The rout of the Democrats in the 1994 midterm elections was the
most sweeping defeat at the congressional and gubernatorial levels
that Democrats have suffered in the last half century. Almost every
commentator sees it as a repudiation of the leadership of the
Clinton White House. The president himself sees the election in
Since World War II, the average number of congressional seats
lost at midterm by the party holding the presidency has been 26.
This year the Democrats lost 52 seats in the House and nine in the
Senate, including the switch of incumbent Alabama Sen. Richard C.
Shelby from Democrat to Republican.
The Republicans now have a controlling majority in Congress,
and many of them are the radical right-wing type characterized by
the next House speaker, Newt Gingrich of Georgia. The combative
Gingrich is a hard-core radical who attacks his political opponents
with a slashing, no-holds-barred strategy.
True to form, Gingrich was in full battle cry the day after the
election, hurling emotional terms that especially caught my
attention because he used my name to underscore what he most
opposes in American politics and in Bill Clinton. "Counterculture
McGoverniks," he called the president and Mrs. Clinton, while
describing the White House as a circle of "left-wing elitists."
I fully welcome the scorn of Gingrich. I have nothing but
disdain toward this unscrupulous demagogue.
But it is worth taking a look at his charges.
I see myself not as a radical "counterculture" politician.
Rather, I am a moderate, mainstream American liberal, who also
embraces elements of conservatism. My four political models are
Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin
Roosevelt. I regard all four of these great presidents as liberals
who have also borrowed from the conservative tradition, as I have
in the past.
I do not denigrate conservatism; indeed, my parents lived and
died as politically conservative Republicans and Wesleyan Methodist
religious fundamentalists. I have always honored my parents and
their political and religious views.
As a student and teacher of U.S. history, I am steeped in the
values of American culture and political ideals. I worked my way
through school during the Great Depression while growing up in
South Dakota. I volunteered for combat as a bomber pilot in World
War II, and I flew 35 missions against the Nazis - winning the
Distinguished Flying Cross. I then earned a Ph.D. in American
history at Northwestern University under the GI Bill and became a
college professor before being elected to Congress. …