2) constrain legislative/executive/judicial decisions to what is allowed by the U.S. Constitution (with the understanding that amendments may be made to the U.S. Constitution). Such a party should be willing to serve in the role of “backbenchers” (a minor party) since believers usually constitute a minority of voters, however, such a party could have a powerfully prophetic voice and actionably effective role when empowered by The Holy Spirit. Such a party would be along the lines discussed by Alexander Hamilton; although, he was thinking more about an auxiliary of Christians (The Christian Constitutional Society) supporting the Federalist Party rather than about a completely separate party.

    Russell, what other movements do you see as taking advantage of these interesting times?

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