Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 3, 1995

Republicans Overtake Congress with "Infantry Attack" on Ground

By Chris Rowett
     A Hopkins political scientist says the recent success of the
Republican Party may be traced in part to talk radio and a 
military-type strategy.
     Benjamin Ginsberg, head of the Washington, D.C. Center for
the Study of American Government, believes the popularity of 
radio talk shows has resulted in Americans focusing on issues,
something they have neglected to do in the past.
     Local talk radio shows generally cover national issues such
as the deficit, taxes, abortion, school prayer, crime. Often it
is local politicians discussing those issues. 
     "So suddenly, Mr. or Ms. Ribbon-Cutter is linked to crime,
abortion, school prayer, the deficit and taxes, which is where
they don't want to be," Dr. Ginsberg said. "Members of Congress
hate issues, because as long as you are a ribbon cutter, you
can't lose. Once you get into the issues, you could lose."
     Many Democrats did.
     For the first time since 1954, Republicans will soon have
control of the House of Representatives. It is the first time
since 1946 that the GOP will control both houses of Congress. And
it is the first time in years, Dr. Ginsberg said, that the
Republicans were able to "mount an infantry attack on the
     In the past, Dr. Ginsberg said, Republicans concentrated
their efforts on reaching the masses through television or "air
power." The Democrats have always been stronger "on the
ground."  "They've had armies of doorbell ringers and volunteers
and activists," he said. "These activists made the Democrats the
party to reckon with in congressional and local elections."
     In 1994, however, Republicans mobilized social conservatives
including the Christian Coalition, National Federation of
Independent Business and the National Rifle Association.
     "These forces provided infantry," Dr. Ginsberg said. "They
provided support in local races."
     Another significant aspect of this year's elections, Dr.
Ginsberg said, is the shift in loyalties among voters.
     "Every generation or two in the United States there has been
a realignment in political forces in which large groups of voters
shift their partisan leanings," he said. "We may be witnessing
one of those realignments."
     The shift has taken place in some regions, he said, citing
areas of the South that voted Republican in local elections. 
     Dr. Ginsberg does not speculate on exactly what that shift
may mean to the country.
     "A lot is going to depend on what the Republicans do," he
said. "I'm a cynic. I'm a true cynic. True cynics say the problem
is that when politicians get elected, they actually do what they
say they're going to do. That's the problem.
     The professor cites Ronald Reagan, who in 1980 said that he
planned to cut taxes and increase defense spending.
     "People said 'Oh, he can't do that, he's just promising
stuff,'" Dr. Ginsberg said. "The true cynics said, 'Uh-oh, he's
going to do that and we'll have an enormous deficit.' Well...
     "I always wait to see what they say they are going to do,"
he added.
     One plan that has been developed is the Republicans'
"Contract with America," an issue-oriented agenda they say will
go into effect within the next 18 months.
     The contract includes the goals of cutting taxes, reducing
government social programs and reinstating school prayer.
     "It's significant that in the contract, school prayer is
mentioned but not abortion," Dr. Ginsberg said. "Abortion is the
issue that the religious right is focused on. It is an issue that
divides Republicans. So [future Speaker of the House Newt]
Gingrich has calculated that the best thing to do is avoid that
issue if at all possible, like Ronald Reagan used to."
     Including school prayer--an issue most GOP members do not
feel strongly about--was a calculated choice by Republicans, he
said. The issue does divide Democrats; some conservative Southern
Democrats support it, and some Northern liberals are vehemently
against it.
     "If the religious right can focus on prayer instead of
abortion, they're giving them something and they'll be happy," he
said. "At the same time the Democrats will beat each other over
their heads about it."
     President Clinton initially supported the school prayer
idea, later said he was against it, then said he had been
     "This must have brought chuckles to Newt," Dr. Ginsberg
     Regardless of whether Republicans can find funding for the
contract and see it implemented, Bill Clinton's future is
certain, Dr. Ginsberg said.
     "Clinton is dead in the water," he said. "Gingrich has said
loudly that there are going to be full-scale congressional
investigations on matters pertaining especially to the Whitewater
     "With these investigations, the Republicans will tie up the
White House, its staff, and all the president's friends and
acquaintances will be spending their time responding to
subpoenas," he added.
     The inquisitions will include what Dr. Ginsberg calls "the
politics of RIP": potentially damaging "revelations,
investigations, prosecutions."
     "It's also rest in peace," he said.

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