Thinking Citizen Blog — Four Historical Analogies, Josh Hawley, and At Large Voting Systems

Thinking Citizen Blog — Sunday is Political Process, Campaign Strategy, and Candidate Selection Day

Today’s Topic: Four Historical Analogies, Josh Hawley, and At Large Voting Systems

Today, three somewhat random questions. First, Biden has taken office with majorities in both houses of Congress. When were the last four times this pattern occurred and what was the consequence? Second, who is Josh Hawley? Third, are at large local voting systems, such as that in Everett, Massachusetts unfair? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

FOUR HISTORICAL ANALOGIES: 1993 (Clinton), 2001 (Bush), 2009 (Obama), 2017 (Trump)

1. “Indeed, the Bush Republican majorities in 2001 (51–50 in the Senate and 221–213 in the House were almost identical to the Biden Democratic majorities now (51–50 in the Senate and 222–211 in the House.” (Michael Barone)

2. “In no case did these majorities lead to long-term control of the federal government.” (ditto)

3. “Messrs. Clinton, Obama, and Trump saw their parties lose one or both houses of Congress two years after taking office.” (ditto)

NB: “In 2001, Mr. Bush’s Republicans lost their Senate majority in five months when Vermont Sen Jim Jeffords switched parties.” (ditto)


1. A month ago, I had no idea who Josh Hawley is. He is the junior Senator from Missouri who has a very impressive resume, having graduated from Stanford, and then Yale Law School, having clerked for Chief Justice Roberts, and then served as Attorney General of Missouri. He is 41 years old.

2. In the Senate he was known for his harsh criticism of Big Tech and his strong support for Chinese dissidents and Hong Kong independence. But now one thing makes him notorious.

3. Hawley was the first Senator to announce that he would object to the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.”

NB: “Hawley raised a clenched fist in solidarity with pro-Trump protesters demonstrating outside the US Capitol. As Hawley filed his objections, many of those protesters then stormed the Capitol. Because Hawley helped popularize and legitimze the conspiracy theory that motivated the mob, figures from across the political spectrum argued that he was morally responsible for the riot and the five deaths it caused, and called for Hawley to resign his office or be expelled from the Senate.”


1. “In Everett today, white, non-Hispanic residents make up less than 44% of the population, but they dominate city government. Seventy-five percent of the elected councilors and school committee members are white.”

2. “That’s no accident, critics say; it’s a natural outgrowth of the city’s electoral system.”

3. “Everett is one of several cities in Massachusetts where all local officials are elected at-large, and none by individual wards or districts. For years, civil rights specialists have called that a recipe for exclusion. White residents, even as a minority, often vote as a bloc and drown out the voices of Black and brown voters.”

NB: “Lawyers for Civil Rights, a nonprofit legal organization, recently put Everett councilors on notice that they’re vulnerable to a challenge under the Voting Rights Act.”


1. The use of at large voting methods in elections for US Congress was originally banned in 1842 but the ban had been periodically revoked. The ban was made permanent in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

2. “Most states, by law or in practice, followed suit eliminating it for use in all state elections. At-Large voting still held a firm grip in local elections, however.”

3. “After the Civil War, local jurisdictions across the South adopted At-Large elections to ensure white-only governments. Northern cities did the same to advantage ethnic groups or parties, such as Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1950s.”

NB: “In 1957, Lowell’s majority, largely Irish, voting block changed its proportional voting method to plurality-At-Large for municipal elections, stating at the time that a “majority rule” would limit “minority rule” of ethnic and national groups like the French, Greeks, Irish, Poles, Jews, Syrians, Armenians, and Lithuanians.”

Opinion | Donald Trump Turned Georgia Blue

Josh Hawley

How underrepresented candidates in Mass. communities can be squelched by electoral systems — The Boston Globe

Voting Rights Act of 1965

The Bias of At-Large Elections: How it Works — Nonprofit Vote


Here is a link to the last three years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to political process or campaign strategy or 2020 candidate selection or anything else for that matter.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day or change their thinking. Or to consolidate in your own memory something worth remembering that might otherwise be lost. Or to clarify or deepen your own understanding of something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.



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