Been there, done that. An angry electorate reacts against a liberal president, so Congress vaults over the castle gate to establish itself as America's new frontline leadership. We're seeing this phenomenon again.
Over the past few days, I've heard many a pundit and new member of the GOP majority in the House say that this Congress won't repeat "the failures" of the 1994 GOP revolution and its class of 1995. They say that new Speaker John Boehner won't "operate" as ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich did. The new members won't be "co-opted," as were those who took the House for the first time since the 1950s with the 1994 Contract With America.
This group will "get more done."
As one who had a front-row seat during the national political happenings of the '90s, allow me this: The writers and speakers of this glib historical revisionism need to have their memories jogged a bit.
Make no mistake. I'm thrilled with the way the new speaker is handling his job as the head of the new "House-hold." And I'm excited to witness the resolve for genuine change in Washington that the GOP freshman class is putting on display.
It's refreshing, and the more so when paired up against the sight of "Madame Speaker," Nancy Pelosi, leaving office with her "no regrets" rhetoric of praise and homage for the tone-deaf world of the D.C. liberal elite.
But for those who would suggest that in two years the new GOP majority will outperform the "Republican Revolution" of the mid-'90s, allow me to supply a brief recollection — the true story of what Newt Gingrich and the Republicans accomplished in that era.
Having run on their "Contract With America," the Republican members back then showed that they meant business. For starters, they did so by the simple act of being sworn in as the first GOP majority in decades. Then they stopped in its tracks the very thing that the new Republican caucus will try to reverse — universal healthcare. It had been first on President Bill Clinton's "to do" list. But the Gang of Gingrich nixed Clinton's version of "Obamacare."
The 1995 Republican majority swiftly went to work on other issues. Many of the pieces of legislation they passed died in the Senate, or by Clinton's veto pen. Even so, major concepts that are the foundation of the current tea party movement became actual legitimate pieces of legislation that were not only introduced in the House, but passed by it — including things like cutting the size of government, reducing tax rates, and balancing the budget.
As I've read and listened to commentary from the various journalists and politicos this week, there has been a consistently wrong interpretation of the effectiveness of both Newt Gingrich as the leader of the House and of his rank-and-file GOP "troops" in that chamber.
I suspect a big reason why is that these media experts sometimes seem to want to assign to a politician or a political movement a pat image, and for the inexcusable reason that these pundits either don't want to tell the real story or they just don't know it.
Not only did the Republicans who ran on the "Contract With America" keep their word by introducing and passing most components of the contract. (Term limits failed because it required a two-thirds majority to pass.) They also took uncompromising stands against a shrewd Bill Clinton.
According to CBS News — of all sources — when Gingrich left Congress as speaker, the federal government managed to accomplish something it had not done in 28 fiscal years: It ran a budget surplus instead of a deficit. Does any conservative consider that a "failure"?
Beyond that, the GOP majority in just four years managed to cut the capital gains rate and forced Clinton to sign off on meaningful welfare reform.
I think you can see why I disagree with the media mantra that says the last GOP-led revolution was a failure. If it was, then give us all a second helping. And quick.
Matt Towery is author of the new book, "Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency." He heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.
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