Voters in Alexandria, Virginia, on November 7, 2017.(Photo: Shawn Thew/epa-EFE)CONNECT>TWEET>LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTEMAILMORE
“The Sign” by Ace of Base and “I'll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men topped the charts. Ross, Rachel and the rest of the Central Perk gang entered our lives with the debut of “Friends,” while “Star Trek: The Next Generation” entered its final season.
The year was 1994. And, in politics, it was the year that changed everything.
Two years earlier, a Democratic president had been elected without majority support — thanks to a guy whose name begins with the letter “P” (Perot, not Putin, that time).
While I was still only a spectator during the 1994 election, I have worked in politics for the last 15 years and can recollect countless conversations with candidates and strategists, pundits and the press that were all grounded in a set of assumptions forged on the night of that "Republican Revolution" in 1994.
For Democrats, 1994 changed everything
In fact, no other election has had such a dramatic impact on political thought leadership and the political zeitgeist. Regardless of what actually led to the Republican Revolution, the impact of that election is an enduring blend of pervasive mythology and persistent political gospel around three broad topics.
The 1994 election that ousted Democratic control of Congress was, first, seen as voter rejection of a government role in health care. The health insurance industry’s “Harry and Louise” ad campaign defined the terms of that election as a backlash to “government-run” health care — a backlash that Democrats have grappled with ever since, through the Obamacare fight and beyond.
Second, the 1994 election became evidence of voters’ distaste for taxes with the rejection of the Btu tax that Republicans called an “energy tax.” In ad after ad, Republicans pounded Democrats for pushing a tax increase juxtaposed with working people who couldn’t afford it. Sure enough, after that election Democrats grew skittish of opposing any tax cut that could be portrayed as benefiting people who work for a living — lest they get Btu’ed once again.
Third, and most memorably, 1994 was the year that the NRA left its biggest mark. That September, Congress finally passed the assault weapons ban; just a few short months later, the NRA exacted its punishment on opponents in Congress. From the defeat of Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford, opening the door for Rick Santorum, to the first defeat of a speaker of the House in a century, the gun backlash was solidified as a political fait accompli.
Since 1994, Democrats have shied away from gun safety believing that this fight is nearly impossible for Democrats to engage in and win because NRA supporters are more organized, energized and monetized.
2018 could finally be the end of 1994
Now, less than 125 days to another midterm election, the times they are a'changing. Obviously, there are vitally important stakes in this election, like control of Congress, and existential stakes, like defeating President Donald Trump’s chorus of congressional “yes-men.” But there’s more that this election could do: After almost 25 years, 2018 could finally be the end of 1994.
On health care, we’ve already seen it. From the reddest of states to the swingiest of districts, Democratic candidates are leaning in to the damage that Republicans’ health care repeal does to families — higher costs for less protection. The Affordable Care Act is more popular than it has ever been, and repeal bills have become so toxic for the Republicans that they now change the subject wherever possible.
When it comes to taxes, Republicans’ tried-and-true playbook of attacking Democrats for being against middle-class tax cuts hasn’t worked — in fact, it’s backfiring. People who work for a living have recognized that the plan eventually redirects 83% of the money to the richest 1% of Americans, and they’ve figured out who was on the losing end.
In fact, approval of Trump’s tax law has fallen to just 34%, with some of the most dramatic potential movement among noncollege-educated white Trump voters.
And on gun safety, the landscape has totally changed. In the years after 1994, Democratic candidates sought out and promoted their NRA endorsements. Today’s Democrats, especially in the suburbs, are taking on opponents for being in the NRA’s pocket, putting children and families at risk. Families no longer fear that they’ll lose their rights to their guns — they fear that they’ll lose their children to an AR-15.
In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the NRA’s ratings are net-unfavorable for the first time in almost 20 years.
Whatever else is on the ballot in the 2018 midterms, one important dynamic will be litigated and, hopefully, resolved. Are Democrats at last ready to put the 1994 elections in the rear-view mirror? Can we move on from what that loss did to our political psyche?
In 2018, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Monica would all be turning 50. Ross and Rachel’s daughter Emma would be learning to drive. Like them, the country has changed enough for this election to finally cleanse the Democratic political zeitgeist of the demons of 1994. Forever.
Jesse Ferguson, a national Democratic strategist, has served as deputy national press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Independent Expenditure Program and communications director of the DCCC. Follow him on Twitter: @JesseFFerguson
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Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/07/06/2018-midterms-democrats-banish-1994-demons-guns-taxes-health-column/743023002/