Democrats: Still in the Dark

by | Dec 10, 2002

Last month, we saw how the American people reacted to George W. Bush’s first two years in the White House. “Republicans defied history by expanding their House majority in yesterday’s midterm elections,” reported The Washington Post on the morning after. “Combined with the Republican takeover of the Senate, the achievement will enhance President Bush’s efforts […]

Last month, we saw how the American people reacted to George W. Bush’s first two years in the White House. “Republicans defied history by expanding their House majority in yesterday’s midterm elections,” reported The Washington Post on the morning after. “Combined with the Republican takeover of the Senate, the achievement will enhance President Bush’s efforts to translate his legislative priorities into law.”

We saw, too, on the night of Tuesday, November 8, 1994, how the American people reacted to Bill Clinton’s first two years in the Oval Office. Republicans gained a net pickup of 52 House seats and nine Senate seats, including the party switch of Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby the day after the election. Not since 1953, back when Eisenhower was president and Patti Page hit the top of the charts with “Doggie in the Window,” had the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.

Boston Globe reporter David Shribman won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the 1994 midterm elections. Here’s his report: “Never in modern American history has Washington seen a repudiation quite like this. Repudiated were four decades of Democratic rule in the House, a sitting president who himself had won office as an apostle of change, a political and social philosophy that has dominated American life and its national legislature for nearly two-thirds of a century, and scores of individual lawmakers who only a year or two ago thought they had lifetime tenure on Capitol Hill. Not a single Republican incumbent governor or member of Congress was defeated Tuesday.”

This vast repudiation of Clinton and the Democratic Party was rooted in anger, wrote Shribman, and fear: “The American people spoke without ambiguity, venting their rage, frustration, impatience and fears. They were so angry that they would, as was said of tempestuous baseball great Ty Cobb, climb a mountain to punch an echo. They took their fury out on the Democrats and, in the process, ended an era and altered the political landscape of country and capital.”

The American people had seen the liberal Left call them “selfish” and “ignorant.” They had seen the vision of a self-anointed elite, a world in which a narcissistic president thought the job was all about him, a First Lady was calling for jail terms for any patient or physician who dared to operate outside her Rube Goldberg guidelines, and a kid couldn’t open a lemonade stand without getting permission from five different government agencies, paying $335 in fees and licenses, complying with dozens of building ordinances and carrying $500,000 in liability insurance.

Rather than punch an echo, the American people, exceptionally energized, delivered a body blow to the central planners. Shribman described the instant effect: “A whole way of life that had developed in the Democrats’ four decades of dominance in the House — a set of assumptions about power and comportment — suddenly was rendered irrelevant. Never before had one party ruled the House for so long, and, in an instant, the whole architecture of life in Washington was in a shambles.”

ABC’s Ted Koppel, reporting from Washington, provided a next-day analysis: “Bravado is one thing, but when you’re waist high in alligators, there’s not much point in pretending that this is what you’ve been planning all along. The Clinton administration today acknowledged what everyone but members of the OJ Simpson jury must know by now: the United States was swept yesterday by the equivalent of a bloodless revolution.”

This time around, again in shambles, the current Democratic Party seems to not know what hit them. “I didn’t see it coming,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle on Wednesday morning. “I’ve been in this job for a long time, but this is the worst night I have had. What happened was a surprise.”

Asked what went wrong, Daschle drew a blank: “I can’t think of anything we would have done differently. I wouldn’t change anything. We had wonderful candidates, good resources. It just wasn’t our night.”

It’s not my job to help Tom Daschle, but let me offer a few hints about what went wrong.

First, Tom, learn how to run a funeral. Don’t use the death of a politician to get a free 3

Ralph R. Reiland is the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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