Looking Backward: The Republican Revolution

Looking Backward: The Republican Revolution

REPORTER: What happened to the Re- publican revolution of the late 1990s?

DISSENT: First we should clarify what we mean by the Republican revolution. From 1994 to 2000 Republicans made massive cuts in government spending, transferred power from the federal government to the states, and eviscerated the safety net. These were radical changes. But the curious fact is their programs were never that popular.

REPORTER: How could they have made these fundamental changes if their programs were not popular?

DISSENT: It was a combination of the collapse of liberalism and a short period of extraordinary political discipline on the part of the Republican party.

REPORTER: How do you explain the 1994 mid-term elections and Newt Gingrich’s defeat of Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential election?

DISSENT: Republicans took control of the Congress in 1994 for the same reason that Clinton was elected in 1992. People were dissatisfied and they were voting for change. In 1994 Republicans barely won more than 50 percent of the popular vote for Congress. There was not a massive change in consciousness in the mid-1990s toward conservatism.