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“Burning Down The House”: Newt Gingrich’s Mean-Spirited Republican Party Lives On In Donald Trump And The House GOP

This is the House that Newt Gingrich built as speaker, in front of us, still alive and well. The house that Donald Trump is building for us all will feel a lot like Newt’s, but more palatial, with more gold “TRUMP” signs all over.

Trump’s leading presidential candidacy is no fluke, but the direct result of Gingrich’s fiery ascent to House speaker in the 1994 Republican revolution. Fueling each: angry white men who feel disenchanted by the political order. They make a potent force, and the rest of us should beware and prepare.

The House that Newt built in 1995 was full of angry white Republican men, the majority that ran on the so-called “Contract with America.” I saw the whites of their eyes in the Speaker’s Lobby off the floor. As a rookie reporter, I liked to ask them to tell me their favorite points of the contract – if they even remembered them. Often, they didn’t.

Policy was not their strong point, as they stormed the house of American democracy. Many in the new majority were from the South and Midwest. Gingrich personally recruited them to be candidates.

One other thing stood out: They did not accept the constitutional authority of the president. Especially not Bill Clinton. They came loaded for Clinton – the fire of their fury daily stoked by Rush Limbaugh, who was honored as the class of 1994 mascot at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Yeah, they lavished love on one of the best haters of our time. It was remarkable to witness.

John Boehner, the shallow House speaker who’s stepping down soon, was a lieutenant in Newt’s army, which came to power 20 years ago. He was more than just a placeholder for Gingrich’s Republican revolution; he supported its churlish know-nothingness toward immigrants and women’s rights, and its insurrections against the president – this time, Barack Obama. The press tends to paint him as a sympathetic son of an Ohio “barkeep,” but he’s just one of the boys.

The wind blowing the aggressive Trump into his confounding first place in the Republican primary trails? It’s all in that tornado in November 1994. Overnight, the House and the Senate changed hands to Republican control. The sea change was stronger in the House. It was remarkable to witness and worth remembering.

Brazen and mean-spirited, the House class of 1994 came to Washington ready to burn down the House. An anti-government force, many slept in their congressional offices. It’s a charming Republican custom and another way to disrespect Washington. As Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who almost became speaker, would tell you: Don’t ever act like you belong here, to this House.

McCarthy got consumed by the beast Newt started: The House Republicans seem to hate governing so much that they can’t govern themselves. Meanwhile, Trump still sails on the winds of rage.


By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, October 13, 2015

October 15, 2015 - Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, Newt Gingrich, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I remember the Contract with America and felt then it was arrogantly presented. Ironically Bill Clinton eventually deftly worked with Congress to get many things done, starting with Gingrich and then with his successor.


    Comment by Keith | October 15, 2015 | Reply

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