When Did DC Go Bad?
by Matt Stoller, Mon Mar 19, 2007 at 06:56:32 AM EDT
My theory has long been that after 8 years of Nixon/Ford, a brief 4 year pause of Carter, then 12 years of Reagan/Bush, that Washington had become a Republican town from top to bottom. Clinton coming into town really did upset the socio-economic order, and David Broder and the gang didn't like the fact that the "good people" they had lovely dinner parties with had to go and find new jobs.
I think Atrios is on to it. Still, there was a Democratic Congress until 1994, though it was a working majority for Reagan from 1981-1983 and it had a fair number of business Democrats and Dixiecrats in there who were largely concerned with defense and farm pork.
Also, if you read Boys on the Bus starring David Broder as a 1972 version of his own self, you'll note that the dude was always a bipartisan above all else wanker, even when Nixon was shutting out the press from his campaign (in a prelude to Bush) and lying about Vietnam. And Brit Hume was just a regular ole reporter back then, Hunter Thompson was giving us a sense that it really was the silly season, the press was pretty much in the tank with regards to the New Left (ah, hippies, scary!). Watergate really broke after the election, and Republicans were pretty partisan over Nixon's coming impeachment.
Broadly Atrios is right - DC has been a home for an elite ruling class since 1968, but it didn't get really radical until 1994. We can't forget that somehow David Broder managed to make peace with a Democratic Congress, and that those dinner parties had a lot of Democrats on the invite list. The most prominent of these Democrats now serve on bipartisan commissions like the Iraq Study Group and the new one on Walter Reed, or create think tanks on bipartisanship and farm policy or entitlements (money to regular Americans, bad!). They helped sandbag Clinton when he came into office (Sam Nunn for instance), setting the stage for the loss of the Midwest and the South and the decline of a moderate center. The left had already died a long time before that.
UPDATE: Maybe DC has been a company town for a lot longer. I'm reading about Truman and the crushing Democratic midterm loss he presided over in 1946 (which was as bad as the loss in 1994). Tell me if this doesn't remind you of Lieberman.
Soon after the election, Democratic Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas urged Truman to resign from office, even going so far as to suggest that the president appoint a Republican, Arthur Vandenberg, as secretary of state. (Under the law of succession at that time, Vandenberg would be next in line to the White House, since there was no vice president.) A former Rhodes scholar at Oxford, Fulbright analogized Truman's situation to that of a British prime minister who had met defeat in a general election after losing a vote of confidence in Parliament. Similarly, Fulbright reasoned, since the 1946 election had been a referendum on Truman's leadership, he should turn the reins of power over to some prominent Republican, who could work with Congress and so avoid a divided government.
Both Marshall Field's Chicago Sun, one of the country's leading liberal papers, and the Atlanta Constitution, long the foremost Democratic newspaper in the South, counseled Truman to accept Fulbright's recommendation.