Let's Throw a Tantrum Tomorrow!
We're overdue for an electoral "temper tantrum"
Election night 1994: The Tantrum!
I had just returned to St. Louis after nine years in the Navy. I voted in person for the first time since Ronald Reagan’s re-election a decade earlier. The house we were renting from my aunt had just reached the point of livability, with boxes and crates gone and furniture where it belonged.
My nephew came over about 9:00 p.m. to watch the returns, drink scotch, and smoke cigars. (Don Diego Lonsdales.) The evening was spectacular.
About midnight or after, I crept up to my office on the second floor to write a column entitled Runnymede Revisited. It drew parallels between King John and Bill Clinton and contained a long excerpt from Winston Churchill’s breathtaking description of the signing of the Magna Carta in A History of the English-speaking Peoples.
On a Monday morning in June, between Staines and Windsor, the barons and Churchmen began to collect on the great meadow at Runnymede. A small cavalcade appeared from the direction of Windsor. Gradually men made out the faces of the King, the Papal Legate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and several bishops. They dismounted without ceremony. Someone, probably the Archbishop, stated briefly the terms that were suggested. The King declared at once that he agreed. He said the details should be arranged immediately in his chancery. The original “Articles of the Barons” on which Magna Carta is based exist to day in the British Museum. They were sealed in a quiet, short scene, which has become one of the most famous in our history, on June 15, 1215. Afterwards the King returned to Windsor. Four days later, probably, the Charter itself was engrossed. In future ages it was to be used as the foundation of principles and systems of government of which neither King John nor his nobles dreamed.1
Prior to the Republican sweep in 1994, the House of Representatives had been in Democrat control since early in the Eisenhower administration. The “settled science” throughout the 1970s and 1980s was that the House would be in Democrat hands forever, but Newt Gingrich never accepted that supposed inevitability. He recognized that, as long as one house of Congress was the private property of Democrats, Republican presidents would never have a chance to make needed reforms. So, he undertook a 14-year mission to win the House.
America’s Last, Great Temper Tantrum
The late Peter Jennings of ABC News described that election as a “temper tantrum” by voters. Jennings was furious, and justifiably so. Peter Jennings understood what Newt knew: so long as Democrats owned the House, Republican presidents would have to negotiate everything. With the House in play, Republicans can roll back the very tools Democrats had used for decades to keep voters on the Democrat plantation.
And look what happened. The Democrat Bill Clinton became a champion of welfare reform. House rules changed. An agenda of 10 reforms was voted up or down within 100 days of the new Republican Congress. In fact, Clinton moved so far to the right following that election, he easily beat the establishment Bob Dole to win re-election in 1996.
Gingrich and the Republicans stopped Clinton’s agenda cold and allowed the decades-long economic surge, started by the Reagan Revolution, to continue until the final months of George W. Bush’s presidency.
Which brings us to the even of the 2022 election—a very different set of circumstances. In 1994, Americans threw a fit because Clinton’s “HillaryCare” and other initiatives threatened to derail a 10-year long economic up cycle. Our gripes about Clinton were philosophical more than practical. We did not want to return to the failed policies of Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. We wanted the Reagan Revolution to continue with term limits, a balanced budget amendment, and reduced regulation. Twenty-eight years ago, the American electorate could still see the consequences of proposed ideas—a skill we seem to have lost in the intervening decades.
Tuesday’s election will be far from philosophical. This vote will be nuts-and-bolts practicality. Americans were right in 1994, but we allowed the failed policy experiments of the 60s and 70s to creep into the Federal Register. And the results have been predictable:
Rising interest rates
Loss of agency
Loss of hope in the future
Our “betters” in both parties reversed both the Reagan Revolution and the Clinton Triangulation. They returned to the Great Society and whatever Jimmy Carter called his failed agenda. And the results were nearly identical.
For good measure, the political class even got is into a new Cold War with Russia, even if the ideological teams switched allegiances in the interim.
And another tantrum, another Runnymede, looks to be on the horizon.
Let It All Out
Temper tantrums only work when they’re full-throated and prolonged, so vote like your soul depends on it.
To prepare, let’s take a little stroll down memory lane with Election Night 1994 coverage.
Then, get some whiskey and cigars, maybe a bottle of bubbly, and get ready to
THROW A TANTRUM!!!
Churchill, Winston S.. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Collection: A One-Volume Abridgment by Christopher Lee (pp. 99-100). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.