Democratic Losses in 1994: The Quarterly Explanation

Like many posts on this blog, this one was also a post on a political message board.  Interestingly, the mods of the board actually removed the entire thread.  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to why.  But regardless, just so you know, I was responding to yet another far lefty claiming everyone caused the massive Democratic losses in 1994 accept the ones who actually did – the far left of the party.

You know, I don’t believe a far lefty can earn his stripes until he tries to make the argument that the Democrat’s losses in 1994 were because of the DLC, Bill Clinton, or in this case “Bill Clinton’s sell-out agenda.” It must be in chapter 1 of their playbook. Some of them have to know it is a complete bogus argument, yet it certainly serves to motivate the two percenters against “the man!”

Every three months, the tired subject gets brought up again. I can just imagine the person who does it smiling, patting themselves on the back, and saying, Gotcha! Problem is, we’ve heard it all before and have debunked it before.

The poster linked to above proudly links to a Wikipedia article to prove that the Congressional losses did, indeed, happen (as thought we’d forgotten.) But If you’re into using Wiki. Check out the entry for “Rubber Gate” to see one of the reasons it did, indeed, happen.

The House banking scandal broke in early 1992 when it was revealed that the United States House of Representatives allowed members to overdraft their House checking accounts, but were not being penalized by the House Bank.

This is also sometimes known as Rubbergate (from “rubber” bounced checks and Watergate)… 77 Representatives resigned or did not run for reelection as a result of the scandal… In the early days of the scandal, when the media began reporting on the loose practices, Republican Minority Whip Newt Gingrich, along with 7 freshman Republicans referred to as the Gang of Seven or “The Young Turks,” made the strategic decision to publicize the scandal in an attempt to sweep lawbreaking congressmen, most of them Democrats, out of power…

Three things were at play in 1994 that caused the losses:

1. The Democratic party of the 70s and 80s and grown corrupt.
2. Americans were increasingly distrustful of the Government in general, and, most importantly,
3. The Democratic party had moved left out of the mainstream and became the party of special interests.

The House Banking Scandal is a prime example of the corruption that was running rampant in Washington in the 70s and 80s, culminating with the Democrat’s losses in 1994.

An article in the Boston Globe took up the issue of Democratic losses a week before the last presidential election. When a party holds power for too long, Adrian Wooldridge, reporter for The Economist, said in the article, “it grows fat and happy, it also grows corrupt.” The classic example, he pointed out, is the Democratic Party of the 1970s and `80s, which, spoiled by generations of congressional power, “became a party of insiders and deal makers without any sense of the principles they stood for and eventually collapsed” when they were turned out in 1994.

Philip A. Klinkner, author of “Court and Country in American Politics: The Democratic Party and the 1994 Election,” presents a very interesting and expansive theory concerning the major Democratic losses in 1994 that Wooldridge touched on. Klinkner explains the circumstances surrounding the 1992 election provided ample evidence of a radically changed political environment. Several observers have commented on the growing volatility of the electorate since the late 1980s (Greider 1992; Phillips 1990, 1993, and 1994; Germond and Witcover 1993; Greenberg 1995). By most accounts, this phenomenon reached a new high in 1992, as voters expressed growing disgust with the federal government, elected officials, special interests, and politics in general, and a greater willingness to support outsider candidacies, even such diverse figures as Jerry Brown, Pat Buchanan, and Ross Perot.

By the early 1990s, distrust of the government, especially the entrenched power (that would be the Democrats) was evident among much of the public. In 1964, over 70 percent of the public said that they could trust Washington to do what was right most or all of the time; by early 1994, only 19 percent expressed similar confidence (Phillips 1994: 7). In 1964, when asked, “Would you say the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves or that it is run for the benefit of all people,” nearly 40 percent more people agreed with the latter than with the former. In 1992 that sentiment had reversed itself, with 60 percent more people believing that the government was run for the benefit of special interests than those who believed it was run for the benefit of all. (Stanley and Niemi: 169).

As the party of governmental activism, the Democrats were bound to suffer from the rise of popular cynicism toward government. At the same time that Bill Clinton was winning the White House, voters preferred having “government cost less in taxes but provide fewer services” to having “government provide more services but cost more in taxes” by 54 to 38 percent (Milkis and Nelson 1994: 395).

The more common explanation for the 1994 Republican Revolution, though, is that liberal Democratic ideals — or at least the way they were presented — no longer resonated with the majority of Americans. According to Ruy Teixeira, a fellow at the Center for American Progress and at the Century Foundation, the danger for the dominant party isn’t ideological bankruptcy but ideological drift. “Certainly you can make the argument that, if a party’s far enough away from the mainstream, if they don’t lose they don’t get enough impetus to correct their behavior.”

This was no better exemplified than by Bill Clinton’s healthcare plan, which support for collapsed, which set back his presidency and figured in the Democrats’ loss of control of the House of Representatives in 1994. They’ve never recovered from the loss.

Soon after Clinton took office in 1993, he promised health insurance for millions of Americans who had no coverage. But before long, the plan was a shambles, derailed by concerns that it would cost too much and create a huge new bureaucracy. “People have not gotten over 1994 yet,” Karen Pollitz, the project director for the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, said of the Clinton plan. “President Clinton tried to fix everything at once. It was not well received. And not only that — the Democrats got turned out at the next election.”

Another example was the assault weapons ban – a piece of legislation passed by the Democrats against the advice of many.  Some in Washington even warned that it could cost the Democrats the House in 1994.

Now, just for the record, I’m a supporter of both universal healthcare of some type and keeping assault weapons off the streets.  But just as a matter of fact, those are two issues thought by the public to be left/liberal issues

So, technically speaking, Clinton’s attempt to enact a left-liberal policy, along with the already existing dustrust and corruption, partially contributed to the Democrat’s downfall in 1994. A two decade long move to the left by the Democratic party – capped off by the failed healthcare plan – brought us down, not your assumption that “Democrats were so disallusioned by Clintons sell-out agenda that they didn’t bother to campaign or get out and vote.” What you call Clinton’s “sell out agenda” did not occur until AFTER 1994.  But it was Clinton’s centrist/moderate policies, what you call his “sell out agenda” that got him re-elected in 1996 and gave the Democrats gains in the House in 1998.

But I’ll show you how easy it is to use simpleton reasoning to arrive at the conclusion you want.

In 1938, Republicans gained 81 House seats running against Franklin Roosevelt. Again In the mid-term election of 1942, the Democrats lost 44 seats in the House of Representatives.

To use your exact words, I’d argue it was because Democrats were so disallusioned by (FDR’s) sell-out agenda that they didn’t bother to campaign or get out and vote.

George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis suffered huge defeats in their 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988 presidential runs.

To use your exact words, I’d argue it was because Democrats were so disallusioned by (their) sell-out agendas that they didn’t bother to campaign or get out and vote.

The Republicans won control of the Senate in 1981 and retained it for six years.

To use your exact words, I’d argue it was because Democrats were so disallusioned by (their) sell-out agendas that they didn’t bother to campaign or get out and vote.


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