Midterm: The Elections of 1994 in Context

By Philip A. Klinkner | Go to book overview

In light of the across-the-board Republican gains in 1994, in the Senate and elsewhere, the elections lend themselves to the kind of partisan interpretation that lost most of its appeal during the recent decades of split results and electoral fragmentation driven by voters' weakening party loyalties. In 1994, in addition to the flawless reelection rate of Republican incumbents, the "disjunction" between House and Senate races dating back to the early 1970s ( Jacobson 1990a) disappeared in 1994, with the GOP controlling 53 percent of the seats of both chambers of Congress. Furthermore, 22 states held elections for senator and governor, and only 9 (41 percent) returned a split outcome; going into the election, 14 of these states elected governors and senators from different parties. Finally, the percentage of states with a split Senate delegation dropped to the lowest level since 1966.

The situation in 1994 was, to some extent, similar to the circumstances surrounding the 1980 election: "Whether or not it proves to have the makings of a realigning or critical election, 1980 certainly appeared to refute House Speaker Tip O'Neill's favorite aphorism that 'all politics is local.' The decisiveness of the results, the content of the campaign, the involvement of the national Republican party, all pointed to a national decision by voters that President Carter and his party had failed and that the Republicans--in the presidency and in Congress--deserved an opportunity to govern" ( Mann and Ornstein 1981: 50). Although Clinton could not be on the ballot in 1994, early readings of the "message" sent by the midterm outcome include a mix of "dissatisfaction with President Clinton, with liberalism, with the Democratic party, and with Washington in general" ( Apple 1994b). Analyst William Schneider ( 1994) put it more bluntly, "It was Bill Clinton, stupid. A massive anti-Clinton coalition came together and produced the revolution of Nov. 8" As in 1980, Republicans did have a blueprint for action; if implemented, it can radically change the current balance between local and federal government and deeply transform existing social and domestic policies. Whether 1994 will mark the beginning of a short-lived experiment or inaugurate a long-lasting political and partisan change depends, of course, on the congressional performance of the new Republican majority. The ability of House and Senate Republicans to agree on major initiatives, muster the necessary votes for them, and persuade skeptical and often confused voters of their soundness will be a key variable in the political equation of the 1996 elections.


NOTES
1.
These descriptions can be found in the post-election reports of the Washington Post National Weekly Edition, U.S. News and World Report, Time, USA Today, Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, and the American Enterprise. The last expression alludes to the voters' choice that turned out of office only Democratic incumbents.
2.
The slogan was popularized by GOP presidential hopeful and former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander.
3.
In the last 40 years, only four other times did a party successfully defend all its Senate seats; no Democratic seat was lost in 1958, and no Republican seat switched hands in 1960, 1966, and 1980. The election results put the Republican total at 52 seats, a gain of 8. Richard C. Shelby (D-Ala.) switched party affiliation the day after the election, and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (D-Colo.) did the same on March 3, 1995.

-45-

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Midterm: The Elections of 1994 in Context
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Transforming American Politics ii
  • Forthcoming Titles iii
  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1: The 1994 House Elections in Perspective 1
  • Notes 20
  • 2: Eight More in '94: The Republican Takeover of the Senate 21
  • Notes 45
  • 3: "Permanent Minority" No More: House Republicans in 1994 47
  • Notes 60
  • 4: Court and Country in American Politics: The Democratic Party and the 1994 Election 61
  • Notes 78
  • 5: Money in the 1994 Elections and Beyond 81
  • Conclusion 94
  • 6: The 1994 Electoral Aftershock: Dealignment Or Realignment in the South 99
  • Conclusion 110
  • 7: The Politics of Pragmatism: The Christian Right and the 1994 Elections 115
  • 8: In Search of the Angry White Male: Gender, Race, and Issues in the 1994 Elections 125
  • Notes 136
  • 9: Re-Exploring the Weak-Challenger Hypothesis: The 1994 Candidate Pools 137
  • Notes 153
  • 10: Innovative Midterm Elections 157
  • Notes 170
  • References 171
  • About the Book 183
  • About the Editor and Contributors 185
  • Index 189
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