The House, as we know, is a more polarized place. That's been especially true since 1978, when Newt Gingrich was elected and began ratcheting up the GOP's partisanship in order to create a clearer contrast with the majority Democrats. Gingrich's strategy worked -- and not just in the House.If he's saying that Newt succeeded in making Congress a nastier place, then he's correct. If, however, he's saying that Newt's strategy was responsible for GOP gains, then I disagree. Before and after 1994, I think there's little if any evidence that polarization helped Republicans do better in the House than they otherwise would have done, and I believe a case can be made that a different House Republican Conference, one less intent on throwing bombs, might well have fared better in several pre-1994 elections. As for 1994, the election that made Newt Gingrich's reputation, I've never seen anything to convince me that he did anything other than doing a great job of claiming credit. Now, mostly that's because there's not much that any House Minority Whip can do. But at any rate, to the extent individual actions were responsible beyond the structural reasons that Republicans did well in Clinton's first midterm, credit for the 1994 landslide should correctly be given first to Bill Clinton's early disarray in the White House, and second to Bob Dole's successful use of Senate rules to obstruct much of the Clinton program, leaving Clinton with a reputation for failure by late 1994. At best, Gingrich was responsible for recruiting some candidates, although I've never seen more than anecdotal evidence that his efforts were really responsible.
Monday, September 20, 2010
I'm not sure what Ezra Klein meant today when he said (my emphasis added)