When you look past citizen anger and frustration personified by Tea Party activists, there is a sobering datapoint that foreshadows November election results: from January 2009 to September 2010, the U.S. economy shed a net of 4.1 million jobs.

This dwarfs the 2.5 million jobs lost from 2007-2008. Remember what happened in that election?

History is on the side of the Democrats. That is, it is the exception, not the rule, for the party in power to lose both the House and the Senate in a mid-term election. Over the past 17 midterm elections, the President’s party has lost 28 seats on average in the House and four seats on average in the Senate. Thus, if the average holds, Ds would retain control of both the House and Senate.

There have been only two complete turn-overs of Congress since 1949: one in 1993 (D to R, presidential election) and the other in 2007 (R to D, mid-term).

But this is not an average election due to the unique (in recent history), depressed (“Great Recession”) state of the economy.

In the 2006 election, Congress flipped from being controlled by the Republicans to being controlled by the Democrats. Although job growth was erratic, there had been overall growth:

Employment Statistics (National) From BLS - 2005-2006

Employment Statistics (National) From BLS - 2005-2006

In the 1992 election, Congress flipped from being controlled by Democrats to being controlled by Republicans. On the surface, employment may have been a factor. After all, the economy was a centerpiece of the Clinton campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Employment Statistics (National) From BLS - 1991-1992

Employment Statistics (National) From BLS - 1991-1992

I’d not thought about the ramifications of job loss on voter discontent until this very moment. Thus the election of 1980 — where voters kicked out incumbent Jimmy Carter and flipped the Senate from D to R — may be the more accurate predictor of this fall’s outcome:

Employment Statistics (National) From BLS -  1979-1980

BLS - 1979-1980

We have to go back to the 1940s, when voters flipped Congress in back-to-back elections (1946 and 1948), to find a jobs picture that more closely reflects the current economy. (BLS does not have data for 1929-1933.)

That picture, my friends, is why I’m revising my thoughts about the probability that both houses of Congress could return to Republican control come January. And if this happens, unless Rs can “fix” the economy quickly (which I do not think is possible), they could very well suffer the same fate come 2012. It might be the best thing that could happen to the Democrats in terms of their holding on to the White House come 2012.

BLS - 1945-1946

Employment Statistics (National) From BLS - 1945-1946

Employment Statistics (National) From BLS - 1946-1947

Employment Statistics (National) From BLS - 1947-1948

Employment Statistics (National) From BLS - 1945-1948

Employment Statistics (National) From BLS - 1945-1948

Employment Statistics (National) From BLS - 2007-2010

Employment Statistics (National) From BLS - 2007-2010

UPDATE: Hardball’s excellent discussion: Are the Democrats hanging on by a thread? And is an apparent strategy for the Demcorats likely to hurt the Democrats? The discussion includes Time’s Mark Halerpin

KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst
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