The Republican Revolution 10 Years Later: Smaller Government or Business as Usual?

The Republican Revolution 10 Years Later: Smaller Government or Business as Usual?

The Republican Revolution 10 Years Later: Smaller Government or Business as Usual?

The Republican Revolution 10 Years Later: Smaller Government or Business as Usual?

Synopsis

To mark the 10th anniversary, 18 experts--including two key leaders of the Republican revolution, Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey--rexamine the successes and failures of the Republican revolution.

Excerpt

Chris Edwards and John Samples

[Washington] is like a sponge. It absorbs waves of change,
and it slows them down, and it softens them, and then one
morning they cease to exist.
—Newt Gingrich, November 14, 1994.

The congressional elections of 1994 produced stunning results. For the first time in 40 years, the Republicans attained a majority in the House of Representatives. They gained 54 House seats, the largest party swing since 1948. the Republicans also grabbed control of the Senate by gaining eight seats and added a ninth when Richard Shelby of Alabama switched parties. Although the gop had held the upper hand in presidential elections for years, the congressional sweep was a real breakthrough for the party.

Major changes in domestic and foreign policies seemed likely with the dramatic end to Democratic control of Congress. Recognizing the challenge represented by the resurgent Republicans, President Bill Clinton declared in his 1996 State of the Union address that the “era of big government is over.”

The 1994 elections were unusual in other ways. House elections often turn on local issues and concerns. But in 1994 the House Republicans successfully nationalized the election by making the entrenched federal establishment a key issue. Polls showed rising dissatisfaction with the government, particularly Congress, as a result of recent scandals. Gallup found that 60 percent of the public disapproved of Congress’s performance in 1994, and those numbers fell to under 40 percent by 1998. Because the Democrats controlled both Congress and the White House in 1994, running against Washington was the same as running against the Democrats.

Contract with America

The Contract with America, which was signed by virtually all House Republican candidates, was a key element of the 1994 campaign. It also gave the Republicans a clear policy agenda when they . . .

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