I’m two episodes into The Revolution with Steve Kornacki and it’s well-researched and fascinating. Still, as a history of one of the moments that has led to the deep dysfunction we see in today’s politics in the United States, it’s not entirely a fun listen.
On Election Day 1994 I remember proclaiming, “We will never see a Republican House of Representatives in our lifetime.” Close to 30 years later, I feel a little silly looking back on that. One of the first things Kornacki does, however, is to emphasize how staggeringly unanticipated the overthrow of the so-called “Permanent Democratic Majority” was. If nothing else, I feel a bit better.
The first episode does an excellent job of setting the stage, delineating Gingrich’s background, and describing the zeitgeist as he entered Congress, driven largely by the national tax revolt sparked by Proposition 13 in California.
And it gives a real sense of just how different Congress was in 1978. Many friendships crossed party lines and no one took offense or even notice. We hear from Ray LaHood, a former Republican Congressman who went on to serve as Transportation Secretary under President Obama, “Back in the day, there weren’t members on either side who were offended… because they knew people came to Congress to get things done and they came with the idea that the art of compromise was the way [to do that]. And not one of the 435 got their own way.” It was Gingrich who saw attacking your opponents as bad people as a viable strategy while Tip O’Neal supported the Republican leader and treated him like a team member.
It’s an interesting story. Hopefully, it will extend beyond Election Day to explore some of the changes Gingrich made during his speakership and their long-term consequences, like the shuttering of the Office of Technology Assessment.
There’s a lot to unpack about the current state of American Politics, and Gingrich is a key player in that history.
Here’s an interesting companion piece from the Al Franken Podcast:
How We Got Here. Norm Ornstein on the Erosion of Norms from Gingrich to McConnell to Trump.
I might be inclined to say “from Reagan to Gingrich to McConnell to Trump,” but you have to start somewhere.
- Featured Image: The Revolution logo from MSNBC (fair use) with a public domain American Flag background from <www.publicdomainpictures.net>
- Gingrich Unveils the Contract with America 9/1994. (Chris Martin/CQ Roll Call)