Lessons from the Watergate election of 1974
"Cui bono?" is a dangerous question
The 1974 mid-term elections were one of the most consequential elections in US history. Aided by Watergate and the Agnew scandals, Democrats picked up 49 seats in the House and 4 in the Senate. With 291 seats, the House now had a veto-proof Democratic majority. They outnumbered Republicans in the Senate 60 to 38.
Not only were the Democrats stronger, they were more liberal and more assertive. They took on the White House on foreign policy, launched the Church and Pike investigations into CIA, and ensured the communist victories in Southeast Asia by denying military equipment to Saigon.
Eager to maintain their majorities, they followed Phil Burton’s lead in embracing hypocrisy as a political virtues.
One last consequence is often forgotten. The liberal landslide completely gutted the power of the power of the old barons in the House. Committee chairmen were no longer chosen solely by seniority; their power was no longer absolute.
Democrats continued to win majorities in every election. They ignored Republicans, routinely used the rules to prevent direct votes on issues on which their stands were unpopular, maintained caucus solidarity and, under the leadership of Tony Coelho in the 1980s, bludgeoned business PACs into contributing to marginal Democrats and not contributing to Republican challengers.
Paradoxically, the party’s big win turned into a defeat for some of its more important members of Congress.
Sometimes I wonder if Boehner and his allies in the House think about that. Have they decided that modest gains which leave them in control of the House are better than a landslide that might topple the current leadership?
I also sometimes wonder about the lack of movement on the IRS scandal.
Who benefits from throttling Tea Party?
The Democrats obviously. But there were/are three other suspects.
Maybe we should not be surprised by the slow walk investigations to get to the heart of the IRS scandal.
1. The big GOP donors.
2. Mitt Romney in the 2012 primary.
3. The existing House leadership.