Workers > Blowback

Origins of the Neo Liberal War on the Poor

Counter Punch


AUGUST 9-11, 2013


In November of 1994 two years of ramshackle government, breached pledges and the Clinton administration’s frequently manifested contempt for its traditional base, exacted their price. In the midterm elections Republicans seized control of both the House and the Senate for the first time since the Eisenhower era. The rout extended to governors’ mansions across the country, where the Republicans captured the majority of governorships for the first time in a quarter-century. Newt Gingrich, the new Speaker of the House, became the nation’s political wunderkind.

Yet for Bill Clinton the Democratic defeat held its paradoxical allure. The old-line Democratic Congressional leadership no longer held sway on the Hill. Tom Foley and Dan Rostenkowski were gone altogether–one back to the Inland Empire of the Pacific Northwest and the other to a federal penitentiary. The White House no longer had to dicker with hostility to its agenda from New Deal-oriented Democrats. Without the threat of a presidential veto to lend clout to their resistance, the liberal Democrats on the Hill were impotent against the Republicans flourishing their Contract with America. Thus unencumbered, the Clinton administration could cut deals with the Republican leadership.

All this strategy needed was a name, and soon after the election Bill Clinton summoned in the man who would introduce “triangulation” into the lexicon of the late 1990s.