The results of the 1994 United States midterm election shocked the political system in the United States. The power in the House of Representatives had not reverted from Democratic dominance since 1952.1 As the clear winners of the 1994 elections, the Republican Party, had lofty goals after winning back the control of the legislative branch after 40 years. As the new majority party, the Republicans used this victory as a platform to reinforce their “Contract with America” ideology.2 Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said a day after the election that the Republican success was based on “voters embracing Republican ideas of smaller governments, lower taxes and more individual freedom and personal responsibility.”3 During the election, the Republicans preached trickledown economics and that large government inhibited economic growth and promised to follow through after their first “Hundred Days in office.”4 Yet, how did Republicans convince Americans after 40 years of Democratic dominance in politics to switch sides. The strategy to win the 1994 elections spawned from the new face of the Republican Campaign. Promoted to House Minority Whip in 1989, Newt Gingrich started his work to reshape the power structure of government.5 The essential sustenance of Republican Campaigns still remained the same since Ronald Regan. Congressman Gingrich did not formally change the Republican message but streamlined it. Gingrich unified National and Local Republican messaging to more effectively win over the voters in 1994. Gingrich’s 1994 campaign represented a new active model for campaign strategy. Many American’s had an unfavorable view of incumbents and saw the government as corrupt. Gingrich only had to tie the Democratic brand to incumbent corruption to disrupt the balance of power.6 Bill Clinton admitted after the election that Americans viewed the party in power as responsible for irresponsible governance. He said after the election “that first, the public was dismayed at Washington business as usual, from lobbying to campaign spending to partisanship, and was saying, ‘Democrats are in charge -- we're holding you responsible, and we hope you hear this, Mr. President.’"7 The next strategic step relied on Gingrich convincing voters that the size of Government created the problems with corruption and the economic downturn. He created a ten step plan to fix government policy called the “Contract with America.” This “Contract” laid out conservative ideas and policies to the American public that Gingrich claimed would fix the system they did not trust.8 The final important step to his plan to reclaim the House relied on realigning the South from Democrats. This placed a high value on escalating a war on crime and placing blame on Democrats for promulgating such a lackadaisical policy on crime.9 The carefully created language helped place racial politics back into campaigns. Gingrich promoted stories of African American crime to persuade southern white social conservatives to switch parties.10 Republicans would not stand for the Democrats whimsical approach to crime. Rather, the Republican message promised to be harsh on criminals who often had a black face in public speeches and campaign ads.11 Gingrich’s and the Republican’s use of new campaign methods and national messaging, including anti-incumbency, anti-big government, and the use of coded language to put race in the spot light, helped secure Republican control in the United States Congress. Anti-Incumbency
The Republicans needed a strategy to convince voters to come on board with the Republican “Contract with America.” To this end, Republicans focused on the government corruption that spawned from the past years of control by the Democrats. Americans saw government as unethical and subject to special interest groups. Gallup polls proved that this Congress had the lowest approval rating since they started asking with a measly 18...
Cited: Secondary Sources
Carter, Dan T. From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution, 1963-1994
Critchlow, Donald. The Conservative Ascendancy: HHow the Republican Right Rose to Power in Modern America. 2nd ed. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011.
Gillon, Steven M. The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry that Defined a Generation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
McSweeney, Dean. The Republican Takeover of Congress. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan Press ;, 1998.
Clymer, Adam. "The 1994 Elections: Congress the Overview." New York Times. (Nov, 9 1994): n. page. Print.
Richter, Paul. "Dole Eager to Downplay GOP 's Performance in Congress." Los Angeles Time. (1994): n. page. Print.
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