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The Influence of 1994


Ben Railton has an intriguing post about the influence of the 1994 elections on today. Outside of the obvious Gingrich and Contract with America stuff, he comes up with three:

1) Oliver North: True, former Reagan aide and Iran Contra figure North lost his Virginia Senate bid (to incumbent Charles Robb). But it’s far from a coincidence that North has gone on to become a Fox News star—every aspect of his campaign, from his emphasis on his born-again Christianity to his unrelenting attack ads on Robb, has become integral to the 21st century right-wing media world of which he’s now a part.

2) Bill Frist: One of the most surprising 1994 victors was Frist, a heart surgeon with no prior political experience who defeated three-term incumbent Tennessee Senator Jim Sasser. One of 1994’s most lasting influences has been the value placed on “outsiders,” not just to Washington but to the political realm itself; and no candidate fit that mold better than Frist, who would go on to become the ultimate insider as Senate Majority Leader.

3) Rick Santorum: Among the many GOP triumphs in 1994, relatively little attention was paid to Pennsylvania Congressman Rick Santorum’s victory over incumbent Senator Harris Wofford (in part because Wofford had been appointed after John Heinz’s tragic 1991 death, so was far from an established incumbent). Yet Santorum’s victory was hugely significant, and not only because he has gone on to be a perennial presidential candidate. It marked the growing presence and power of Christian Conservatives, a trend that would culminate in the election and presidency of George W. Bush six years later.

I have one to add, which is Tom Foley. His defeat marked the end of liberal Democrats being viable candidates in the rural West and the culmination of aggressively right-wing politicians in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and other areas that once had progressive representation (Mike Mansfield, Frank Church, etc). I guess Foley’s loss is more the end of that process than the beginning but was a pretty significant moment since he was Speaker of the House.

What else do you all have?

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