Panel disdusses election
A five-member panel discussed last night what went wrong for the Democrats in Tuesday's election and what is in store for both parties in the wake of huge Republican gains in Congress and governors' mansions.
The discussion, titled "Who's in Charge? Congress After the 1994 Election," featured Congressional Quarterly Weekly Executive Editor Robert Merry, College Trustee David Shribman, Government Professor Catherine Shapiro and Rockefeller Center Student Council members Jim Brennan '96 and David Lee '95.
Government Professor Gordon Silverstein moderated the panel discussion, which was attended by about 35 people.
Merry said U.S. President Bill Clinton made three major mistakes that could have contributed to the heavy Democratic losses. These included attempting to govern as if he were a 61 percent president though he was elected with only 43 percent of the vote, trying to govern from too far to the left and ignoring the Ross Perot constituency, which Merry classified as "having the whip hand" in politics in the 1990s.
Merry said Clinton could face a challenge from candidates within the Democratic Party when the primary season begins, which "can be poisonous going into a reelection bid."
Shribman, who is the Boston Globe's Washington bureau chief and assistant managing editor, alluded to "very serious problems within the Democratic Party." He noted the Republican dominance of the presidency in the last two thirds of this century and increasing numbers of voters switching alliances from the Democratic to the Republican Party, especially in the South.
Besides Congressional veterans who lost re-election bids, younger democrats, many of whom were seen as potential future leaders of the party, were also defeated.
Merry said democrats must work hard to fix some "fundamental problems," especially the gender gap. He said white males have "turned against the Democrats in droves."
Shapiro said the re-election rates of incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives was down only slightly from previous elections and the re-election rates of senators went up.
Lee, who worked for N.H. Representative Dick Swett's failed re-election campaign, noted that not a single republican incumbent in Congress lost the re-election bid.
Brennan said this was a republican year, primarily because Americans "don't like Bill Clinton."
The panelists had various opinions on what legislation the republican-led Congress will offer in the next two years. Merry said he thinks the republicans will present an agenda and that they and the President will "try to cooperate."
He said he is curious to see which will break down first -- attempts to cooperate between Clinton and the Republican Congress or attempts to cooperate between Senate Majority Leader-in-waiting Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich, the next Speaker of the House.
Merry also said the pressure is now on the republicans. "When you're the governing party, you become the vessel for the country's fundamental issues" which can become a burden.