Nineteen ninety-four was arguably the most consequential nonpresidential election of the 20th century. The Republicans shocked political professionals, including President Bill Clinton, by gaining 52 seats in the House, giving them a majority there for the first time in 40 years. (They picked up eight seats in the Senate to wrest control there as well.) What immense forces suddenly burst through the earth's crust that fall? Anger, for one. Pollsters found an electorate utterly disgusted with politics and politicians. In 1992, 80 percent of poll respondents said they believed that government favored the rich and powerful, while two-thirds agreed that "quite a few" national politicians were corrupt. Neither party had anything like a Jack Abramoff scandal; but the sense of drift, of futility, was very deep. We had won the cold war but somehow lost the peace; the economy was stagnant, and Europe and Japan were leaving us in their dust. An also-ran at home, we looked very much like a pitiful, helpless giant abroad. After our seductively easy triumph in the gulf war of 1991, we were humiliated by warlords and thugs in Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti.
Of course, the Democrats had inherited the weak economy and the messes in Somalia and the Balkans from the first President Bush. Nor could they be blamed for the loathing that Bill Clinton turned out to inspire among so many voters. The Democrats happened to incarnate the political culture at a moment when the public turned against Washington.
There was Hilary's health care, which was a monstrosity compared to single payer, and pleased therefore no one.
There was a relatively minor scandal in Congress.
That was about it.
The rest of it was manufactured.