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Flashback: How 1994 elections were influenced by the Whitewater "scandal"

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zulchzulu Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 02:19 PM
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Flashback: How 1994 elections were influenced by the Whitewater "scandal"
With the 2010 elections within sight, I was wondering about the political climate that was brewing in 1994 that caused the drastic Republican "revolution" in the fall of that year.

It was mentioned by someone on Meet The Press (forget the guy's name) where the healthcare reform attempts failed and the Whitewater "scandal" was drummed up by the Republicans and willingly compliant media channels to distract and paint the Clintons as a politically corrupt group hellbent on whatever demons might be oozing in the vapor.

Here is a fascinating account of the Whitewater "perception" on the 1994 election by James Zogby called "Whitewater Again: Impact on the 1994 Elections" written in March, 1994:

With the Whitewater controversy still growing in scope, President Clintons 1994 legislative and electoral agenda appears to be facing serious problems.

Initially, Whitewater was about nothing more than a failed Arkansas land deal in which the Clintons were investors. As I noted in last weeks column, Whitewater was initially a complicated affair, involving a possible conflict of interest and a question of unpaid taxes. But with the way White House staffers have (mis)handled the issue, it has grown to include questions of White House meddling in a federal investigation and charges that there is an attempted cover-up of Clintons wrong-doings. I also think the Democratic party has gotten the wake-up call well before what happened in 1994. Let's see who has the backbone to make Democrats look strong.

More info:

With the Senate has voting this week to hold hearings on Whitewater and with a procession of top Clinton aides being called before a Grand Jury, the Clinton Administration is seeing the minor Arkansas affair grow into a major national scandal that threatens the ability of the President to frame the national debate which is especially dangerous in this Congressional election year.


The acrimony that all this has produced seriously threatens the ability of the White House to moved its legislative agenda forward. In this charged atmosphere it is unlikely that the President can create the bipartisan coalition he needs to pass his programs.


There is a tragedy in all of this. Former Senator Barry Goldwater, a leading Republicans (because he was the partys 1964 Presidential nominee and the ideological leader who is credited with laying the ground for Ronald Reagans election in 1980), this week urged the Republicans to get off the Presidents back and said that needs of the country are greater than either the Republican or Democratic party.


First, the anti-incumbent mood which brought so many new faces to Washington in 1992 is still very strong. And while Ross Perots star has dimmed, the issues he raised and the anger he stirred against `those folks in Washington is still quite present.

The article is fairly interesting in how knowing what happened can be seen as well as much is off the mark.

So what happened in the 1994 elections?

One popular interpretation of the 1994 election is that the Democrats failed to mobilize their constituencies. The Republicans were much more successful at getting their supporters to vote. This poor turnout performance is at the root of the Democrats' defeat, the argument runs. It does not represent a shift in political opinion by the general public.

Some support for this argument is provided by data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census. According to these data, turnout was very low among voters with less than $15,000 in family income - a mere 27.1 percent - compared to 60.1 percent for those with $50,000 or more in family income. Moreover, the 27 percent figure for poor voters amounted to a drop of 7 percentage points from 1990. The 60 percent figure for affluent voters was a gain of one point. ;jsessionid=LdlRvnXx2mWgykqNJPKpxvMMJCvt7QGkG9gr8252TlhJYSmcXvhQ!-257122373!-1679437133?docId=5000319083

There's more:

Midway through his first term in office, Clinton's reelection prospects were dim, given the stunning victory of Republicans in the 1994 off-year elections. For the first time in forty years, both houses of Congress were controlled by Republican lawmakers. And almost everyone blamed Clinton. His campaign promise to reform the nation's health care system was soundly defeated. His controversial executive order lifting the ban against homosexuals in the military enraged conservatives and failed to generate significant public support. Clinton's work on behalf of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) split the Democrats, many of whom feared the loss of jobs to Mexico and Canada.

Additionally, a barrage of political and personal scandals plagued the Clinton administration in its first term. The most damaging issue surrounded charges that the Clintons had illegally profited from their involvement with a failed savings and loan that had dealings in Arkansas real estate on the Whitewater River. Charges swirled fast and furious, specifically linking the White House to a cover-up of the Whitewater affair and the suicide of Vincent Foster, a top White House aide and close friend of Hillary Clinton. Moreover, the administration was negatively affected by allegations of suspicious commodity dealings by the First Lady (she had turned a $1,000 investment in commodities into a $100,000 profit), and the rumored sexual escapades of President Clinton while governor of Arkansas (including allegations that he had sexually harassed an Arkansas state employee, Paula Corbin Jones).

So what does this all mean in regards to the political climate in 2010?

Well, there isn't a Whitewater "scandal" that implicates the Obamas in some shady scheme (however contrived). No staff suicides (as of this writing...), no bimbo eruptions, no scandals involving Michelle Obama...

But the possibly failed healthcare reform attempt and perception that the banking and stock market bailouts were wrong could compare with 1994's NAFTA and health care reform failure.

So I would recommend that Congress pass the Senate version with a Public Option and get Obama to sign it on Valentines Day. There will be months to fight off any Republican tirades and paint them as do-nothings. I would suggest Obama and the Democratic leadership look back at 1994 as well and not let it happen again.

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Davis_X_Machina Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 02:26 PM
Response to Original message
1. House Banking scandal...
....made more of a difference.
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zulchzulu Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 03:06 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. There were so many to choose from! n/t
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wyldwolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 03:22 PM
Response to Original message
3. The scariest factor of 1994 to me...
Edited on Mon Jan-25-10 03:23 PM by wyldwolf

In 1990, Pat Robertson laid out his key organizing principle in his book The Millennium:

"With the apathy that exists today, a well organized minority can influence the selection of candidates to an astonishing degree."

Robertson said to the Denver Post in 1992,

"We soon as possible to see a majority of the Republican Party in the hands of pro-family Christians..."

Robertson hired Ralph Reed as the Christian Coalition's political mastermind. To get their candidates elected Reed and Robertson taught them to use stealth: avoid publicity, stay out of debates, and work below the radar screen. Don't call attention to yourself. And then Christian Coalition campaigned on their behalf exclusively in fundamentalist, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.

While candidates avoided the limelight, Christian Coalition Family Values Voter Guides were distributed to participating churches. Church telephone directories were used for "get-out-the-vote" telephone banks.

1994: A Watershed Year

By election time in 1994 Christian Coalition had distributed 40 million copies of the "Family Values Voter's Guide" in more than 100,000 churches nationwide. 1994 was the year Republicans took control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. It was also the year that Republicans made a huge gain in State Legislatures.

The purpose of focusing on state legislative races was to enable Republicans to gerrymander Congressional Districts. To be sure, both parties have used the practice of gerrymandering to their advantage, but, in recent years, Republicans have elevated this practice to new heights.

Time Magazine, in May, 1995, called Ralph Reed "The Right Hand of God" and credited the Christian Coalition with giving the Republicans their victories. Out of forty-five new members in the U.S. House of Representatives and nine in the U.S. Senate in 1994, roughly half were Christian Coalition candidates.

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zulchzulu Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 03:47 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. True! It was actually the very high turnout of the Religious Reichists in 1994...
...that caused the election shift.

We have to remember that the World Wide Web was barely going with the clunky Mosaic browser on dial-up until Netscape Navigator came along...

Now we have Twitter.


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zulchzulu Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 09:16 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. The Teabaggers (in the Palin camp) have turned against the GOP
Perhaps a little triangulation on the Religious Right and Teabaggers toward the GOP/RNC crowd could have them shoot at each other and split the vote.

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