Contrary to the popular revisionist myth being perpetrated by the liberal media, it was not the stoppage of government that cost the Republicans in 1996, but their willingness to restart it on terms dictated by Bill Clinton and the Democrats.
In broad daylight, after having won a landslide victory last November, congressional Republicans are engineering the most embarrassing surrender since Napoleon at Waterloo. And the greatest outrage of it is that such a debacle need not ever take place. To this day, the GOP remains in a prime position to devastate its Democrat opposition and strike a fatal blow to the liberal juggernaut that threatens financial ruin for this country. But, having accepted the standard media diatribe that engaging in such a contest might be politically costly, Republican leaders are instead opting to backtrack and capitulate.
The issue at stake is the ongoing budget battle, which Democrats dropped on the GOP in anticipation of the massive turnover of seats to the right in the November 2010 mid-term elections. Rather than passing a budget of their own, which would have made their outrageous spending spree a front-page campaign topic on the eve of the election, they punted, and thereby left the nation’s treasury in ruins, while forcing the Republicans to pick up the pieces.
Ironically, incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R.-OH) could conceivably have accomplished just that, being in a prime position to make real cuts in the bloated and wasteful spending of the Democrats, while positioning himself and his party for even bigger gains in 2012. Yet the Democrats expected that he would not rise to this occasion, but would instead acquiesce in hopes of circumventing a “government shutdown” and avoiding the inevitable media attacks that would surely follow. At this point it appears that the Democrats’ gamble may well pay off.
Beltway Republicans live in acute fear of a government shutdown, and have bought into the deception that is relentlessly repeated regarding the infamous budget impasse that occurred in the fall of 1995. Shrouded in myth and misrepresentation, it is regularly wielded like a mace to bludgeon those cowering GOP Senators and Representatives. As a result, they have become paralyzed by the dread of any recurrence, even to the point of total capitulation on budgetary issues. It is an appalling situation indeed, and only proves the old axiom that a big lie, if repeated often enough, will eventually be believed.
In the first place, the 1995 government shutdown was not initiated by congressional Republicans, then under the leadership of Newt Gingrich in the House, and Bob Dole in the Senate. Rather, it was Bill Clinton’s veto of the budget they passed in both houses, and submitted to him, that brought Washington to its much trumpeted and hysterically overplayed “standstill.” The initial stalemate lasted a mere five days, from November 14 to November 19, 1995, before the Congress passed another continuing resolution budgetary band-aid.
With Clinton completely unwilling to rein in social spending, the situation came to a head again in December lasting this time for nearly three weeks. In early January of 1996, Bob Dole waved the white flag, offering his infamous “Enough is enough!” capitulation.
Since that time, we have been told that the entire budget battle was, from the beginning, a public-relations fiasco for the Republicans, contributing to their losses in the 1996 elections and nullifying any momentum they had previously acquired. Consequently, Republicans have not only been unwilling to seriously confront budget problems, they have even gone so far as to engage in their own indefensible spending binges. But theirs has been an unnecessary political and philosophical collapse.
Prior to Dole’s total capitulation, Bill Clinton’s popularity was plummeting. In fact, according to then Representative Joe Scarborough of Florida, Clinton’s job approval had reached its absolute lowest point at the precise time of the GOP surrender. Subsequent to that however, his image rebounded while that of Dole and Gingrich hit the skids. In short, it was not the stoppage of government that cost the Republicans, but their willingness to restart it on terms dictated by Clinton and the Democrats.
Likewise, the inconsequential Republican congressional losses in the following year’s elections were in no way a reflection of lingering public anger over the brief pause of government “services” during the previous year. A much more plausible explanation would be simply that the 1996 Republican presidential candidate was none other than Bob Dole, who was also the chief architect of his party’s budgetary defeat. Losing to Clinton by a significant margin, the negative effect of his political “coat tails” took its toll on a handful of close races for members of his party in the House.
It is ludicrous to suggest that the situation represented a major “win” for Clinton. He did indeed remain in office, but accomplished this with less than fifty percent of one of the lowest voter turnouts in decades. In other words, while he and his leftist agenda were hardly popular with the American people, Bob Dole’s weakness and willingness to abandon principle found even less favor on Mainstreet.
It is a lesson that Speaker Boehner and the other Beltway Republicans would do well to learn. The nation’s finances are in a meltdown, with deficits in the hundreds of billions accumulating with each passing month. No greater opportunity has existed in nearly two decades for true conservatives to contrast themselves against this criminal abuse of taxpayer dollars. Yet they opt to make deals with the Democrats, while loudly trumpeting their meager spending “cuts” as the salvation of America.
“We the people” are ready to take on those in Washington who squander the nation’s prosperity in service to special interests that feed at the public trough. The results of last fall’s elections cannot be interpreted in any other way. And if the current crop of “Republicans” chooses to ignore the message, they can likewise be replaced in the next cycle.
Christopher G. Adamo is a resident of southeastern Wyoming and has been involved in state and local politics for many years. He writes for several prominent conservative websites, as has written for regional and national magazines. His contact information and article archives can be found at www.chrisadamo.com, and he can be followed on Twitter @CGAdamo.