Shock Waves

By Lochhead, Carolyn | Reason, January 1995 | Go to article overview

Shock Waves

Lochhead, Carolyn, Reason

Hope for limited-government hegemony on Capitol Hill.

IT IS HARDLY POSSIBLE TO OVERESTImate the magnitude of the political earthquake that shook Washington on November 8. The breathtaking Republican sweep of the House, the Senate, and the governorships of the nation's most populous states left Capitol Hill in shock and disarray, ripping through the comfortable Democratic establishment that has reigned virtually unchecked for most of the postwar era.

To a public long riveted on presidential contests, the raw power of the congressional majority is easily overlooked. Personified in one leader, the presidency seems more potent than the warring, shifting factions that are a legislature.

But the presidency is weak by design. It is Congress that writes the laws and spends the money. The president proposes. Congress acts.

Congress has had plenty of help from presidents, Democrat and Republican alike. But it is the Democratic majority in Congress that is most responsible for the creation and expansion of the modern welfare state and all its accoutrements: the crushing tax burden, the erosion of economic and personal freedom, the smothering bureaucracy, the intrusive and mindless regulation of private activity, and the entitlement dependency that saps our common community.

For the postwar generations, which include nearly everyone alive today, Democratic hegemony has been taken for granted--by the press, the public, and by both parties. The day after the election, many on both sides of the aisle were finding the new reality difficult to fathom. Nobody had experienced it for 40 years.

Not one GOP incumbent fell, even as the most revered of liberal icons toppled. Some were defeated, including House Speaker Tom Foley, Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, and Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks. Others were pitched from their Hill thrones into minority ignominy. Grand Inquisitors like John Dingell and Henry Waxman can no longer terrorize from their committee chairmanships. Potentates who crafted every modern federal law and shaped every federal program--from welfare, to labor, to the environment, to commerce, to everything--have been stripped of the power they have wielded so freely for decades.

Democrats will lose as well the thousands of professional aides who have made careers of designing federal law and making the mischief that the rest of the country has had to cope with. The Republican sweep will decimate the institutional foundation on which the Democratic agenda rests.

"It's unfathomable," said one House Democratic aide. With Speaker-in-waiting Newt Gingrich promising to cut congressional staff by a third, and with the new GOP majority controlling the bulk of the remainder, some three quarters of the Democratic positions could be wiped out--more if committees are disbanded or consolidated. "It hasn't sunk in yet," the aide said. "People can't even comprehend it. It's everyone," from senior committee counsel to the patronage employees who send the Capitol' s elevators up and down. (The Hill has automatic elevators and people to press the buttons.)

"It's Joy in Mudville as thousands of staffers are thrown out on the street," huffed one Democratic press secretary, arguing that it would be foolish to fire everyone. "Do you want 'entrenched' airline pilots or do you want somebody brand frigging new?"

Somebody brand frigging new, one hopes, to pilot American democracy out of its headlong drive toward socialism. Democrats will scatter to the hinterlands. The White House cannot accommodate the thousands who must go, and the lobbying firms are bracing for a regime where Democratic contacts trade at a deep discount.

Now the levers of power can be moved by those who might pay more respect to markets and be more suspicious of government's ability to right every wrong and solve every ill.

WHETHER REPUBLICANS HAVE THE courage to roll back government is the $1. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Shock Waves


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.