Friday, November 4, 2016
November 4, 2016: ElectionStudying: 1994
[For this last week before the most painful, frustrating, and potentially disastrous election season in my lifetime—and perhaps American history—concludes, I’ll AmericanStudy the histories, stories, and stakes of five prior exemplary elections. Would love to hear your ElectionStudying thoughts—or your recipes for staying sane for one more week—in comments!]
On three ways—beyond the most obvious, the rise of Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America—that the “Republican Revolution” of the 1994 midterm elections foreshadowed 21st century American politics and society:
1) Oliver North: True, former Reagan aide and Iran Contra figure North lost his Virginia Senate bid (to incumbent Charles Robb). But it’s far from a coincidence that North has gone on to become a Fox News star—every aspect of his campaign, from his emphasis on his born-again Christianity to his unrelenting attack ads on Robb, has become integral to the 21st century right-wing media world of which he’s now a part.
2) Bill Frist: One of the most surprising 1994 victors was Frist, a heart surgeon with no prior political experience who defeated three-term incumbent Tennessee Senator Jim Sasser. One of 1994’s most lasting influences (never more so than in this season of Trump) has been the value placed on “outsiders,” not just to Washington but to the political realm itself; and no candidate fit that mold better than Frist, who would go on to become the ultimate insider as Senate Majority Leader.
3) Rick Santorum: Among the many GOP triumphs in 1994, relatively little attention was paid to Pennsylvania Congressman Rick Santorum’s victory over incumbent Senator Harris Wofford (in part because Wofford had been appointed after John Heinz’s tragic 1991 death, so was far from an established incumbent). Yet Santorum’s victory was hugely significant, and not only because he has gone on to be a perennial presidential candidate. It marked the growing presence and power of Christian Conservatives, a trend that would culminate in the election and presidency of George W. Bush six years later.
Special post this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Thoughts on this or any prior election?
PPS. When I first published this post, back in November 2014, the great blog Lawyers, Guns & Money shared the post and engendered some excellent follow up analyses.