The Election of 1996: Clinton and the Success of Triangulation

Democratic Party: William Clinton (Arkansas) and Albert Gore (Tennessee)
Republican Party: Robert Dole (Kansas) and Jack Kemp (New York)
Reform Party: Ross Perot (Texas) and Pat Choate (District of Columbia)

Election Results:
Clinton/Gore: 379 electoral votes, 47 million popular votes
Dole/Kemp: 159 electoral votes, 39 million popular votes
Perot/Choate: 0 electoral votes, 8 million popular votes

The first years of the Clinton administration were marred by overzealousness and an inability to feel the pulse of the average American. Public policy gaffes like the executive order banning discrimination against gay soldiers in the armed forces, the uncertainty of how the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would effect jobs in America, and the failed national health care system put the new president in a deep hole. In addition, the questions about Clinton's character were carried from the presidential campaign to his first term in office. The charges of infidelity continued with the sexual harassment suit of Paula Jones, an Arkansas state employee who claimed that then Governor Clinton engaged in harassing behavior. The Clintons were also implicated in a failed real estate and banking scam referred to as the Whitewater scandal and the suicide of Clinton advisor and family friend Vince Foster.

The 1994 midterm elections showed the frustration of the public with Bill Clinton but also with the general political process. Taking advantage of lower (39%) voter turnout in a non-presidential election, the Republican Party promised a repudiation of New Deal programs and a return to morality in government. At the head of this conservative animal was House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, who represented the conservative interpretation of Republican politics of the 1980s. Politicians and pundits, including Rush Limbaugh and G. Gordon Liddy, pushed the "Contract with America," a list of conservative policies in contrast to Clinton's liberal policies in the first two terms.

The Republican return to Congress and the honeymoon they had with the public ended with the 1995 government shutdowns in November and December. A Christmas time shutdown for thousands of government employees worked positively for Clinton, who was seen as a champion of the people, and worked against the Republicans, who were seen as callous and vengeful. Heading into the 1996 presidential election, the Clinton-Gore ticket looked far more promising than it had in 1994. Clinton's advisor Dick Morris used a policy called triangulation to separate Clinton from traditionally controversial issues like abortion and to co-opt "McIssues" like school uniforms and after school programs from Republicans. As well, Clinton looked for more moderate solutions and promised to reform welfare, put more cops on the street, and add more gun control laws in America.

The Republican nominating process was fairly simple, as Senator Bob Dole led almost the entire way. The only bump in the road was whether popular former general Colin Powell would run in the 1996 election, which he declined to early enough for Republicans to rally around Dole. Those characteristics of Dole that were thought to be endearing by Republican strategists (i.e. his harkening back to the "Greatest Generation") were seen as the doddering ramblings of a man past his prime. Dole told Americans what was wrong with America, while Clinton was creating small scale solutions big enough for voters to care. There was little doubt as to Clinton's victory in the election but he still did not receive the popular mandate that Clinton searched for, because of Perot's less successful performance in the election. Clinton won back traditional Democratic voters from the Reagan era while also taking back independents who were worried about the direction of the Republican Party. Clinton's mandate was not electoral, but surely existed in how Americans felt about Clinton at the end of his second term.

I have been suggesting this to many officials in the government to consider posting all the local and national book of accounts in the Internet's website. By doing so, making all records transparent to everyone. Who's not willing is rudimentary opposed to revealing any possible hidden treasures in his books. An open audit will surely diminish if not totally foil would be grafters and corruptors. How detail would be the books would be defines how honest a politician is.

Here's another one giant step I am expecting from any government. Post every government office, details of officials, projects pending and accomplished, photographs related to any multi-million dollar infrastructure, dates and amounts of contracts, including but not limited to officials' revenue data.

Why would we need this? Easily you can foretell when you see a politician travelling in a luxurious car that he cannot afford to pay, farming hectares of lands he never bought from his salary and not even originated from a family's legacy, or spending lusciously in nightclubs with women gathered in his round table.

Thus, the next time you cast your vote, you will know to whom you will entrust your municipality.

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