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ANTHONY MARCIANO, a native of North Providence, Rhode Island, holds a masters degree in political science from Suffolk University. He has worked on various campaigns including current Rhode Island governor Lincoln Almond. Marciano lives in Boston, MA.
Well, it appears as if the Democrats have finally gotten their wish, and the man who is responsible for all the evil in the world (at least all the evil that cannot be attributed to Ken Starr) has finally meet the end for which they had hoped. I am, of course, referring to Newt Gingrich, the man upon whose demonization the Democrats have centered their last two Congressional campaigns.
The Congressman from Georgia who, more than any other individual, was responsible for leading the Republicans to their first majority in the House of Representatives in 40 years, announced on Friday, November 6 that he would no longer lead this majority. This was a surprise to many observers, although in many ways, it should not have been. As the leader of the House Republicans, Gingrich was held responsible by many for the disappointing showing of the Republicans in the most recent elections. For a party that does not hold the Presidency to lose seats in the House to the President's party in a mid-term election is almost without precedent in modern political history.
The fact that Clinton is, by some measures, a popular president, would not be counted as an excuse. Ronald Reagan was one of the most popular presidents in our nation's history, and this did not prevent the Republicans from losing ground in the 1986 election, most notably in the Senate, where they lost their majority status. It is thus no surprise that the 1998 election results were considered to be a negative judgement on the current Congressional leadership. As the person who has always, for better or worse, been the most visible symbol of the Republican leadership, Gingrich was inevitably going to take the blame for the reversal that the Republicans suffered at the polls on November 3.
However, this does not mean that the "revolution" that took place in 1994 has been stopped. The leading candidate to replace Gingrich, Representative Bob Livingstone, will likely be just as dedicated an adversary of Clinton's as was Gingrich. The Republicans may be ready to step back from their efforts to remove Clinton from office (unless even more damning evidence presents itself). However, those who are rejoicing in the downfall of Gingrich should not think that the Republican leadership that succeeds the current one, whomever it may be, will be any less determined to implement the Republican agenda of tax cuts and individual responsibility.
Clinton will also no longer be able to score points by presenting himself as an alternative to Gingrich. Of course, he will continue to present himself as an alternative to the "far-right" Republican leadership. But I doubt that such attacks will be as effective without someone as well-known as Gingrich upon whom to center the attacks. It is also likely that the Republicans who assume leadership, being less encumbered by Gingrich's persistent difficulties in projecting his public image, will be more aggressive in pushing for a legislative agenda that is consistent with the ideals that helped Gingrich win control of Congress in 1994.
The fact remains, Gingrich may be leaving his position in less than ideal circumstances, but he is leaving a House that is forever changed by the forces that he set in motion.
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PICTURE of Gingrich copyright ©1998 www.newt.org